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Future of qualifications from 2026 in England at Levels 3 and below

Student art installation
  • Written byUAL Awarding Body
  • Published date 17 January 2023
Student art installation

The Department for Education have announced the next steps for reforms to Post-16 qualifications at Level 2 and Level 3. These changes affect qualifications in England only; centres in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are unaffected. This next phase of reforms follows several years of policy making, debate and lobbying across the sector.

UAL Awarding Body is delighted that the proposed approach reflects key feedback from us and experts across education and industry. Government is explicitly no longer planning a system based solely on A Levels and T Levels. Instead, there will be a new process through which UAL Awarding Body qualifications can be approved and funded into the future. This will support choice for learners, contribute positively to social mobility and ensure that learners can develop in the way that is best for them.

The aim of the reforms is to ensure that all qualifications have a clear purpose and lead to positive outcomes. We are confident about meeting these criteria and will be preparing evidence that shows the excellent progression outcomes from all of our qualifications. Our qualifications compare favourably against A Level at Level 3, and they offer an excellent route to Higher Education and employment or self-employment that is distinct from T Levels.

We will be hosting an online briefing on 22 March open to staff at all centres approved to offer UAL Awarding Body qualifications. At this briefing we will explain the reforms and answer any questions. Please register here.

Meanwhile the Review of Post-16 qualifications guidance can be found here and the key points are:

  • Almost all Level 3 qualifications across the sector will need to be submitted to the Department for Education for approval
  • The only exceptions to the process are A Levels, T Levels and Extended Project Qualifications as other controls already apply to these
  • This process will be handled in two phases, with creative subjects submitted for review in summer 2024 in order to confirm funding from autumn 2026
  • There will be no changes to our existing funding cycle until autumn 2026
  • Funding will then be confirmed for 3 years at a time instead of every 12 months in order to create more certainty for providers
  • Ofqual or the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education will be part of the process depending on the nature of the qualifications
  • The majority of UAL Awarding Body qualifications will be submitted as “Alternative Academic Qualifications” (AAQs) as they prepare students for progression to the next level of study (other positive outcomes will also be highlighted)
  • Small qualifications that can be delivered alongside A Levels will be permitted
  • Large qualifications that are equivalent to two or three A Levels in size will be permitted
  • We are seeking clarity on whether all qualifications must eventually include an element of external assessment, so we can adapt accordingly
  • Decisions will affect post-16 funding and influence entitlement to Adult Education Budget funding
  • All Level 3 qualifications approved and funded in the future will automatically contribute to Performance Tables.

In a parallel process, we will be told in spring 2023 which qualifications DfE judges as overlapping with T Levels in creative subjects and so is seeking to defund. Based on DfE guidance so far, and the nature and purpose of our qualifications, we do not think any UAL Awarding Body qualifications overlap with T Levels. If any are proposed for defunding we are likely to appeal via the formal DfE appeals process.

A similar sector-wide process is envisioned for all Level 2 and below qualifications, with details to be published spring 2023. We are also confident of the continuation of our Level 2 and below qualifications in the system because a very high proportion of these learners progress successfully to a higher level of study, training or employment.

Over the coming months we will discover more precise detail around the reform process and keep you all informed. We will also reach out to staff and leadership at centres to support our submissions and ensure we remain a valuable and successful option for creative learners in England.