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What we do

We design and validate Access to Higher Education Diplomas. These 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.

We are 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.

Our Mission

CAVA exists to help adults achieve their aspirations through education.

CAVA assures the quality of our Access to Higher Education Diplomas in England, in partnership with our further education and higher education members.

  • Support the development, quality assurance, validation, and award of high quality Pre-Access and Access to Higher Education Diplomas that enable our mature students to progress into higher education.
  • Build a collaborative network of further education and higher education members to achieve the best attainment outcomes for our students
  • Promote the value of Access to Higher Education Diplomas as a valuable option in life planning and educational policy.
  • CAVA is a critical friend: we are supportive, encouraging, and collaborative.
  • CAVA is personal: we make personal connections, we are not a faceless organisation.
  • CAVA is passionate: Access to Higher Education Diplomas are our passion, not our product.
  • CAVA is learning: we believe in lifelong learning for our students, members, team, and organisation.
  • CAVA is an expert: we are Access to Higher Education Diploma experts, it is our sole focus as an organisation.
  • CAVA is a champion: we champion social mobility and enable adults to access the best opportunities in life through education.

The Cambridge Access Validating Agency is a proud affiliate member of the Association of Colleges.

Meet the team

We have 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. If you have any questions or queries, please contact us at quality@cava.ac.uk. If you need to speak with a specific member of CAVA staff, please use the details below:

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Chief Executive Officer

FLÓRA RAFFAI

Flóra works closely with the CAVA Board and the CAVA Council of Members to lead on the organisation’s strategy and operations. She supports prospective members in understanding the value of the Access to HE Diploma and being a part of the CAVA community.

Flóra has a BSc in International Relations from the LSE; a MSt in Social Innovation from the University of Cambridge; and is an EMCC accredited organisational coach. In her spare time, she is Chair of Trustees at the Cambridge Council for Voluntary Services, and coaches fellow small organisation leaders. Flóra enjoys reading, painting, board games, and travelling.

Deputy Chief Executive Officer

EMILY ROSS

Emily supports the strategic and operational leadership of the organisation and oversees the effective operation of the CAVA quality systems and procedures. She works closely with the CAVA Quality and Academic Development committee and leads on the ongoing development and improvement of quality assurance processes.

Emily has a Masters degree in English, a Postgraduate Certificate in Educational Assessment from University of Cambridge and has worked for CAVA since 2008. In her spare time Emily enjoys reading, playing in the town brass band, crochet, and going on muddy walks with her husband and two young sons.

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Quality Manager

BARBARA HUGHES

Barbara manages the CAVA Quality Team, supports CAVA quality systems and procedures, inputs to the development of support services for CAVA members and leads on the development of professional events for providers and external moderators.

With over 20 years’ experience of working with quality systems and procedures for credit based qualifications, Barbara has a wealth of expertise in the sector. She has a first degree in Humanities and a Masters in Film Studies. Outside work her spare time is mostly spent on the water rowing and coaching as an active member of Cantabrigian Rowing Club.

Quality and Operations Officer

JACKY KELLY

Jacky is usually the first person you will talk to when you contact CAVA. She handles initial queries, provides IT and database support and generally keeps us all organised. Jacky handles all finance and invoicing queries.  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 is an examiner for ICT IGCSE.  She spends her weekends bird watching and photographing wildlife in the fens, often accompanied by her young border collie.

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Quality and Development Officer

EMMA WATTS

Emma supports the team in quality assurance and development of Access to HE courses at CAVA providers. Emma has over 20 years experience of working in education and training,  before joining CAVA she worked with training providers to deliver apprenticeship programmes across numerous sectors.

Emma has a degree in Hospitality Management and a Postgraduate certificate in Education. Outside of work Emma enjoys cycling, swimming, dog walking and cardio boxing.

Quality and Development Officer

SCARLETT BLACKER

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 cycling, crochet and volunteering in her local community. Scarlett is also training to be a Brownie Leader.

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Communications and Events Officer

SAM WHITAKER

Sam leads our Communications Strategy and manages all events in the CAVA calendar. Before joining CAVA, Sam worked in various HE admin, support, education and marketing roles. Sam has a degree in Media Studies and a background in Film and Marketing.

Outside of work, Sam enjoys sculpting and is currently learning to play Roller Derby for a local team.


Our member colleges
CAVA Access to Higher Education Diploma courses are offered at over 30 colleges across the country. Visit a college near you: use our interactive college finder map (below) or select a college from the list on the right.