Regulation and the qualifications market

The paper is in four main sections. “A theoretical framework from economics” introduces the conceptual framework of economics, in which the qualifications industry is seen as an operational market. Part 1 of this section describes the metaphors used to describe qualifications and their uses, and how these metaphors form, as well as reflect, how educational qualifications are perceived, understood and managed. Part 2 then summarises four typical market models as a background to understanding the market context of the qualifications industry. Part 3 defines this context more closely, drawing particular attention to the external influences and constraints on it, from both the supply and demand sides. In that light, the following (“Where have we been?”) is a survey of general qualifications provision in England since the mid 19th century, indicating how the industry has evolved through different types of market context, and, latterly, how statutory intervention and regulation has increased. “Where are we now?” describes the 2009 Education Act and its implications and aftermath, particularly the significant changes to regulatory powers it introduced and how, via various subsequent consultation exercises, it appears these are intended to be applied. Drawing on some of the information and issues raised explicitly or implicitly in the previous sections, the final section (“Where are we going? Regulation in a Market Context”) considers the issues facing Ofqual following the 2009 Act, and looks to the possible direction, nature and implications of future regulatory practice.

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