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Feel the Weight: Qualifications regulation and increased burden have been rising exponentially

Today (11 February 2022), the Federation of Awarding Bodies publishes: ‘Feel the weight’ report, a comprehensive snapshot of the regulated community of awarding and assessment bodies and their experience of regulatory impact over the past decade.

The commissioned report finds:

  • Qualifications regulation has been growing exponentially since 2014, with more regulatory bodies across the UK now setting their own requirements and sanctions regimes.
  • While separate regulators in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have tried to align some goals, competing policy and funding requirements across devolved areas is driving significant regulatory divergence.
  • Specialist and niche awarding and assessment organisations report particular challenges dealing with increases in regulatory burden; as disproportionately, they are required to dedicate more resources than larger organisations.
  • The implementation of the Skills Bill in England creates significantly more confusion in the landscape for the regulation of qualifications. It is still unclear exactly how the “dual regulation” of vocational qualifications will work between Ofqual and the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education. Our members are calling for greater clarity of “regulatory purview”, so that the system is better able to adjust.
  • The Scottish government’s decision to scrap the SQA has created some uncertainty about the future regulatory landscape and, in particular, the role of vocational and technical qualifications within it. FAB is working closely with Professor Ken Muir and his panel, who have been tasked by Scottish ministers to come up with a new approach.
  • It is conservatively estimated that the cost of complying with regulation is around £6 million per annum (of FAB members who responded), with the average AO/EPAO spending £4618 per month dealing with regulators’ requests. In reality, these figures are likely to be much higher as our survey excluded General Qualifications (GQs), including regulation of applied general qualifications.

Commenting on the report, the Federation’s chief executive, Tom Bewick, said:

“This report is extremely timely. There is no doubt that qualifications regulation has increased significantly over the past decade. Our starting point is that regulation is a positive thing for the sector. But equally, we must also monitor carefully the growth in regulatory burden for our members, which can stifle innovation and result in more cost and bloated bureaucracy that hampers progress.”

“While the report should be assessed as a snap shot of sentiment and daily lived experience for awarding and assessment organisations, I hope policymakers and regulators will take it seriously.

“We will be calling on them to respond with collaborative measures UK-wide to reduce regulatory burden over the next few years. One way to achieve such a goal would be to adopt a higher-trust model of co-regulation, where the sector itself is empowered to ensure the interests of learners and employers are met.”

You can read the full report, plus FAB’s recommendations for moving forward and working proactively with regulators, here.

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