We've cast our net wide so that our new qualifications can match the best in the world, commissioning research to focus on some of the most important issues.

Here are the topics that we’ve asked academic experts to look into. The authors of these papers have reached their conclusions independently, and we think they all make an interesting contribution to the challenge of building world-class qualifications.

Seminar on standards

Colleagues from government, private, public and charitable organisations considered some of the challenges that the government’s proposed changes to qualifications raise for setting and maintaining standards. There were presentations from leading academics on their research into this issue, and the chance to discuss implications for assessment, standards and policy.


Tiering has been used in GCSE exams for some time. It's a system where different levels of exam are offered within a single overall exam template. In most cases, two tiers have been available: higher, covering GCSE grades A*-D, and foundation, covering grades C-G. We commissioned research to look at the historical context of tiering, and some by-subject application of the principle.

Research evidence relating to proposals for reform of the GCSE

Assessment reform is an ongoing process in England, with many issues being revisited periodically. This report by the Oxford University Centre for Educational Assessment focuses on current proposed reforms, but is framed in a way that we hope will be useful for future reforms as well as for people in other countries.

International benchmarking

International benchmarking has become an important tool for politicians and others seeking to raise standards in the education system. This particular piece of research examines the assessment instruments used by five anonymised, high-performing countries in the core subject areas of maths and science (including biology, chemistry, physics and science), and compares them with those used in England to see what, if any, conclusions can be drawn.