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 non-profit membership organisation: a strong and equal partnership between 6 higher education institutions and more than 30 further education providers. 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.

CAVA is licensed by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) to validate Access to Higher Education Diplomas and is rated ‘low risk’.

Our Mission, Aims, and Values

CAVA exists to help adults achieve their aspirations through education.

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

  • Facilitate the entry of students into Higher Education by validating programmes of appropriate level and content, alternative to the courses provided by other educational, vocational or professional examining authorities;
  • Provide an assurance of quality to students and receiving institutions;
  • Encourage provision of Access to HE courses for community groups which are under-represented in Higher Education, and hence promote social mobility;
  • Promote good practice and collaboration in the provision of Access to HE courses and the admission of Access to HE students;
  • monitor and disseminate information about Access to HE provision.
  • 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

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.

Flóra Raffai
Chief Executive Officer

Flóra is the person in the team who supports prospective members in understanding the value of offering the Access to Higher Education Diploma and being a part of the CAVA community. She works closely with existing members through the CAVA Council and sub-committees, and provides strategic and operational leadership for the organisation.

Before joining CAVA, Flóra worked in the charitable sector, leading health charities focused on improving the lives of people with degenerative conditions and disabilities. She has an undergraduate degree in International Relations and a Masters in Social Innovation. In her spare time, Flóra enjoys reading, weight training, and travelling around the world.

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.

Scarlett Blacker
Assistant Quality and Development Officer

Scarlett supports the team in the quality assurance and development of Access to HE courses at CAVA providers.  She has an undergraduate degree in Natural Sciences from the University of Cambridge. Before joining CAVA, she worked in the House of Lords supporting the Lords Spiritual on education policy.

Outside of work, Scarlett enjoys photography, walking and crocheting and volunteers with the Guides.


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 organisations and I have to say, the level of efficiency and organisation 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
Validation Panel Chair
There has been a thoroughness of academic rigour in sustaining the very highest of standards expected through the CAVA validation process, consistency in application of the regulations and procedures acknowledged throughout the interaction with the college, its tutors and managers and CAVA.

I commend all involved in the completion of this Validation Review process and thank CAVA for all the support given to me in the role of Chair for the final outcome. 

Validation Panel Chair
External Moderator
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!
External Moderator