How to choose a distance learning course in animal care/welfare/behaviour/training

There seem to be so many courses available these days that it can be tricky choosing the right one for you and there are a few things that people should take into consideration before parting with their hard earned money to avoid a bad buy. Fifteen years ago when Compass Education was started there were few courses to choose from and there was not the public interest there is today but coming from a teaching background we knew it was important to have some form of independent approval to reassure our students. We were the first to achieve such approval from an academic awarding body in the form of OCN, we even introduced our main competitor to them. Since those early days we have been accredited by no less than four such bodies and approved by a number of government sponsored organisations and professional associations (see which makes us the most widely approved private provider of animal related courses in the UK.
What people do not generally understand is what such accreditation actually means. We are constantly asked the question ‘is it a recognised qualification?’ but that question itself is full of difficulties to explain. As there are currently no regulations governing the subject there is no such thing as a course that qualifies practitioners. This is actually in the process of changing as the Animal Behaviour and Training Council ( are about to publish standards and will accept courses that are submitted for approval from 2012. I predict that very few of the accredited courses that are currently available will reach the required standard. If they do it will be the most important measure of relevance and quality that has ever been available. Needless to say Compass will be doing everything possible to achieve this important level of accreditation.
When learning providers advertise their courses as accredited by an awarding body all it means is that it will be delivered to a good standard, it does not mean that the contents have been checked against any national requirement because there isn’t one (at the moment). They are simply teaching you what they think you need to know.
Many will indicate that they are registered as learning providers on the UK Register of Learning Providers which might make you think that some kind of checks have been carried out as to their legitimacy. Nothing could be further from the truth, a registered number is obtained by simply completing a registration form. This gives the student no protection whatsoever and says very little about the organisation.
You should be sure that the people who write the courses and the people that teach them are qualified to do so. It should not be enough for them to say that they are practicing behaviourists for instance. Just because someone has been doing a job for a while is no measure of their ability or authority to pass on anything other than their personal opinions on the subject. At least check to see that course authors have studied the subject themselves and that tutors have some form of teaching qualification otherwise you could be walking into a poor investment.
Of course if you are studying for the fun of it rather than to improve your employability or professional knowledge much of what I have said reduces in importance but most people want value for money these days. Just remember that if it is cheap there is a reason for that!


4 thoughts on “How to choose a distance learning course in animal care/welfare/behaviour/training

  1. davidcavill

    David, We are friends and I wish you every success but the first organisation in our field of education to gain academic recognition was the Animal Care College, founded in 1980 (35 years ago) and which was approved as a centre by City and Guilds in 1983 after a meeting with the then CE, Roger Fox. On Roger’s retirement C&G become increasingly bureaucratic (and expensive) and we moved to the Open College Network (SER) which pioneered the ‘credit’ as the basis for awards in 1990. OCN (SER) was re-established as Laser learning Awards eight years ago and remains the accrediting body for the College.

    1. majorm2003 Post author

      David, I was not aware of the ACC association with City and Guilds but assume that any C&G delivery you may have been involved in was not ACC copyright although approved to deliver C&G provision. When we first starting doing business together my memory was of introducing you to OCN having had associations with them through our prison teaching and that was not until the late 90’s when the notion of directly accrediting ‘customised provision’ really took off and awarding bodies started to spring up everywhere.

      1. davidcavill

        Thanks for the clarification David but I can assure you that our fully protected and copyrighted courses – from the establishment of the Canine/Feline Interface written by John Fisher in 1983/4 (now the Diploma of Canine Psychology) were fully accredited by G&G at that time. In fact, we began our accreditation via OCN with the North East Region when we were working with a Leeds college developing some other courses in the mid 1990s soon after I created and launched the Institution of Animal Care Education – with a view to it becoming an accrediting body. This was not to be and as it was genuinely independent of me me it eventually went its own way – and is still active as you know – although not as a recognised Ofqual accrediting body. I was a member of both the Lead Industry Body and its successor before it was incorporated into Lantra – in the 1990s as I remember, so was very much up to speed in what was happening in the demand for formal accreditation and OCN.

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