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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.

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Chief Executive Officer

FLÓRA RAFFAI

Flóra works closely with CAVA members through the CAVA Council and sub-committees to lead on strategy and operations for the organisation. She supports prospective members in understanding the value of offering the Access to HE Diploma and being a part of the CAVA community.

Flóra has a BSc in International Relations and a MSt in Social Innovation. She is a trustee of the Cambridge Council for Voluntary Services and a Findacure mentor for rare disease patient groups. In her spare time, Flóra enjoys reading, escape rooms and board games, weight training, and travelling around the world.

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 an undergraduate degree in English Literature and a Masters in English. She has worked for CAVA since 2008 and is currently working towards a Postgraduate Certificate in Educational Assessment with University of Cambridge. 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 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.

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 labradoodle.

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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.

Assistant 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. Before joining CAVA, she worked in the House of Lords supporting the Lords Spiritual on education policy.

Outside of work, Scarlett enjoys photography, walking, cycling and crochet.

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Communications and Events Officer

SAM WHITAKER

Sam takes care of all CAVA social media accounts and leads on all events in the CAVA calendar. Before joining CAVA, Sam worked in a HE foundation college, and is fully versed in the needs and expectations of students on level 3 courses. Sam has a degree in Media Studies and a background in Film and Marketing.

Outside of work, Sam runs a film festival and is often involved in various community events and activities.


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.
Find a college near you