Information on our entry fees and other charges.
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Where the money goes
We provide market-leading qualifications and first class support services that are excellent value for money.
As an independent charity, any income we make gets invested back into qualifications and assessment. This enables us to offer a broad range of qualifications and to protect the integrity and security of our assessments. It also funds other educational services, such as assessment research that benefits teachers and students.
As well as paying for our assessment services, exam fees enable us to invest in the quality of our examining teams, and to offer a comprehensive support and training package for teachers, including:
- our subject and curriculum experts
- subject resources (Plan, Teach, Assess)
- Enhanced Results Analysis (ERA)
- dedicated support and advice on non-exam assessment (NEA).
We work hard to manage our operational costs because being careful with our money means we can help more students go further, and because of this we are able to subsidise some of our lower volume qualifications. This also means we don’t charge more than we need to for our qualifications and services, and we offer a fixed price list so all schools and colleges pay the same.
Fees for 2021
When we set our fees for this summer, many of the arrangements were still to be confirmed. In the interests of time, we decided the simplest solution was to set our fees at the level we’d been planning to if exams had gone ahead.
Our overall aim was to keep our prices competitive, while taking account of the extraordinary circumstances which are leading to increased costs.
We said that we’ll make sure we pass any money we don’t need back to schools and colleges, just as we did in summer 2020.
Refunds to schools and colleges in 2021
This summer has been another unique and challenging one and the whole education sector is having to work harder than normal to make sure students receive the same qualifications as usual, in a very different way. Students will only receive qualifications because of the huge amount of extra work that schools and colleges have taken on.
That’s why, as a not-for-profit organisation, we’re giving back as much as we possibly can – because, as we’ve always said, we’d never want to benefit financially from the changes to how qualifications are being awarded this summer.
We’ve saved £45 million this summer, so we’ll be returning all of this to schools and colleges. This means we’ll be refunding 26% of the entry fees paid.
Our costs this summer
While we haven’t kept anything we don’t need, we have to make sure we’ve got enough money to cover our costs. The arrangements for this year have meant we’ve had to do more work than last year, so sadly we haven’t made as many savings as some have suggested.
For example, entry fees for this summer have covered costs including:
- collecting grades and supporting schools and colleges through the process
- carrying out a complex and completely new quality assurance process – which involves a large number of examiners
- certifying and issuing results
- preparing a full GCSE and A-level exam series for the autumn
- developing new IT systems to support this summer’s awarding process
- providing more training, guidance and support than usual - including delivering new courses and increasing our customer service support
- producing a wide range of assessment resources
- paying our staff, who are working on this summer and future exam series
- covering our usual basic running costs.
We depend on fees to operate
As a charity, any income we make gets invested back into qualifications and assessment. This income enables us to keep operating now, and in the future – and ensures that every student studying for an AQA qualification will be able to complete it and receive a result. This financial viability is a regulatory requirement – and, as the country’s biggest exam board, is essential for the future of our education system.
We’re well aware of the calls for a much bigger refund. Quite simply, the kind of refund that some have called for would have meant huge, unmanageable financial losses for us – and these would be so great that we wouldn’t be able to survive as an organisation and run exams for students next summer and beyond.
Our fees mean we can invest in the future
We reinvest entry fees into creating and delivering high quality qualifications and assessments, and offering as wide a choice of subjects as possible – along with comprehensive support and training packages for teachers – in the future.
Income from fees also enables us to invest in our technology and develop a secure, modern, cloud-based platform, which will help protect both us and our customers from the growing cyber threat.
We also deliver charitable activities including cutting-edge assessment research and the AQA Unlocking Potential programme, which helps develop and inspire young people facing significant challenges in life.
Autumn series 2021 and summer series 2022
While we normally review our fees before the start of each new school year, we’re keeping the summer 2021 entry fees for our qualifications frozen for the November 2021, January 2022 and March 2022 series.
As Ofqual hasn’t yet confirmed the arrangements for next summer’s exams, we’ll be in touch with schools and colleges about fees for 2022 as soon as possible, later in the year. We know it won’t be a normal year and we’ll be doing lots of additional work to make sure we can support our schools and colleges.
Possible further amends in the autumn
The Department for Education has said it’s providing funding to exam boards for appeals for state funded schools and colleges, and those entering private candidates. We increased our rebate to take this into account.
The government has also confirmed it will cover some exam board costs for the autumn exam series – so, if we receive any government funding for these exams, we’ll be able to refund more to schools and colleges. We now expect to know how much this might be early in 2022.