External Quality Assurance (EQA) of End-Point Assessment (EPA) for Integrated Higher and Degree Apprenticeships.
Following IfATE’s consultation to simplify the EQA system, ‘EQA is delivered by either Ofqual or, for integrated higher and degree apprenticeships the Office for Students (OfS)’.
The Office for Students (OfS) is therefore responsible for the EQA of the EPA for integrated higher and degree apprenticeships and, as the Designated Quality body in England (DQB), the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) has been commissioned to undertake the external quality assurance activity.
Please note, there may be exceptions to these arrangements where 'an existing statutory regulator oversees entry to a profession' (IfATE External quality assurance of apprenticeships) in which cases the EQA may be undertaken by a body other than the DQB.
Following IfATE’s consultation, Ofqual is responsible for non-integrated higher and degree apprenticeships.
Please note, there may be exceptions to these arrangements where 'an existing statutory regulator oversees entry to a profession' (IfATE External quality assurance of apprenticeships).
In summary, the EQA process will involve the DQB undertaking readiness checks and EQA monitoring activity of end-point assessment organisations to ensure that the preparation and delivery of end-point assessments provides a relevant and reliable assessment of occupational competence and a positive student experience. The reports produced by the DQB from this process will be sent to the IfATE and will be used by the OfS as evidence of compliance with the OfS’s conditions of registration.
More information can be found in the External Quality Assurance of End-Point Assessment for Integrated Higher and Degree Apprenticeships: Handbook for Providers and associated documentation which is available in the Apprenticeships section of the DQB website.
As outlined in IfATE’s Framework and Manual, the EQA monitoring process requires various checks and reviews on the delivery of the EPA. For integrated degree apprenticeships, the external examiners appointed to the associated higher education course may already be undertaking similar monitoring activities and we are mindful to reduce duplication and/or burden on the provider. There is, therefore, a role for the external examiner of an associated higher education course in the EQA process.
As part of the initial readiness check process, we will ask providers to submit information about their current arrangements for external examining and notify us of external examiners that may take on the role of the EQA external assessor in relation to the EPA. Where an end-point assessment organisation (EPAO) considers it would not be appropriate for its external examiners to take on additional EQA external assessor responsibilities, or where this is considered appropriate but hasn’t yet been put in place for existing delivery arrangements, the DQB will work with the EPAO on a case-by-case basis to ensure all aspects of the EQA monitoring process are addressed.
More information can be found in the External Quality Assurance of End-Point Assessment for Integrated Higher and Degree Apprenticeships: Handbook for Providers and associated documentation which is available in the Apprenticeships section of the DQB website. Information linked to the role of the independent assessor is covered in a separate question (see: What is the role of the independent assessor for EPA?).
There has been a transition period to the new arrangements and therefore the standard EQA process involving readiness checks and subsequent monitoring may need to be adapted in some cases to meet the current situation. The scheduling of EQA activities will be bespoke to each higher education provider and take account of the timing of EPA delivery, noting that some end-point assessment organisations are at an advanced stage of offering integrated higher/degree apprenticeships. For example, in some cases during the transitional phase, monitoring checks may be scheduled to take place immediately follow a readiness check, rather than there being an interval during which ongoing monitoring takes place.
Where appropriate, the DQB will aim to conduct the readiness check for all apprenticeship standards in delivery at the provider in a single engagement, to aid efficiency and reduce repetition for the provider.
The External Quality Assurance of End-Point Assessment for Integrated Higher and Degree Apprenticeships: Handbook for Providers and associated documentation is available in the apprenticeships section of the DQB website.
There are webinar sessions planned for the launch of the EQA process. Please visit the event booking sites for more information and to register:
A recording of one of the webinars will be made available after the events on the DQB website.
End-point assessment organisations (EPAOs) are required to employ independent assessors to grade the EPA. These are part of an EPAO’s internal management and delivery of apprenticeships and should not be involved with any EQA external assessor role (see question: Will the EQA process involve the use of external examiners?).
The requirements for the independent assessor are outlined in the EPA plan (that can be found using the IfATE’s apprenticeships search facility). There is also information on the IfATE website in terms of the development of new apprenticeships and the development of an assessment plan (Developing an end-point assessment plan) and in the IfATE External Quality Assurance (EQA) Framework.
In general, the IfATE’s approach is to ensure independence. Therefore, an independent assessor must have no direct connection or conflict of interest with the apprentice, their employer or training provider; in all instances, including when the EPAO is the training provider (for example, a higher education provider).
Where an apprenticeship standard states that the independent assessor must be from another higher education institution - independent assessors should be sourced from another higher education provider, industry or a professional body; or if none of these options are available (and where this is clearly evidenced), the independent assessor can be from the same provider but must be independent of the apprentice’s on-programme learning/training and assessment.
New policies that include information relating to the ‘participation of an independent assessor with occupational expertise’ will be introduced by IfATE following their Degree apprenticeships consultation.
We would expect organisational restrictions to be considered in the early stages of the design and development of an apprenticeship to ensure that apprentices will be able to provide evidence of meeting the required knowledge, skills and behaviours (KSBs). Discussions should include how apprentices will access and upload the required information and how evidence may be redacted in order to meet the needs of the employer and the apprenticeship.
Further, more general information on the steps for setting up degree apprenticeships is available on the OfS website: Degree apprenticeships for higher education providers.
Moving forwards, degree apprenticeships will transition to the integrated model with new policies being introduced by the IfATE following its Degree apprenticeships consultation. The IfATE policy is due to apply from September 2022 and therefore new degree apprenticeships will have to confirm to this policy. For apprenticeships in development currently, the trailblazer group can choose to submit under the existing or the new rules. The expectation is that any existing non-integrated degree apprenticeships will change to become integrated degree apprenticeships when they go through the IfATE review process. The trailblazer group may also decide to make changes to the degree apprenticeship, for example, because of changes in the occupation and would then need to comply with the new policy. The IfATE may prompt the trailblazer group that a revision is required to a degree apprenticeship.
New policies, that include a move towards all higher and degree apprenticeships becoming integrated, will be introduced by the IfATE following its Degree apprenticeships consultation.
‘Approximately half of degree apprenticeships are currently non-integrated. This means that the degree is achieved prior to the end point assessment being undertaken by the apprentice. This introduces significant risk of duplicating assessment and can diminish apprentices’ incentive to complete their end-point assessment of occupational competence. Integration of the degree and apprenticeship assessments will reduce the burden of assessment for apprentices, while providing a single coherent quality assessment that confirms both the competence of an individual and the achievement of the requirements for the award of a degree. Moreover, it will assist in achieving better alignment between the on- and off-the-job training.’