Quality assurance method for integrated higher and degree-level apprenticeships launches in England

The Designated Quality Body in England (DQB) and the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) have confirmed arrangements for the external quality assurance (EQA) of integrated higher and degree-level apprenticeships in England.

The new quality assurance method will be delivered by the DQB, on behalf of the Office for Students (OfS), according to the Framework developed by the IfATE. EQA monitors the end-point assessment that apprentices undertake at the end of their apprenticeship, to ensure that it is fair, consistent and robust across different apprenticeship standards and between different assessment organisations including universities.

The new EQA arrangements will ensure that integrated higher and degree-level apprenticeships in England are delivered and assessed at the highest standard and continue to contribute positively to employer needs and the wider skills agenda. The method has been developed following consultation by the IfATE in 2020 to simplify the system for the quality assurance of apprenticeships.

Speaking upon launching the new method, Rob Stroud, Director of the DQB commented: ‘The new EQA method will give assurance to apprentices that the assessments they undertake at the end of their programme have been quality assured by our independent experts. We will check they are delivering high-quality outcomes for apprentices, employers and all those involved in their delivery. We look forward to working closely with the IfATE over the delivery of this method and sharing our knowledge and expertise for the benefit of all stakeholders.’

Rob Nitsch, Delivery Director of the IfATE, said: ‘This is an important step forward for higher and degree-level apprenticeships. It is vital that all assessment is consistent and of high quality, meeting the high expectations we have for all apprenticeships. It must match up to the rigor associated with higher level learning but also fully respect that this is an apprenticeship, so the focus must be on ensuring the apprentices are properly challenged to prove they can do the job they have trained for. I am confident that the new method will achieve this.’

Speaking on behalf of the OfS, Jean Arnold, Director of Quality, commented: ‘The OfS expects all students to be assessed effectively. We are pleased to be playing a key role in giving apprentices and employers confidence that assessments will be conducted fairly, consistently and robustly. The outcomes from this work will inform our judgements about whether providers are delivering effective and reliable assessments for apprentices.’

This latest announcement is key to phase two of the reforms to how EQA works for apprenticeship end point assessment.

Phase one involved simplifying and strengthening how the system worked for apprenticeships below integrated higher and degree-level apprenticeships. The old system provided multiple options. In addition to the IfATE, EQA could be provided by professional and employer groups, established qualifications and higher education regulators, and the Office for Students. Almost all of them are now covered by the statutory regulators, Ofqual.

Assessments under the new quality assurance method will begin from July 2022. More information, including the method handbook for providers, can be found on the DQB website. The DQB will host webinars on the new method for apprenticeship providers on Tuesday 12 July and Thursday 14 July – providers can register on the relevant event booking site.