About us

NOCN OCN Logos updated LSE


What is NOCN?

NOCN (previously the National Open College Network) is a leading awarding organisation and top three Government-approved Apprenticeship Assessment Organisation (AAO) that has been creating opportunities for students and learners for nearly 30 years. The NOCN brand is trusted and recognised by learners, training providers, colleges and employers.  NOCN is the organisation preserving the heritage of the Open College Network (OCN).

NOCN works with a wide range of organisations, to provide qualifications including vocational skills, employability training, productivity improvement, traineeships and apprenticeships. With our expertise and unique approach we’re in the best position to help employers and training providers bridge skills gaps and develop qualifications that meet the needs of industry and learners alike.

We’re proud to be the very first awarding organisation to be given the 'Leader in Diversity' award by the National Centre for Diversity, a leader in promoting equality for all in the UK. We’re also recognised by Ofqual, CCEA and the Welsh Government.

NOCN manages the majority of its UK business from its head office in Sheffield, but it also has regional offices in Birmingham, Bristol, London and Warrington. In addition we also have an office in New Delhi, India.  We work with our partners ONE Awards, Agored Cymru and OCN Northern Ireland, and a number of international partners in Europe, Asia and Africa.


NOCN's network of educational organisations was launched in 1987, bringing together a loose federation of only seven open colleges and access centres. This new network ensured a consistency of quality for NOCN qualifications nationwide. These local organisations eventually became known as OCNs (Open College Networks) as members of NOCN’s network.  By 2000 there were 31 regionally based organisations and in 2006 these merged into 11 larger OCNs. The history of this development is summarised in the 2007 joint NOCN and NIACE publication “Celebrating Achievement – 25 Years of Open College Networks”.  

From 2011 major government reforms to funded adult education resulted in NOCN refocusing its strategy to match government aspirations for the sector. This meant more higher level qualifications matched to the needs of industry and less of the ‘traditional’ OCN qualifications, such as foundation level and ‘niche’ awards.

Integral to this strategy NOCN re-established itself as a leading brand of adult vocational qualifications as well as apprenticeships.

Because of these changes, many of the former regional OCNs left membership of NOCN and established themselves as local awarding organisations in their own right, rebranding to make it clear they were no longer an OCN delivering NOCN qualifications.

OCNs who stayed with NOCN

Three OCNs remained and are now trusted partners, sharing NOCN’s vision for the future of adult skills and realigning their own business to fit. They are:

OCNs who left NOCN

The following organisations are no longer a part of NOCN's network and do not provide NOCN qualifications:

  • AIM Awards
  • Apted
  • Certa
  • Credit4Learning
  • Gateway Qualifications
  • Laser Learning Awards
  • Open Awards
  • Open College Network London Region
  • Open College Network West Midlands Region

The NOCN name and logo, and the 'swoosh' elements are all Registered Trademarks of NOCN.