On 21 January 2014, the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) published a report following a review into 13 organisations offering qualifications to Tier 4 and domestic students. The report was commissioned following fraud allegations and complaints about the quality and validity of certain qualifications. A team visited each organisation to talk to senior staff after conducting an initial survey. It also compared policy to practice.

Publication of the review came after the regulator published a notice of intention to withdraw recognition from the Accrediting & Assessment Bureau for Post-Secondary Schools Limited (AABPS), and after it had already stopped recognising the London Centre of Marketing (LCM) as an official awarding body. This is the most severe regulatory action Ofqual can take against an awarding organisation.

Jane Farleigh, Director of Regulatory Operations, said: “Following complaints, we identified a number of potential risks around the Tier 4 market. This resulted in us launching a review into the level 6 and 7 qualifications offered to Tier 4 students. The review is not about the legality of students’ entry in the UK. Our role is to make sure that the awarding organisations offering qualifications used in this sector are meeting the standards we require of them."

The main findings of the review were:

  • Two-thirds of all awarding organisations included in the review had qualifications with content and assessments which did not meet the required standards for qualifications at this level.
  • All of the awarding organisations included in the review provided examples of student work which subject experts believed did not meet the level required.
  • Two-thirds of the student work scrutinised was found to show performance below the level required.

Awarding organisations have already taken action to address many of these concerns. Ofqual has also outlined a series of further actions, including the following:

  • Ofqual will require awarding organisations offering qualifications to the Tier 4 market to strengthen their processes for developing qualifications and assessments, moderating student work, and approving and monitoring colleges.
  • All awarding organisations offering qualifications from the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) must ensure that assessments are appropriate to the qualification and that passes can only be awarded when all of the required content has been covered. Ofqual's monitoring work will focus on this and it will take action where awarding organisations fail to comply.
  • Ofqual will review the remainder of the awarding organisations offering qualifications to the Tier 4 market. If necessary, it will take enforcement action to ensure qualifications are of the right standard.

It remains to be seen how the Home Office reacts to the report. However, we understand that Ofqual will be discussing with the Home Office any issues discovered at any centres operating under Tier 4.