Back to news Success story


Adding value with ASDAN’s Customised Accreditation: Camps International

ASDAN’s Customised Accreditation is a bespoke arrangement in which ASDAN accredits and certificates a course that an organisation has already written. It provides curriculum endorsement by our nationally recognised awarding body.

We spoke to ASDAN-accredited organisation Camps International’s Technical Director, Sharon Cruse, as to why they chose to accredit their programme through ASDAN and how it recognises and certificates young people’s creativity, bravery and perseverance.

Camps International is a global social enterprise running school expeditions for UK students and putting voluntary work at the heart of adventure. Camps International supports young people aged 15-17, travelling for four weeks to work in partnership with rural communities to help them overcome the daily challenges they are facing through their sustainable community, wildlife and environmental initiatives in places such as East Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America.

“Camps International first became an ASDAN member because we wanted to demonstrate to schools that our school expeditions incorporating voluntary work has real educational value and credibility,” says Sharon.

“Over the last few years we’ve mapped our projects to UN Sustainable Development Goals, so a lot of what we do is empowering women, improving sanitation and access to education, as well as environmental and wildlife factors. In Borneo, we have projects focused on the human-wildlife conflict between indigenous animals like orangutans and deforestation for palm oil.”

“When I joined the company in 2013, our ASDAN membership was quite new. I was already familiar with ASDAN as I had just come from teaching in a sixth form,” says Sharon. “I’ve found that, unlike other awarding bodies, ASDAN courses aren’t solely focused on the academics – they focus on real life skills and abilities.”

Young person in Borneo improving village drainage system, which'll help reduce the stagnation of water that may cause mosquito-borne diseases. 

A highly regarded awarding body with strong values

“There isn't a GCSE or an A level or even a Duke of Edinburgh Award that quite suits what we do but ASDAN’s Customised Accreditation really fits,” says Sharon. “ASDAN’s values align with ours – it’s passionate about recognising and rewarding those holistic and vocational skills that are much harder to quantify and measure.”

“We get some super academic students and also students who just care. Not everyone is cut out for exams, but there's as much value in experience and practical skills as there is in being able to regurgitate facts and extrapolate information.”  

“We use ASDAN’s Customised Accreditation to formally recognise our Universities Award because it recognises the broader, less tangible skills and qualities of learning and becoming an adult. More young people with a range of abilities can access the award,” says Sharon.

“Our young people spend months preparing for their expedition. They then go on this huge journey across the world as part of a team,” says Sharon. “You can't quantify their personal achievement and contribution to those communities where we’ve built a school or toilet. ASDAN’s Customised Accreditation allows us to recognise and award young people’s growth. I love it.”

ASDAN-accredited young people in Cambodia working on reforestation by tree-planting, developing seedling nurseries and implementing effective waste management solutions.

Creating standout personal statements for university

“I’ve worked in a Russel Group university's admissions department,” says Sharon, “and as you can imagine, every application comes in with three As, so how do you distinguish 3,000 CVs that have got UCAS applications with all the right grades? The delineator was gauging whether they were going to survive at university and not drop out, because retention is massively important for universities.”

“So, if an applicant has an ASDAN-accredited award on their CV, this shows that they’ve persevered, worked within a team, been self-sufficient and independent – all the attributes that make it more likely that the young person will survive at university,” says Sharon.

“Some students say ‘I'm not getting to university. Why would I need the Universities Award?’. Further education may not be their plan, but I think it’s something to go on any CV or any record of achievement as a stamp of recognition for contributing meaningfully to the wider world.”

ASDAN provides one-to-one support and a flexible approach

“Our ASDAN relationship manager, Cathy, was really good. Over the years our relationship evolved. She was so super helpful, particularly during the pandemic when there were all sorts of travel delays for our young people when we were trying to get their portfolios together,” says Sharon.

“We had some students who were meant to travel in 2020 but the trips were postponed, and they ended up doing two weeks instead of four. I was worried that they wouldn’t be able to claim their award certificates for not fully completing the proposed expedition. I contacted our new relationship manager, Darren, and I really liked his response - that it wasn’t a problem because it’s about the spirit of the experience. The young people still had this really long journey leading up to it and did the same preparation and still worked with the communities. I felt that they deserved the full award and ASDAN allowed that flexibility.” 

Recognising young people’s resilience through formal certification

“85% of our students fundraise the vast majority of money for their expedition, and we're talking an average of about £4,000,” says Sharon. “I’m always blown away by the creativity, entrepreneurial skills and the persistence of young people. Some students chip away at their target amount through endless cake sales, and then other people put their heart and soul into one big event like a concert. They’ve learned so much before they even travel to their designated country.”

“A lot of people think that the Universities Award is just about having an adventure, like climbing a mountain or learning to scuba dive, but when they come back, they talk about the communities and the projects. I think young people these days are much more aware of the wider world and want to make some sort of difference out there, which is really nice,” says Sharon. 

“We post the ASDAN certificates to all our young people. Some of them are actually already at university by then but still claim it for posterity – they value the experience, and a certificate holds weight.”

“Schools and parents love a certificate,” says Sharon. “It gives credibility to something that's really difficult to measure and standardise. ASDAN’s Customised Accreditation is a stamp to say that our school expeditions has real value.”

Camps International expeditioners in Cambodia constructing clay water pots for rainwater storage and distributing them to local houses.

Please contact if you have been inspired and would like to work with us to share your centre's success story or to find out more about ASDAN’s Customised Accreditation.