More than 20,500 students received their vocational-qualification results late this year, according to England’s exams regulator.
Ofqual launched a review after many had to wait for BTec, Cambridge National and Cambridge Technical grades – issued by Pearson and Oxford, Cambridge and RSA Examinations (OCR) – in August.
Some told BBC News it had thrown their university places into question.
Pearson and OCR have apologised for the delays.
Ofqual said it would now set a deadline for organisations to issue grades for vocational technical qualifications (VTQs).
This year’s were due on:
- 18 August for BTec Level 3s and Cambridge Technical Level 2s and 3s, alongside A-levels, AS-levels and T-levels
- 25 August for BTec Level 2s and Cambridge Nationals, alongside GCSEs
But Ofqual said students at 1,550 schools had seen delayed results in:
- 12,346 Level 3s
- 8,573 Level 2s
Emma Harrison, 18, told BBC News waiting for her health and social care BTec Level 3 result had been “frustrating”.
She spent a week wondering whether she would be able to take up her place on a mental health nursing course at the University of Worcester.
Ofqual said it was setting up a taskforce that would meet throughout the year.
Schools and colleges needed better support, it said, and a senior member of staff who could be the point of contact for awarding organisations.
Chief regulator Dr Jo Saxton said the delays were “unacceptable” and the “action plan… a step towards parity of treatment” between students taking VTQs and those taking other qualifications such as A-levels.
Ofqual’s findings on the causes of the delays will be published in 2023.
Pearson and OCR have published their own reviews – both of which cited communication issues, as well as complexities resulting from adaptations brought in to mitigate the impact of Covid on students.
A Pearson spokeswoman said: “It was unacceptable that some students did not receive their results when they were expecting them this summer and we apologise for Pearson’s role in this.”
Pearson was part of the new taskforce and would work on improvements, she added.
OCR chief executive Jill Duffy said it was “vital that we learn, improve and do everything we can to avoid it happening again”.
“I know first-hand from the calls I had with students, parents and teachers this summer that delays in delivering some Cambridge Technicals results caused additional stress and anxiety at what was already a challenging time,” she said.
“I am truly sorry.”