The CAVA road map to implementing the standardised QAA Access to HE Diploma Specification and Grading Scheme

The QAA has made changes to the Access to HE Diploma qualification which will be implemented from 1 August 2024.

The key changes are:

Diploma Specification changes
  • Each student must study at least one 6 or 9 credit unit (ungraded or graded unit)
  • Each student can study a maximum of 30 credits made up of 6 or 9 credit units (including graded and ungraded units)
  • Introduction of a national subject descriptor for Nursing and Health Professions, piloted from 1 August 2024, and rolled out from 1 August 2025.

Grading Scheme changes
  • Replacement of 7 grade descriptors with 3 grading standards, applied to all units and all assessments
  • Grading standards will be applied at unit level upon completion of all unit learning outcomes.

CAVA’s Approach

The requirements of the revised Specification and Grading Scheme will mean that CAVA and our providers will need to review and, where necessary, make changes to the design of Access to HE Diploma course structures, units and assessments.

When reviewing any type of educational programme, it is important to keep in mind, and protect, the intended purposes of the overall assessment. We are committed to ensuring that the design of each Diploma is, and continues to be, appropriate to the purpose of providing good quality progression opportunities for our adult students.

Through providing individualised support for our providers, we will ensure that we develop assessments for compliance in a way that preserves the existing validated overall learning opportunities available to students, and the key knowledge and skills identified as essential to prepare students for HE study.

To support this aim, CAVA has designed a comprehensive guide which will support our providers to understand the impact of the changes on their courses, and to identify the most efficient and effective developments where these are necessary.

In all areas of our quality assurance activities, we avoid the ‘one size fits all’ approach, which can result in disproportionate and burdensome requirements for minor changes for development. We also encourage providers to consider the smallest appropriate changes to their programmes first, to minimise the burden of assessment review, and to introduce the least potential consequences for the overall design and purpose of the Diploma. Included in the guide are four different ways in which we will quality assure course developments, to ensure activity is appropriate for the scale of changes required.

The CAVA guide also clearly summarises the key elements of the Grading Scheme and provides guidance on how best to plan efficient and valid assessment, provide effective marking and feedback to students, as well as good quality and straightforward internal quality assurance of assessment decisions.

In creating this guide, CAVA has built on the requirements, guidance and recommendations included within the QAA Access to Higher Education Diploma Specification; QAA Grade Scheme Handbook Section A, Section B, Section C, Section D, and Section E.

We hope the guide gives clear and comprehensive guidance for providers as they complete their reviews of their programmes and assessments. Throughout the 2023-24 academic year, we will be working closely with our course teams to guide and facilitate the creation of programmes which not only comply with the national requirements, but also continue to provide high quality learning opportunities for our mature students to progress into higher education.