Giving you the confidence to choose the right qualification

The free market in qualifications

The qualifications market for both adults and young people in the UK is essentially a free market. This means private companies compete to offer qualifications either directly to you or to schools, colleges and other organisations who will then offer you the qualification. What is distinctive about the UK market for qualifications is that this competition not only exists in the market for adult qualifications but also in the market for school qualifications. A typical secondary school in England can choose the qualifications it buys from a number of competing companies. These companies compete on the content, structure and assessment of their qualifications, the support and resources they provide the school, and also on price.

A typical secondary school in England can choose the qualifications it buys from a number of competing companies

This is different from how qualifications are offered in many other countries. For example, an 18 year old learner in France typically takes the French Baccalaureate in their final year of Lycee. This qualification is owned and delivered by the state. There is not the same choice for a school or a learner here. However, equally, there are not the issues faced in the UK's free market system, around regulation and whether the qualification standard is secure between competing providers.

While the UK has a free market for qualifications, government, and education authorities across the UK, have a major role to play both in ensuring the quality of the qualifications you take and also helping you meet the cost of those qualifications. For many qualifications, the government ensures that you do not need to pay, or only have to pay a limited amount. For example the governments across the UK will pay the main fees for any young person under the age of 19 to take a qualification who remains in full time education.