Are ACE schools using misleading advertising?

Are ACE schools using misleading advertising? June 30, 2014

The world has learned that ACE schools teach that evolution is a lie, wives must submit to their husbands, being gay is a sin, and abortion is murder. But for some ACE graduates, that might not be the most damaging thing.

During the Newsnight investigation into Accelerated Christian Education, Anjana Ahuja noticed that many ACE schools were claiming that you could get into university with their (unaccredited) qualification, the ICCE (International Certificate of Christian Education). So she contacted some of the universities alleged to have accepted the ICCE for university entrance, and of those who replied, none of them said they accepted the ICCE.

Imperial College London: Does not recognise the ICCE. (Image credit: Man Vyi, via Wikimedia Commons.)

So can you get into university with an ACE education? Despite claims that more than 50 UK universities have accepted ICCE graduates, this is obviously still a controversial question among parents at ACE schools. The ICCE board is at pains to insist you can, and many ACE schools’ websites describe it as a “university entrance qualification”. Actually, it’s not as easy as they make out. If students have been accepted, often it’s because the universities made an exception to their usual policy, or because the students had additional, recognised qualifications, and it was these that gave them access to higher education.

The reality of the situation is that UK students leave ACE school with no officially recognised qualification whatsoever.

Here’s Anjana with the full story:

“During the course of the Newsnight investigation into the ACE curriculum, I saw that Christian Education Europe’s website contained a long list of UK universities said to have accepted ICCE graduates on to undergraduate courses. I was particularly interested that Imperial College in London was cited as having accepted a student in engineering. This is my alma mater – a highly competitive, world-renowned institution ranked internationally alongside places like Oxford, Princeton and Caltech. It’s hard to get in, even if you have three A’s at A-level.I contacted Imperial admissions, plus several universities who were said to have ICCE graduates on science courses (such as mathematics, biology, engineering). Six replied. The responses are listed below.

Before we get on to that list, I should also note that I rang UCAS, who told me that the ICCE does NOT earn tariff points for university admission, unlike the impression given on some ACE school websites. UCAS said this was because the ICCE was not accredited by OfQual, the exams regulator. I checked with OfQual, who confirmed this to be the case but said that the ICCE might be certified by another body. I read somewhere that the ICCE is certified by the Board of the ICCE.

It is important to be fair about this, so I must add that, according to UCAS, many universities don’t use tariff points to determine admissions. UCAS said they had heard of Durham University accepting the ICCE (Durham, incidentally, has a noted theology department)*. John Lewis, the CEE representative who appeared on Newsnight, went to York University, and there are apparently instances of other ICCE graduates going to UCL and Cambridge. What I can’t verify is whether those individuals went up to those universities through the normal process, with the ICCE as their sole qualification. None of the six universities I contacted said they routinely accepted the ICCE.

* It is true that the Christian ethos of St John’s College, Durham, has probably helped some ICCE students to gain entrance, but I doubt many ACE graduates study theology, since mainstream theology is a dirty word to them. — Jonny

Back to the list.

Here is what Imperial said:

The International Certificate of Christian Education (ICCE) is not accepted by Imperial for entry onto any of its undergraduate courses. Details of entry requirements and qualifications accepted by the College can be found here.

It is possible that some students at Imperial hold the ICCE in addition to other qualifications accepted by the College, however this would not have formed part of their admission.

University of Hertfordshire

ICCE is not one of our listed equivalences and therefore any applicant applying with this qualification would never receive an automatic offer from us.  However, when making an offer to an applicant with this qualification to study mathematics, each application would be assessed on its individual merits depending on which programme the applicant was applying to study.

University of Manchester

We are not aware of accepting anyone with an ICCE qualification on the two courses mentioned on the website you sent. We don’t actually run a Criminology and Forensic Science degree (although Manchester Metropolitan University does) and admissions staff for Criminology and Japanese had not come across the ICCE qualification.

NARIC did a comparability study of ICCE and A-level qualification in 2012 (see here), so it is feasible that an ICCE Advanced Certificate could be accepted in place of a third A Level without any enquiries going to our central admissions team, but it’s very unlikely.

In place of a third A level, and even then “very unlikely”—contrast this with the ICCE Board’s claim that the qualification is equal to three A levels all on its own—Jonny.

Brunel University

While we may have accepted students who hold the ICCE alongside other qualifications, the ICCE by itself is not recognised as an alternative to A levels or the International Bacclaureate (IB).

University of East Anglia

UEA does not have any record of any students admitted with ICCE qualifications. We don’t have an institutional policy for acceptance of ICCE qualifications, and the decision on whether to accept them would depend on the course applied for and an assessment of the ICCE curriculum, teaching and assessment methods on a case-by-case basis.

University of Huddersfield

The University of Huddersfield does not accept the ICCE as a standard qualification and should an admissions tutor feel that a student who puts this award forward on application is worthy of an offer, the admissions tutor has to make a ‘special case’ to our Admissions and Records Office for their approval to proceed.  The University has had very few applicants putting forward this award, but we do have two students currently studying with us where a special case was made by the admissions tutor and subsequently accepted by the University.

What do I conclude from these inquiries? None of the institutions I contacted (remember, these were on CEE’s own website) said that the ICCE was a recognised entry qualification. Any institutions that had accepted ICCE students on to science courses had done so on a ‘Special case’ basis. For this reason, my journalistic opinion is that it is misleading to portray the ICCE as equivalent to A-levels or the IB. It is clear that any student wanting to head to university armed with only an ICCE is very likely to find it more of a struggle than if they had A-levels or the IB. I readily accept that my sample of universities is a small one but, even with this sample, featuring universities on CEE’s own website, it is painfully evident that the ICCE is simply not as widely recognised or accepted as A-levels or the IB as a measure of academic achievement.”


Thanks Anj! This is a very important story. My inbox is regularly filled with stories of ex-students who are struggling to find work, since no employer recognises their ACE high school diploma. When parents send their children to ACE schools, they’re not just giving them a second-rate education now; they’re putting their future at risk.

It’s a shame Newsnight didn’t have time to include this important information. Please make up for it by sharing this article. If you’ve struggled since leaving an ACE school with having an unrecognised qualification, tell your story in the comments.

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