Polymer qualification provider slams Cogent over fees

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Industry Qualifications (IQ), which provides qualifications for the polymer sector, has complained to the Department of Business, Innovations and Skills and the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) over Cogent’s “stewardship” of the polymer apprenticeship framework.

In a formal complaint Telford-based IQ says the policy of charging to include its awards on the apprenticeship framework is “detrimental to the sector, reducing choice to polymer companies, creating barriers to innovation, and keeping certification costs higher than they might otherwise be”.

Raymond Clarke, IQ’s chief executive, said while the costs of putting a qualification onto the framework were likely to be “minimal” Cogent was charging £300 for each one.

“In sectors such as polymers, where qualification volumes are low, artificial barriers of this type clearly undermine the primary purpose of an Sector Skills Council,” he added.

Clarke also complained that his firm’s qualifications were approved in February this year but are still not on the framework, some eight months later.

However Cogent’s products and services director James Murdock said that contrary to IQ’s view that the £300 per qualification charge is “disproportionate to the work involved”, his organisation was merely covering its costs.

“We are the issuing authority. We don’t make money on doing what we do; our income is derived from skills-based projects."

Cogent levied a “modest charge” to cover the costs of going through the framework process, Murdock said, notifying changes and so on. “It is a day’s work. We don’t feel it’s unreasonable to ask them to cover these costs.”

Murdock said in the case of IQ his organisation had charged the full fee for the first of two qualifications and half the fee for the second, a total of £450.

He said that Cogent had supported IQ through the process required by qualifications regulator OfQual but that it had only received a request to go onto the framework system last month.

“IQ might have thought that us supporting them [earlier this year] was the same as us putting them on the framework.”

Murdock said Cogent would be making its own statement to BIS and the OFT, following IQ’s complaint.