03 Jul 2024

The importance of choosing the right Access Validating Agency (AVA)

As a college or training provider offering Access to Higher Education Diplomas, your choice of AVA significantly impacts the learning experience you deliver and the overall success of your students. Our latest blog delves into what to expect from an AVA and why focusing on specific criteria benefits your institution and learners alike.


By Fabienne Bailey, director of Business Growth and Transformation at AIM Qualifications and Assessment Group

As a college or training provider offering Access to Higher Education Diplomas, your choice of AVA significantly impacts the learning experience you deliver and the overall success of your students.

This blog delves into what to expect from an AVA and why focusing on specific criteria benefits your institution and learners alike.

AVAs act as partners in shaping your Access to Higher Education provision. Their approach, support, and offerings can vary greatly. When selecting an AVA, keep the following considerations in mind:


Quality and reputation

There are currently nine AVAs operating across England and Wales and we all work well together through the National Access Validating Agency Group to promote the life changing and empowering success of Access to Higher Education Diplomas. All AVAs are passionate about lifelong learning and all are keen to keep raising its profile and the hugely important part it plays in the adult learning sector.

When choosing an AVA, centres will be keen to partner with an AVA who demonstrates excellence in service. One measure of this is to look for the QAA rating (like AIM, categorised as "low risk") – see link here to AVA profiles.

Another measure is to talk to other centres who already work with the AVA - AIM is one of the largest Access Validating Agencies in England and Wales and so has a large network of happy Access to HE customers who can share their experience with you – see here for case studies and customer feedback.

A reputable AVA with a strong track record will ensure your Access to HE Diplomas are widely recognised by universities and employers, and provides you with an assurance that your programmes adhere to high academic standards and progression routes including degrees, HNCs/HNDs and degree apprenticeship programmes.


Choice and flexibility

Each AVA offers diverse diploma titles, each with their own specialisms and strengths. Choosing the right AVA ensures you have access to diplomas that align with your learners’ academic goals and your organisations’ delivery models, whether that be classroom-based, hybrid or online.

Look for an AVA with options across various disciplines, like AIM’s portfolio of Access to HE Diplomas that have been developed by specialist subject and industry practitioners and include: social sciences, business, healthcare, engineering, green, digital and many more.


Comprehensive support and resources

Don’t just look for the minimum level of support from your AVA. Look for an AVA that provides additional support through Pre-Access to HE qualifications, downloadable resources, online learning options, and even eLearning courses for crucial academic skills development (like AIM's Capital Tutorials). You can see the full offer of AIM’s support to its customers here.


Value and transparency

We’ve all heard the saying – “you get what you pay for”, well the same applies here. Going for the cheaper option isn’t likely to get you the level of service your organisation is searching for.

Similarly, picking the AVA that offers the most expensive option doesn’t necessarily mean that their service or Diplomas are of the highest quality or value either. Instead, opt for an AVA with transparent cost structures, high-value programs, and proven student success rates (like AIM, known for its affordability, accessibility and strong achievement data and customer satisfaction).


Rigorous quality assurance

Opt for an AVA that offers a flexible approach but with the highest standards of quality assurance, that promote an enriching learning experience that is fair and consistent for all your students. Choose an AVA with a robust quality assurance framework, like AIM’s tailored approach which offers year-round support, external moderation and tailored centre visits. We’ll work with you to maintain the integrity of your qualification, and achievement of your students.


Efficiency and recognition

“The key is in not spending time, but in investing it” – Stephen R. Covey.

As a delivery centre, you want to cut down on administration time by investing in streamlined processes and have the opportunity in which to highlight your student achievements. Partner with an AVA offering efficient registration, fast certificate turnaround and awards programs recognising excellence and offering financial bursaries to support future studies.



Good service = happy customers, so look for an AVA that provides unmediated feedback from their customers.

Here’s some of ours:

Michelle Kelso, curriculum manager at Redcar & Cleveland College:

"Working with AIM Qualifications and Assessment Group for our Access to HE provision has been fantastic. The support we've received from AIM has been exemplary, with their team consistently going above and beyond to ensure our needs are met and queries promptly addressed. Their processes have made navigating the accreditation journey seamless, offering clarity and efficiency every step of the way. The extensive range of Diplomas provided by AIM allows us to cater to diverse learner needs, ensuring that our Access to HE programs are both inclusive and comprehensive. Overall, collaborating with AIM has been a great journey in enhancing the quality and accessibility of our Access to HE provision.”


Emma McNaught, Access to HE Graduate and FAB Learner of the Year Award winner and AIM Outstanding Commitment to Study Award – joint winner:

"I chose to complete the Access to Higher Education course in Health Professions after my 6-year-old son was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia. Seeing what the nurses do on the oncology ward and the training that I have received to be able to care for my son at home, made me realise that this is something I would like to go into as a new career.

I am gaining a solid foundation of knowledge in various health-related subjects, and it is equipping me with the academic skills and knowledge necessary for pursuing further studies in healthcare to benefit both myself and my son in the future, despite the hurdles we still have ahead of us.”



Thinking about your next steps? Check out the free resources available to help you choose the right AVA for you here.

If you are interested in learning more about AIM’s Access to HE offer, get in touch to see how your centre can offer an AIM Access to HE Diploma.

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