CAVA Conference 2021

On Friday 3 December we held our virtual CAVA conference, exploring the theme of ‘The Future of Access to HE’. The schedule was packed with keynote presentations from the QAA, EduFuturists, and Association of Colleges; alongside case study presentations from 6 CAVA Access to HE providers; a panel of former Access to HE students; and talks from our beloved CAVA Student Award winners. We were delighted to have 82 attendees from 39 FE colleges; HE institutions; and educational organisations. We would like to thank all of our fantastic speakers for their fascinating insights.

Our key takeaway from the conference is that the future of Access to HE Diplomas is bright.

In terms of the political and educational reform landscape, the Access to HE Diploma has been repeatedly recognised as a valuable qualification in widening participation and meeting local and national skills needs. The QAA is leading the charge to ensure the qualification remains relevant and a high quality option for adults through their ongoing review of the Diploma Specification and grade scheme.

From the EduFuturists, we received a glimpse into the future of learning. It is anticipated that in the next 10 years technological progress will match that of the past 100 years. It seems the future will involve more personalised and project-based learning, utilising digital assistance and extended reality to bring learning to life. There will be challenges and opportunities to move towards decentralisation.

From the Association of Colleges we heard about the increase in the number of students with mental ill health and the increasing complexity of students’ experiences. While it paints a concerning view for the future, it was inspiring to hear how colleges are already going above and beyond to support students with counselling and other in-house services. There are also a wide range of resources available which Association of Colleges, The Charlie Waller Trust, and other organisations have come together to help colleges with their thinking around supporting both students and staff.

The case study talks from our CAVA providers highlighted some excellent practice being implemented across the membership. Members are already engaging with digital tools to enhance their teaching, allowing learning to be more accessible for students who may struggle to attend in person. Virtual reality is being used to bring complex, abstract ideas to life, so that students can better engage. Alongside this technological engagement, it is clear from the case studies that non-digital resources, such as textbooks and libraries, still have an important role to play in building students’ knowledge and utilisation of reliable evidence. Personal support from teaching and pastoral tutors can make all the difference in keeping students engaged and achieving. What came across in all the talks was a willingness to be brave, experiment, learn from mistakes, and the importance of peer sharing and support.

Ultimately, the future is bright because we have fantastic students engaging in our courses. Both our student panelists and the CAVA Student Awards demonstrated the incredible dedication, perseverance, and commitment of our students. The passion of our academic teams shone through in each award winner, showing how putting the right support in place can enable and empower our students to achieve their aspirations.

Once again, the CAVA team would like to thank all of our speakers and all of our attendees for their engagement in the day. We hope to see you again in person in 2022!

CAVA Members can now access all of the conference recordings and resources in the Resources section of CAVA Members Area. Contact CAVA at if you have any problems accessing the CAVA Members Area.