In the second of our series on access initiatives, Harriet Swain looks at how quality is assured
REGISTERED access courses have had their own recognition scheme since 1989.
Then it was run jointly by the now defunct Council for National Academic Awards and Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals.
In 1992, responsibility transferred to the Higher Education Quality Council, which handed it on to its replacement, the Quality Assurance Agency, last year.
Under the revamped scheme, ultimate responsibility rests with a QAA committee called the Access Recognition and Licensing Committee, with representatives from the QAA board, further and higher education and access groups.
This takes advice from the Access Recognition Advisory Committee, which includes representatives from across higher education, including the Association of Colleges, Universities and Colleges Admissions Service and the Higher Education Statistics Agency.
The licensing committee licenses and regularly reviews authorised validating agencies, which assess programme details sent in by universities and colleges that run access courses.
These agencies also appoint examiners or moderators for the courses, receive recommendations from examiners about making awards and finally award the "kitemarked" access certificates to students.
Two years ago, the HEQC suggested dropping its role as the validator of access courses because it was expensive and because courses run in further education colleges could be inspected by the Further Education Funding Council, while others were covered by academic audit and teaching quality assessment.
But responses to a consultation paper showed such strong objections to this plan that it had to be dropped. A spokesman for the QAA said the issue now belonged to the past.
Next week: access in Scotland