About CAVA

Cambridge Access Validating Agency (CAVA) designs and validates Access to Higher Education Diplomas.  Access to HE Diplomas provide an opportunity for adults without the relevant formal qualifications to go to university. Like A levels, they are full level 3 qualifications. Around 40,000 students take Access to HE courses each year in the UK, and gain a recognised entry route to university.

CAVA is a membership organisation: a strong and equal partnership between Anglia Ruskin University, University of Suffolk, University of Cambridge, University of East Anglia, University of Lincoln, Nottingham Trent University and over 35 Further Education providers across England. Together, we are committed to aiding social mobility by increasing the opportunities for people from all backgrounds to study at university.

CAVA is a specialist organisation, having the Access to HE Diploma as its sole focus for over 20 years. We have over 80 validated Access to HE Diplomas which can be shared by our colleges, and we also work with colleges to design bespoke Access to HE provision for their local needs.  CAVA courses cover a wide range of subject options.

Our latest QAA Relicensing Review, published October 2013, judged CAVA to be ‘Low Risk’. The report describes CAVA as a “well run and efficient organisation” and praises the full and active participation of all its stakeholders, including the particularly strong commitment to a shared mission.

Cambridge Access Validating Agency (CAVA) is licensed by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) to validate Access to Higher Education Diplomas.

Meet the team

Cambridge Access Validating Agency has a small, dedicated team who specialise in assuring high quality Access to Higher Education Diplomas. We pride ourselves on: working closely with our member colleges; having the support of a network of highly-regarded universities; making regular visits to, and having face-to-face meetings with, our Access to HE providers.  We are just a phone call away and you will always know who you’re speaking with on the phone should you need our support.

Jill Cox
Chief Executive Officer

Jill has worked in several spheres of education since studying experimental psychology at university, followed by a PGCE.  She started out as a primary school teacher and, after starting a family, had a career in the further education sector as a teacher and manager, teaching all levels and ages including BSc, A Level, BTEC, Access to HE, and GCSE.

Having used CAVA to support the Access to HE courses at her college and admired the company ethos, Jill did not hesitate to join the CAVA team, initially as a Quality and Development Officer before being appointed as CEO in 2011.

In her spare time, Jill enjoys spending time on the Suffolk coast, cycling and walking.

Emily Ross
Deputy CEO

Emily is the person in the team who spends the most time going out and about to our colleges. She delivers our professional training events, develops new courses and liaises with college staff regarding the Access to Higher Education Diploma. She is a graduate from Anglia Ruskin University and studied part time for her Masters degree in English Literature when she first joined the team as Administrative Officer in 2008. Through her work with CAVA, Emily discovered a passion for working in education and enjoys supporting the Access to HE teams across the country.

On completion of her Masters degree, Emily took on the role of Quality Officer and progressed to Quality Manager in 2016. She is an avid reader and enjoys running.

Barbara Hughes
Quality Officer

Barbara delivers our professional training events, develops new courses and liaises with college staff regarding the Access to Higher Education Diploma. With over 15 years’ experience of working with quality systems and procedures in other awarding organisations, Barbara has a wealth of expertise in the sector.

She has a degree in Humanities and a Masters in Film Studies. Outside work her spare time is spent taking part in or supporting the family at swimming, rowing, and making preserves.

Jacky Kelly
Quality and Operations Officer

Jacky is the first person you will talk to when you contact CAVA. She handles initial queries, provides IT, database and website support and keeps us all organised. Before joining CAVA, Jacky worked in adult community education, and is experienced in working with quality systems in other educational organisations, notably the National Extension College.

Jacky is a qualified IT tutor and  an examiner for ICT IGCSE.  She enjoys bird watching and photography in the fens accompanied by her labradoodle.

Isobel Sherlock
Assistant Quality and Development Officer

Isobel supports the team in the quality assurance and development of Access to HE courses at CAVA providers. She has a keen interest in social and environmental issues, having completed a degree in Human Geography at the University of Edinburgh.

Isobel is looking forward to addressing barriers to social mobility whilst working with CAVA. She enjoys walking her dogs and playing netball.


Antony Wright
I just wanted to drop you an email to say a HUGE thank you… The teams here are so positive with regard to yesterday’s moderation visit and really have felt that it was a supportive, developmental and collaborative experience.  It was so great to get that feedback at 8am this morning!  I am, of course, hoping it was the same for you guys…!!!
Antony Wright Director of Adult and Higher Education, Bournemouth and Poole College
External Moderator
This was my first year working with CAVA and I have to say I am mightily impressed. I have been an external at other organizations and I have to say, the level of efficiency and organization with CAVA is next to none! Everything was explained, and not in horrible jargon and acronyms, but actual words that were explained and mean something! How CAVA works with the college, too, is so refreshing… a confident team at the college + a confident CAVA = a more than confident external examiner.
External Moderator
Val Purton
I’ve never worked for an organisation before which is so ready with personal help: it’s wonderful to know that I can pick up the phone and speak to one of you whenever I need to. You should give yourselves a great pat on the back for your approachability!
Val Purton External Moderator

Our mission, aims and values

Our mission: to facilitate fair access and aid social mobility by validating relevant and high quality Access provision that will increase the opportunities for nontraditional learners to study at university.

Our aims

  • promote social mobility for groups which are under-represented in Higher Education, through innovation and by validating programmes of appropriate level and content, alternative to the courses provided by other vocational or professional examining bodies;
  • provide an assurance of quality and excellence to students and receiving organisations;
  • promote good practice and collaboration in the provision of Access courses and the admission of Access students;
  • monitor and disseminate information about Access provision;
  • be the preferred validation agency for Access to HE.

Our values

  • To foster an ethos of cooperation and mutual support between all our members
  • To be consultative and self-critical
  • To be inclusive and respect diversity
  • To behave ethically and operate by our Corporate Social Responsibility Policy in all we do
  • To provide an approachable, responsive, effective and professional service