Higher education

Over 4,250 university offers delayed after another Access to HE grades blunder

Regulator launches investigation after 'serious incident' with awarding body's grade submission

Regulator launches investigation after 'serious incident' with awarding body's grade submission

11 Aug 2022, 12:00

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England’s “largest” Access to HE Diploma awarding body is under investigation after more than 4,250 learners had their university offers delayed due to a “serious incident” with their grade submission.

Ascentis submitted the incorrect subject codes for the results that were made available to higher education institutions on July 29. It meant that any student certificated by the awarding body had their result marked as ‘X’ instead of their grade.

Universities have since been unable to confirm whether the affected students have gained their places for this coming academic year.

The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) for Higher Education, which regulates the qualification, told FE Week that 4,257 students were included in Ascentis’ results data file.

The agency said it deems this a “serious incident, noting the potential adverse effect to students as these students may experience a delay in finding out whether they have gained a place”.

“We have therefore initiated an immediate inquiry,” the spokesperson added. “We have worked with all parties concerned to ensure that students’ results on the correct diploma from Ascentis are provided to higher education receiving institutions as quickly as possible.”

QAA’s inquiry may result in regulatory action being taken, which could be as severe as removal of Ascentis’ licence to deliver Access to HE Diplomas.

This is the second time this year where Access to HE Diploma students have been hit with a delay to their university offers due to an error by an awarding body. The first involved 1,600 students certificated by the Skills and Education Group, which missed the deadline for submitting grades at the end of July.

There are just 11 awarding bodies licensed by QAA to deliver the Access to HE Diploma – a level 3 qualification which prepares people without traditional qualifications for study at university. Results for the qualification are released ahead of A-levels each year.

Ascentis claims on its website to be the nation’s “largest” and “number one” Access Validating Agency.

UCAS has now been able to process the awarding body’s correct subject codes and the new files were made available to universities on Tuesday (August 9) who have been instructed to use the updated information to update the Access to HE results, a QAA spokesperson said.

The spokesperson added that incorrect subject codes did not lead to incorrect grades being uploaded to UCAS, and the agency understands that it is “unlikely” any offers that were confirmed “would be withdrawn but we are working with UCAS to assess actual impact on students”.  

Ascentis did not respond to requests for comment.

QAA said students or providers affected may contact their officers by email on ahe@qaa.ac.uk if they have concerns about their individual situation.

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