Access to HE awarding body files for insolvency

It comes weeks after the organisation split from the NOCN Group

It comes weeks after the organisation split from the NOCN Group

30 Aug 2022, 17:11

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An awarding organisation for Access to HE Diplomas has entered insolvency proceedings – just weeks after it split from the NOCN Group.

One Awards, a Teesside-based access validating agency (AVA) for the level 3 diplomas at 23 training providers and colleges, said the decision was taken because of “unforeseen circumstances” but refused to elaborate further.

It joined NOCN Group in August 2018, and, following a decision in December last year, formally severed ties to become an independent organisation once again at the end of July 2022.

But a month after the split it filed for insolvency, with its licence to award Access to HE Diplomas removed at 5pm today by the Quality Assurance Association for Higher Education (QAA).

Fabienne Bailey, managing director of the organisation which formed in 1994, said: “Due to unforeseen circumstances since demerging from the NOCN Group, the One Awards board has taken the difficult position of moving to place One Awards into insolvency.

“Other options were explored to try to avoid this position, however the trustees were unable to see a way ahead that would provide ongoing protection to the centres and learners. Having consulted closely with the QAA, it was agreed that the most appropriate course of action was for the QAA to take over the custodianship of the licence so all Access to HE provision could be picked up by the other AVAs. 

“Whilst this is a devastating position for the whole team, it is deemed the right move to protect nearly 2,500 learners who study One Awards Access to HE diplomas every year.”

The news affects 14 core employees and more than 50 casual staff, the organisation said.

A statement from the board added: “This has been an extremely challenging time for the One Awards board and team who have successfully held an AVA licence for many years.  One Awards have always been a well-respected AVA in the sector and it is very sad we now find ourselves in this position.”

Accounts up to July last year recorded its 2020/21 income as £1,053,000 and reported an operating surplus of £182,000.

Its pension scheme liability was a £2.6 million deficit – down from the £3.2 million deficit reported in July 2020 but above the £1.1 million deficit pre-Covid.

Its going concern statement in the same set of accounts said: “One Awards will make a surplus in 2021/22 and retain sufficient cash reserves into 2022/23 to cover all liabilities as they fall due as a standalone charity in its own right.”

NOCN Group said it had no prior knowledge or involvement in One Awards’ decision to enter insolvency arrangements, and confirmed there were no ongoing service or trading agreements.

It said that an offer to extend trading relationships for a further three years from the point of independence was declined.

Graham Hasting-Evans, chief executive of NOCN Group, said: “Whilst the outcome of the process of insolvency under consideration by One Awards is yet to emerge, it is always sad to see any organisation fail.”

He added that management of the pension scheme “is and always has been a matter for its [One Awards’] trustees”.

The QAA confirmed it had assumed temporary responsibility for the diplomas issued by One Awards, but will transfer over to other AVAs selected by individual providers.

One Awards has 23 providers registered with it, incorporating around 2,500 students per year in total.

The QAA said the changeover to different AVAs will not impact on the delivery or content of the diploma, and confirmed that previous Access to HE Diplomas issued by One Awards will continue to be recognised.

Julie Mizon, QAA’s access manager added: “We have taken swift action to avoid uncertainty for providers and students and ensure that alternative awarding body arrangements can be put in place.

“Our priority is ensuring that all students continuing, or due to commence an Access to HE Diploma in the 2022/23 academic year will receive a high-quality academic learning experience.”

It leaves just 10 other AVAs in the sector for Access to HE Diplomas – level 3 courses designed for those without traditional qualifications to progress to university.

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