Ofqual Handbook: General Conditions of Recognition

Section B - The awarding organisation and Ofqual

Rules about the relationship between awarding organisations and Ofqual, including in relation to responsible officers, reporting of information and the use of Ofqual's logo

Condition B1 - The role of the responsible officer

Appointing a responsible officer

B1.1 An awarding organisation must ensure that an individual is at all times appointed to act as its responsible officer.

B1.2 The awarding organisation must ensure that Ofqual is informed in writing of the name of the person from time to time appointed as its responsible officer.

The role of the responsible officer

  1. B1.3 An awarding organisation must ensure that its responsible officer serves as the authoritative point of contact for Ofqual in relation to all activities undertaken by the awarding organisation which are of interest to Ofqual in accordance with the Act, including in particular –
    1. (a) any matters relating to its compliance with its Conditions of Recognition,
    2. (b) its ability to undertake the efficient development, delivery and award of qualifications,
    3. (c) the standards of qualifications that it makes available or proposes to make available,
    4. (d) any matters which may affect public confidence in qualifications, and
    5. (e) the accessibility of qualifications it makes available, including its compliance with Equalities Law.
  1. B1.4 An awarding organisation must ensure that, where –
    1. (a) its responsible officer makes a statement to Ofqual (other than one which is required to be made by the Governing Body), Ofqual will be entitled to rely on that statement as being accurate and made on behalf of the awarding organisation, and
    2. (b) Ofqual gives to its responsible officer a statement, request, or notice addressed to the awarding organisation, Ofqual will be entitled to treat that statement, request, or notice as having been given to the awarding organisation.

Guidance on Condition B1

Examples of ‘positive indicators’ that would suggest an awarding organisation is likely to comply

The responsible officer:

  • can explain his/her responsibilities and how he/she undertakes the role;
  • is given authority to speak to Ofqual on behalf of the awarding organisation;
  • undertakes the responsibilities of the role, as defined by the organisation;
  • is an authoritative point of contact with Ofqual, as required by Condition B1.3, drawing on the expertise and information held by others within the organisation.

The awarding organisation:

  • has identified its responsible officer;
  • has defined and recorded the role and responsibilities of its responsible officer, such as within a job description/role specification or other appropriate record;
  • enables its responsible officer to fulfil the role;
  • provides the responsible officer with the support and access to information and other resources necessary for the role;
  • responds quickly to any issues arising with the role, such as changing the definition of the role, providing extra support and/or changing the role holder;
  • makes relevant staff aware of the role of the responsible officer;
  • ensures the role of the responsible officer is covered when the normal post holder is away from the business for a given period of time due to illness, holiday or other appropriate considerations.

Examples of ‘negative indicators’ that would suggest an awarding organisation is not likely to comply

The responsible officer:

  • has provided Ofqual with misleading or inaccurate information;
  • has not responded to requests for information;
  • does not have the expertise and experience necessary for the role;
  • does not have the authority to act on behalf of the organisation in its dealings with Ofqual;
  • provides information to Ofqual that is contradicted by Senior Officers or other members of staff.

Condition B2 - The annual statement to Ofqual

B2.1 An awarding organisation must provide to Ofqual an annual statement in accordance with this condition.

  1. B2.2 The statement must specify either –
    1. (a) that the awarding organisation is fully compliant with its Conditions of Recognition at the date of the statement, or
    2. (b) that it is not so compliant, in which case the statement must describe each instance of non-compliance and the date by which the awarding organisation expects to rectify the failure.
  1. B2.3 The statement must also specify either –
    1. (a) that the awarding organisation has no cause to believe that it will be likely to fail to comply with any of its Conditions of Recognition during the period of twelve months immediately following the date of the statement, or
    2. (b) that it does have such a cause for belief, in which case the statement must describe each instance of potential non-compliance, the grounds for believing it to be likely to occur, and the steps being taken by the awarding organisation in relation to it.

B2.4 The statement must be accurate, formally approved by the Governing Body of the awarding organisation, and signed by the chair of the Governing Body and the responsible officer.

B2.5 The statement must be made in any form and on any date as may be notified to the awarding organisation by Ofqual.

There is currently no guidance on these Conditions

Condition B3 - Notification to Ofqual of certain events

Notification where an event could have an Adverse Effect

B3.1 An awarding organisation must promptly notify Ofqual when it has cause to believe that any event has occurred or is likely to occur which could have an Adverse Effect.

Specific examples of events which could have an Adverse Effect

  1. B3.2 For the purposes of this condition, such events may in particular include those where –
    1. (a) there is a substantial error in the awarding organisation’s assessment materials,
    2. (b) there has been a loss or theft of, or a breach of confidentiality in, any assessment materials,
    3. (c) the awarding organisation cannot supply assessment materials for a scheduled assessment date,
    4. (d) there has been a failure in the delivery of an assessment which threatens Assessors’ ability to differentiate accurately and consistently between the levels of attainment demonstrated by Learners,
    5. (e) the awarding organisation will be unable to meet a published date for the issue of results or the award of a qualification,
    6. (f) the awarding organisation has issued incorrect results or certificates,
    7. (g) the awarding organisation believes that there has been an incident of malpractice or maladministration, which could either invalidate the award of a qualification which it makes available or could affect another awarding organisation,
    8. (h) the awarding organisation has (for any reason, whether inside or outside its control) incurred an increase in costs which it anticipates will result in an increase in its fees of significantly more than the rate of inflation,
    9. (i) the awarding organisation is named as a party in any criminal or civil proceedings or is subjected to a regulatory investigation or sanction by any professional, regulatory, or government body, or
    10. (j) a Senior Officer of the awarding organisation is a party to criminal proceedings (other than minor driving offences), is subject to any action for disqualification as a company director, or is subject to disciplinary proceedings by any professional, regulatory, or government body.

Notification of specified events in all cases

  1. B3.3 An awarding organisation must promptly notify Ofqual if it is, or if it has cause to believe that it is likely to be, subject to –
    1. (a) a material change in its governance structure or legal status,
    2. (b) a change of control,
    3. (c) a merger between it and another body, or
    4. (d) any insolvency or bankruptcy proceedings.

B3.4 An awarding organisation must promptly notify Ofqual if it proposes to make available a qualification which is substantially different in type or content to any which it has previously made available.

Further requirements on the timing of notifications

B3.5 When it notifies Ofqual of an event in accordance with this condition, or as soon as possible afterward, an awarding organisation must also notify Ofqual of any steps that it has taken or intends to take to prevent the event having an Adverse Effect or to correct or mitigate that Adverse Effect if it occurs.

B3.6 An awarding organisation must not delay making a notification to Ofqual in accordance with this condition because relevant information is unavailable, but must notify based on all the information that it has and provide further information to Ofqual once it becomes available.

Guidance on Condition B3

Examples of ‘positive indicators’ that would suggest an awarding organisation is likely to comply

The awarding organisation:

  • identifies events that have occurred or are likely to occur that could have, or has had, an Adverse Effect and notifies Ofqual promptly;
  • has staff who take timely, informed decisions and exercise appropriate judgement when deciding when to report events to Ofqual, and when managing events;
  • notifies Ofqual of events that have occurred or are likely to occur that could have, or has had, an Adverse Effect irrespective of whether the event is being managed through established contingency plans;
  • has clear decision-making and timely escalation processes for identifying and determining whether an event could have, or has had, an Adverse Effect;
  • balances the need to gather sufficient evidence to identify whether an Adverse Effect has occurred or is likely to occur, with the need promptly to notify Ofqual of the event, prioritising prompt notification over waiting for all evidence to be available, taking account of:
    • the actual or potential impact on Learners;
    • its assessment of the seriousness of the event, taking account of the factors set out in the guidance on making a notification below;
    • the urgency of any actions required to mitigate the actual or potential Adverse Effect (for example, because of proximity to an assessment on a specific date, or to the issuing of results or certificates);
    • how long it will take the awarding organisation to gather evidence and decide on, and take, key decisions or actions;
    • the actual or potential impact on public confidence, such as if the event has been or is likely to be reported in the media or on social media;
  • provides information to Ofqual when making a notification that includes:
    • what has happened or is likely to happen and why;
    • how and when it became aware of the event;
    • its assessment of the seriousness of the event and of its actual or potential Adverse Effect, and the basis on which this assessment was made, taking account of any information from Ofqual (for example if Ofqual has asked for specific information about certain types of event) about how particular types of event should be reported;
    • the possible or actual impact of the event on Learners or public confidence (in terms of both the type of Learner(s) affected and volume of Learners affected), including any impact on the standards or validity of qualifications;
    • the actions it has taken or plans to take to prevent, correct or mitigate as far as is possible any actual or potential Adverse Effect, to identify its cause and to prevent the event from reoccurring;
    • the qualifications, subjects and units affected, including the dates and details of any affected assessments;
    • its assessment of the scale of the event including, where possible, the number of Centres and Learners affected, with a country location breakdown;
    • any relevant supporting information or documents relating to the event, for example, copies of assessment materials in the case of question paper errors or details of system failures in the event of an issue with an online assessment system;
    • how it is monitoring the event to ensure its assessment of the seriousness remains accurate and that its actions remain appropriate;
    • whether Centres, Learners, media or other stakeholders are aware and details of any complaints or correspondence it has received about the event;
    • the expected timescales for resolving and/or mitigating the impact of the event;
    • how it will keep Ofqual informed throughout its management of the event;
    • any other organisations or agencies that are involved;
  • provides sufficiently detailed information to enable Ofqual to understand the nature of the event and the actions taken by the awarding organisation;
  • where full information is not available at the point when the awarding organisation notifies Ofqual, provides an indication of what further information will be provided and when;
  • in supplying information to Ofqual, takes account of requirements relating to the protection of personal information, and where relevant, the need to protect the confidentiality of assessment materials;
  • provides regular updates and relevant information as agreed with Ofqual, throughout its management of the event;
  • keeps its decisions about whether or not an event has an actual or potential Adverse Effect under review as circumstances and/or its understanding of the event change;
  • notifies Ofqual of any event under B3.3 sufficiently far ahead of any changes taking place and provides relevant supporting evidence as required by Ofqual, which could include:
    • a description of any changes which are being made;
    • relevant documents which confirm any changes or the likely nature of potential changes;
    • plans for how the awarding organisation will ensure that no Learners are unfairly advantaged or disadvantaged as a result of any change;
    • the steps it will take to make sure it will remain compliant with its Conditions of Recognition;
  • notifies Ofqual (as required by Condition B3.4) of its plans to offer qualifications which are substantially different before it starts marketing, promoting or offering them, for example when it intends to offer qualifications:
    • of a nature which it does not have experience offering;
    • in a sector for which it has not previously offered qualifications;
    • at a level which it has not previously offered qualifications;
    • using a method of assessment it has not previously used.

Examples of ‘negative indicators’ that would suggest an awarding organisation is not likely to comply

The awarding organisation:

  • does not have a clear and effective process for managing event notifications;
  • fails to inform Ofqual promptly and provide sufficient detail of events which have had, or could have an Adverse Effect;
  • does not notify Ofqual of an event which has had, or could have an Adverse Effect before Ofqual becomes aware of it through other means (for example through complaints by Learners or Centres, media reports or reports from other agencies) where it would have been possible to do so;
  • does not provide regular and timely updates for an event which it has reported, as it manages the event;
  • does not manage event notifications effectively, leading to a delayed or inappropriate resolution which adversely impacts Learners, public confidence or standards;
  • experiences reoccurrences of the same or similar event where this could have been prevented;
  • does not respond fully or accurately to requests from Ofqual for further information;
  • provides inaccurate reports of events that could have an Adverse Effect, such as:
    • inaccurate reporting of the number of events which occur;
    • inaccurate or misleading assessments of the seriousness of the event;
  • does not alert Ofqual to a material change in its governance or ownership or until after the event;
  • does not alert Ofqual when it becomes evident its financial security is at risk;
  • does not alert Ofqual to its plans to introduce substantially different qualifications sufficiently far ahead of submitting them to the Register (to allow Ofqual to consider the need for any additional requirements that may apply, such as an accreditation requirement or special condition), or where an accreditation requirement applies, before it submits them for accreditation (to allow time for the accreditation of that qualification);
  • starts marketing a qualification, registering Learners or offering a qualification that is substantially different in type or content to any qualification it has previously made available before notifying Ofqual of its intentions.

Condition B4 - Notice to provide information to Ofqual

B4.1 Where Ofqual serves a written notice on an awarding organisation requiring the awarding organisation to provide it with any information that it seeks for the purpose of performing its functions, the awarding organisation must comply with the terms of that notice.

  1. B4.2 For these purposes a notice given by Ofqual may –
    1. (a) specify the time within which the information is to be provided,
    2. (b) specify a form in which the information is to be provided,
    3. (c) require that the information is accompanied by such supporting documents or data as may be described, and
    4. (d) require an awarding organisation to provide information whether that information is already in its possession or has to be created or obtained by it.

B4.3 An awarding organisation must ensure that all information provided to Ofqual in accordance with this condition is accurate and complete.

There is currently no guidance on complying with these Conditions

Condition B5 - Representations regarding qualifications

Statements regarding qualifications which are not regulated qualifications

B5.1 An awarding organisation must not (and must take all reasonable steps to ensure that any person connected with it does not) make any statement that would be likely to lead Users of qualifications to believe that a qualification it makes available is a regulated qualification when it is not a regulated qualification.

Advertising and promotion of qualifications

B5.2 An awarding organisation must not (and must take all reasonable steps to ensure that any person connected with it does not) advertise or promote its qualifications in a manner that is likely to be misleading to Users of qualifications.

Use of Ofqual’s Logo

B5.3 An awarding organisation must ensure that its use of Ofqual’s Logo complies with any Logo Requirements and Certificate Requirements which may be published by Ofqual and revised from time to time.

Guidance on Condition B5

Examples of ‘positive indicators’ that would suggest an awarding organisation is likely to comply

The awarding organisation:

  • ensures that others connected to it – including Centres – who are involved in the development, delivery and award of its qualifications, accurately differentiate between regulated and unregulated qualifications and other products when representing its qualifications;
  • clearly differentiates between regulated and unregulated qualifications in its materials, publications and on its website, so there is no scope for confusion by Users of qualifications.

Examples of ‘negative indicators’ that would suggest an awarding organisation is not likely to comply

The awarding organisation:

  • does not deal promptly or effectively with misleading statements or materials about the regulated status of its qualifications;
  • is the subject of complaints about the status of its products;
  • has not made clear on a website or in documentation which of its qualifications are regulated by Ofqual and which are not;
  • has used Ofqual’s Logo in ways that do not meet the Logo Requirements and/or Certificate Requirements, including, but not limited to, the use of Ofqual’s Logo on:
    • marketing materials;
    • websites;
    • qualification specifications;
    • unit certificates;
    • unregulated qualifications

Condition B6 - Cooperation with Ofqual

B6.1 An awarding organisation must provide Ofqual with all such assistance as it may request for the purpose of undertaking, in accordance with its functions, an investigation into, or other monitoring in relation to, the activities of that awarding organisation.

There is currently no guidance on complying with this Condition

Condition B7 - Compliance with Regulatory Documents

B7.1 Where a Regulatory Document requires an awarding organisation to take or to refrain from taking any action, the awarding organisation must comply with that requirement.

B7.2 Where a Regulatory Document sets out guidelines or principles of good practice in relation to any behaviour on the part of an awarding organisation, the awarding organisation must have regard to those guidelines or principles before it engages in that behaviour.

There is currently no guidance on complying with these Conditions

Condition B8 - Compliance with undertakings given to Ofqual

B8.1 An awarding organisation must comply with the requirements of any relevant undertaking.

  1. B8.2 For the purposes of this condition, a relevant undertaking is an undertaking which –
    1. (a) has been given to Ofqual by the awarding organisation,
    2. (b) is in writing, and
    3. (c) states that it is an undertaking given in accordance with this condition.

There is currently no guidance on complying with these Conditions

Logo Requirements

General Condition B5.3 requires an awarding organisation to ensure that its use of Ofqual’s Logo complies with the requirements set out below.

An awarding organisation may only use Ofqual’s Logo on qualification certificates and credit certificates that refer exclusively to qualifications published on the Register. As specified in our Certificate Requirements, Ofqual’s Logo must feature on the front of these certificates.

An awarding organisation may not use Ofqual’s Logo:

  • on unit certificates or any other certificates
  • for any other purposes (except with explicit written permission from Ofqual)

Formatting requirements

An awarding organisation must use one of the high-resolution versions of Ofqual’s Logo supplied - either the colour version or the grayscale version.

An awarding organisation may resize Ofqual’s Logo, provided that the width of the resized logo is not less than 35mm.

An awarding organisation must not:

  • alter Ofqual’s Logo in any other way, including (but not limited to) by changing its colours, or by distorting, skewing, stretching, tilting or angling it
  • place Ofqual’s Logo against a pattern or a background colour
  • place any other graphic material or type within the exclusion zone illustrated below - note that the size of the exclusion zone depends on the size of Ofqual’s Logo used

Ofqual Logo exclusion zone

Ofqual Logo exclusion zone