Awarding organisation Industry Qualifications (IQ) has called upon qualifications regulator Ofqual to establish an expert panel for confronting the issue of qualifications fraud in those industries which require qualifications to obtain a licence to work.
IQ itself was a victim of qualifications fraud in 2015 when Ashley Commerce College (ACC) was exposed by the BBC as having submitted examination and assessment framework that had been produced on a fraudulent basis. The qualifications concerned related to the security industry and were issued by IQ in good faith, and indeed in accordance with established procedures. The qualifications issued fraudulently by ACC allowed some individuals to apply for a licence to work in the security industry.
At the time, the BBC reported: “Industry insiders had told the BBC large numbers of colleges were willing to help students cheat on security examinations. One former Security Industry Authority employee, speaking anonymously, said a high number of colleges were breaking the rules. He went on (to say) thousands of people [are] working in the industry illegally, having obtained accreditation illegally.”
In an age tragically marked by terrorist atrocities, IQ believes we all need to know that those charged with keeping us safe are appropriately trained and qualified through a rigorous system of assessment and accreditation. Qualifications fraud in the security industry is a significant threat to public safety.
It has been reported that the ACC case was just one of 19 cases of companies operating fraudulently or engaging in malpractice in the security industry, working with a number of awarding organisations, with the ACC case being the only case related to IQ.
“Since the exposure of ACC, IQ has been working to encourage the prosecution of those involved in what was a complex fraud,” said Raymond Clarke, chief executive of IQ. “This was our first experience of confronting systematic fraud and, despite the BBC coverage, it has been very difficult to gain traction with the police and regulatory authorities which would lead to the criminal prosecution of those involved. The need for the qualifications regulator, Ofqual, to take a lead in the creation of an environment which both reduces the risk of qualifications fraud and deals emphatically with those involved when it does occur is self-evident.”
Establishing an Expert Panel
In response to what is clearly a significant issue, IQ is now proposing the establishment of an Expert Panel. The objectives of such an Expert Panel would be to:
*determine the level and nature of qualifications fraud in the UK qualifications system
*review current regulatory mechanisms for recording and disseminating information on those involved in fraud and/or serious malpractice, and subsequently develop proposals which would ensure that such individuals are barred from the UK qualifications framework
*review the approach to the prosecution of fraud and establish procedures and protocols with the police service to ensure effective prosecution
According to Clarke, the scale of the problem is currently unknown, with information concerning those involved in suspected fraud or serious malpractice incomplete and largely inaccessible.
“The worrying fact is that those involved in fraud at ACC could still be involved in the delivery of regulated qualifications elsewhere. Nobody knows. What is known is that they have not had to face prosecution for illegal acts which have threatened public safety. Under the leadership of Ofqual, there’s an urgent need for stakeholders to address this issue in both an open and progressive manner. Any failure to confront this issue serves the interests of nobody other than the fraudsters.”