Industry Qualifications (IQ) has expressed “disappointment” at today’s public announcement by qualifications Regulator Ofqual of its intention to impose a financial penalty on the company following the exposure of qualification fraud at Ashley Commerce College back in 2015. The company has asserted its absolute confidence that the penalty will be overturned on appeal.
On Monday 20 February, Ofqual formally issued IQ with a notice explaining its intention to fine the Telford-based business £50,000. For its part, the Regulator considers that IQ breached 13 ‘General Conditions of Recognition’ in relation to an incident in February 2015. Ofqual’s Enforcement Committee contends that IQ:
*failed to identify conflicts of interest when it decided to work with a college
*didn’t make sure candidate work which was marked at the college was properly moderated
*didn’t properly investigate alleged malpractice at the college
*took action against learners accused of malpractice without properly investigating the truth of the allegations
*didn’t put in place an adequate appeals process for learners affected by its decisions
A summary of the legal document served on IQ is provided on Ofqual’s website. This is known as a Notice of Intention to Impose a Monetary Penalty.
IQ now has until Monday 20 March to send Ofqual evidence or material in support of its case.
IQ pinpoints “significant failures” by the Regulator
In a detailed response to the reasons published by the Regulator for its decision, IQ has highlighted what it believes to be “significant failures” by Ofqual to follow its own policies, and also questions the interpretation by the Regulator of its ‘General Conditions of Recognition’ in relation to its own guidelines.
IQ contends that the new interpretation placed on one of the conditions in particular doesn’t conform to regulatory guidance, and would preclude small and micro-sized training centres from the delivery of public qualifications with any awarding organisation.
IQ also contends that Ofqual has failed to fulfil its statutory duty to promote public confidence in regulated qualifications as a result of its “lack of leadership” and “management of qualifications fraud“. The company has reported strong circumstantial evidence that some of those involved in the Ashley Commerce College fraud had previously been involved in incidents of malpractice/fraud, and had been allowed to continue their activities in the absence of effective regulatory control.
“As much as anything, the Ashley Commerce College situation arose as a result of regulatory failings which continue in other centres today as a result of the environment of denial which pervades the Regulator,” explained Raymond Clarke, CEO of IQ.
IQ is also critical of the enforcement process adopted by Ofqual. “It’s a matter of significant concern that it has taken 22 months for Ofqual to reach this determination, a period during which the Regulator has steadfastly refused to meet with IQ or allow any direct oral representation to those casting judgement on our actions and motives,” continued Clarke. “The appeal will provide the first opportunity for IQ to present its case to an independent and impartial panel.”
IQ has stated its commitment to write to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy detailing its own experiences of the regulatory system, and in support of proposals designed to improve regulatory accountability.
In advance of any changes at the national level, IQ has called on Ofqual to review its policies and procedures in accordance with the Regulator’s Code and become a signatory to the Code.
“It’s a matter of concern that a Regulator of the importance and reach of Ofqual hasn’t signed up to a national Government standard specifically designed to promote regulatory good practice,” concluded Clarke.
*Full details of Ofqual’s justification for its decision to impose a financial penaltyon IQ, along with the response from IQ itself, can be found on the IQ website