Ofqual publishes review into qualifications taken by Tier 4 students

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A review of qualifications studied by foreign students paying for tuition in England found that those offered by two-thirds of the awarding organisations looked at were not up to the required standards.

The review by Ofqual, published today (Tuesday 21st January) looked at a sample of qualifications offered to Tier 4 and domestic students. Tier 4 is a category within the Home Office Points Based System for controlling immigration from outside the EU, and relates to migrants coming into this country to study.

Publication of the review comes after two significant regulatory actions relating to awarding organisations operating in the Tier 4 market.  Today, Ofqual has published a notice of intention to withdraw recognition from the awarding organisation Accrediting & Assessment Bureau for Post-Secondary Schools Limited (AABPS).  Ofqual also recently withdrew recognition to award qualifications from the London Centre of Marketing (LCM).

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.

“We sampled a range of the awarding organisations, and found some serious concerns. As a result of which we have taken regulatory action against a number of awarding organisations including withdrawing recognition from LCM and publishing a notice of intention to withdraw recognition from AABPS.  We are now going on to review the remainder of the awarding organisations offering these qualifications and will take action if we find cases where things are not up to standard.

“It is important that students are treated fairly and have access to high quality qualifications. Where this is not the case and students are being let down by qualifications that are not up to scratch we will take action.

“We would urge anyone taking an AABPS or LCM qualification who has concerns over their studies to talk to their college. We have asked schools and colleges to be ready to give advice and guidance to them on their options.”

The main findings of the review were:

  • Two thirds of all awarding organisations included in the review had qualifications with content and assessments that 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;

  •  We 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. Our monitoring work will focus on this, and we will take action where awarding organisations fail to comply.
  • We will review the remainder of the awarding organisations offering qualifications to the Tier 4 market.  If necessary we will take enforcement action to ensure qualifications are of the right standard.

You can download the report here:

Awarding organisations operating in the Tier 4 market - A thematic review

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Notes to editors:

  • We will take a decision on 5 February 2014 regarding the AABPS withdrawal and have invited AABPS to make their case by 28 January 2014.
  • Level 6 and 7 qualifications can be taken by UK students, as well as those from abroad.
  • It’s our job to maintain standards and confidence in qualifications. We look after GCSEs and A levels in England, and a wide range of vocational qualifications both in England and Northern Ireland. We also regulate the National Curriculum Assessments in England.