Ofqual chief regulator steps down to head up UCAS

Jo Saxton leaves for university applications body after just two years in the role
Jo Saxton. Photo: Ofqual

By Tevye Markson

27 Sep 2023

Ofqual chief regulator Jo Saxton will step down from her role at the end of the year to join UCAS as chief executive.

Saxton, who has been chief regulator since September 2021, will leave the qualifications and exams regulator at the end of December, joining the university applications operator in January.

In her two years in the role, Saxton has overseen the return of exams for GCSEs and A-Levels and reinstated pre-pandemic grading. She also introduced a new Level 3 results deadline and awarding process, which meant that vocational qualifications were delivered on time this summer, following the significant delays experienced by many students in the previous year, Ofqual said.

Saxton said she is “very proud” of Ofqual’s achievements in the last two years.

“I fundamentally believe that a return to exams and pre-pandemic grading was the right and fair thing to do for students of all ages. I am also an ardent champion of parity – it was wrong that there were delays in students receiving their vocational qualifications in summer 2022, and I’m pleased we have been able to change the system so that can never happen again," she said.

“Throughout my time at Ofqual, I promised that students would be my compass and that promise remains intact," Saxton added.

Saxton said the organisation “has strong foundations and is extremely well positioned to continue to ensure public confidence” in the qualifications system. And she said she is “delighted” to be able to continue to serve students at UCAS and return to the sector where she started her career, having taught and examined at universities in the UK and the United States.

She will replace current UCAS chief exec Clare Marchant, who is leaving the organisation later this year to become vice-chancellor at the University of Gloucestershire.

Education secretary Gillian Keegan said she is “hugely grateful” to Saxton for “guiding Ofqual through the challenges that followed the pandemic, ultimately overseeing a smooth return to exams and normal grading”.

“Jo’s knowledge and experience have been invaluable as we’ve navigated the past two years and returned to the exam arrangements that best serve young people,” she added.

“I look forward to continuing to work with Jo in her new role at UCAS, supporting students to progress onto university, degree apprenticeships and the world of work.”

Ofqual chair Sir Ian Bauckham praised Saxton’s “determined and principled leadership”.

“Fairness to students has been Jo’s abiding priority, and there is no better legacy than fair examinations, graded equitably and delivered on time,” he said.

A public appointments process will soon be launched for the new chief regulator, with an interim appointment to be made first.

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