An organization responsible for the conduct of assessment leading to recognized awards such as the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE), Vocational Advanced Levels, and key skills certification, and for the issuing of certification. Before 1996 the term applied largely to bodies awarding vocational qualifications, most notably national organizations such as the Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC) and the Royal Society of Arts, which were responsible for awarding qualifications such as the General National Vocational Qualification. At this time, bodies responsible for general education awards such as GCSEs were referred to as examination boards. However, in line with the Department for Education and Employment's policy to close the gap between vocational and general qualifications, manifested in the replacement of the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority and the National Council for Vocational Qualifications by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) in 1997, mergers took place between the major awarding bodies and examination boards. The University of London Examination and Assessment Council and BTEC were the first to form a unitary awarding body. The RSA awarding body and the Oxford and Cambridge examination boards formed the Oxford, Cambridge, and Royal Society of Arts (OCR) examining board; and the City and Guilds merged with the Northern and the Associated Examining Boards to form the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance. These three awarding bodies are responsible for academic and vocational qualifications for 18–19‐year‐olds. There remain, however, a large number of smaller awarding bodies, each responsible for qualifications in a specific area, which operate nationally and regionally within the learning and skills sector.
The specific operating procedures of awarding bodies vary, but their role will usually include advising on, or specifying, curriculum content; devising, monitoring, and administrating assessments; operating a system of verification to ensure standardization of continuous assessment; carrying out summative assessment and moderation; and issuing certification of awards.
All awarding bodies, and the qualifications they award, are regulated by the QCA as part of its responsibility for maintaining the reliability of the National Qualifications Framework.
http://www.qca.org.uk/qca_5116.aspx Provides information on QCA's requirements of an awarding body.