The real meaning of accreditation

I have written before about some of the topics surrounding quality education provision to try and help people through the maze of information and mis-information they are presented with. One topic that has come to the fore recently is the question of the different levels of accreditation that are available and what value they add (or not) to the courses they apply to.

Education is jointly regulated in England (Ofqual), Wales (DCELLS) and Northern Ireland (CCEA), in Scotland this role is carried out independently by SCQF. Their responsibility is to ensure that the quality of education that is delivered in schools and colleges is standardised. Education that leads to academic qualifications is then listed on a database and depending on the level that is attributed to it, it may contribute credit points (CAT points) to the successful students that would support university applications through UCAS. Collectively this is known as the Qualifications and Credits Framework (QCF). In addition Ofqual regulate Awarding Bodies to accredit provision that is not on the QCF which is known by a variety of names such as private provision or customised provision.

The first three points to note are:

  • Getting credits (CAT points) towards a university application is only of real value to those under 21 because applications for those older than that are classed as ‘mature’ and a broader look at the applicant’s life experience and other education is taken into consideration.
  • Credits awarded for customised provision do not count towards CAT points.
  • The QCF provision and customised provision is quality controlled in exactly the same way, the notion that more generous level attribution is found from some awarding bodies is absurd. It is more than their own awarding body status is worth to bend the rules.

There is another aspect that often gets overlooked and that is where vocational education leads to a professional qualification, in other words whether the subject being studied has to cover certain topics at levels specified by a regulatory authority. A prime example is the Veterinary Nursing qualification, it can only be studied at specified colleges and the course content is matched against the professional requirements before it is approved. Where the job is not regulated by a statutory authority eg dog training and behaviour, it makes absolutely no difference whatsoever whether the course is on the QCF or not because nobody but the course provider is saying that content is relevant or that it qualifies you to do anything. The only thing any kind of accreditation is doing is giving some level of assurance that the course will be delivered with appropriate academic rigour, nothing about the content.

One characteristic of getting courses on the QCF is that it is an expensive process and this is translated into the cost of undertaking the course so the long and short of it is that unless you are under 21 and want to use your studies to gain a place at university, the single difference between accredited private provision and QCF provision is the latter will be considerably more expensive. The problem of an authority approving courses for animal training and behaviour is about to be solved with the imminent launch of the ABTC course recognition process. This will map course content against the ABTC standards for a range of roles so that individuals will be able to tell which courses are going to deliver the right education for their needs and by exclusion, which ones might not be such a good investment.

On a final note I have also recently mentioned what it means to behave professionally and honourably in terms of not criticising competitors. My last observation that some people are making much of how they are operating within these most basic of professional standards yet hide behind private forums to pedal their unethical and biased stance to promote their own enterprise has since been evidenced on more than one occasion. In some ways it should help people decide who they should study with because such behaviour might indicate the level of integrity that is applied to the running of their educational establishment.


4 thoughts on “The real meaning of accreditation

  1. sophieredroad

    Thank you, I enjoy reading your writing. It always makes me wish I was studying with Compass because I feel confidence in you from your passion and sense.

    I was looking longingly from 2009 at ways to get into the canine behaviour industry from behind my desk of my admin job. It wasn’t until 2014 that I finally made the decision to embark on to a Canine Behaviour and training foundation degree, part time, distance learning. I went with this course firstly because it is a ‘recognised’ qualification and secondly because it promised a practical element. I couldn’t wait any longer for an agreement to be made on how one should become a regulated proffessional, so I thought going with a university would be the safest bet…

    After completing the first year of the three year course, I currently feel a lot of time and effort has being spent jumping through hoops, time and effort that could be spent learning the bones of the job, being filled with passion and confidence to get three years of relevant knowledge and experience under our belts.

    My regrets about choosing this course come down to feeling that I want so much to be inspired by teachers who are passionate about the industry, as you are yourself, to be focused on the aim of getting to improve the lives of dogs and owners, not to tick university boxes and have them meet their targets. My peers are thirsty for this too and we often feel deflated and frustrated.

    We are asking ourselves do we wipe the £5k spent thus far and give up, throw our money at something else, or do we stick it out until the end at the cost of £15k and see in 2017 whether it is a requirment for us to have this qualification for us to practice and was it worth it? From my inexperienced and naive perspective it is impossible for me to know whether what is offered on this course will provide me with the best methods, attitude, conduct to make a worthy professional that will meet requirements for future regulations.

    I want to be part of a professional body for the code of conduct and ethics, the guidance, the community support and network. I want to be able to say to prospective clients “I am a dog trainer and behaviourist. Full stop”, as a nurse can, a pharmacist or a gas engineer. I want that to mean I am qualified, I am experienced, I am competant.

    We can only try our hardest with our best intentions and resources to get the knowledge we can and the practical experience we can from the limited professionals available.

    Thank you for motivating us.


    1. majorm2003 Post author

      Sophie, I am happy to talk you through your choices if you wish, there are probably other things you can be doing as well at the moment, I will likely recommend you stick with what you started but sometimes all you need is a bit of direction. 01644 440601 David

  2. wmike1503

    The whole accreditation and recognition by various organisations such as TCBTS and CFBF is worrying and confusing. I am currently studying with Compass (Advanced Diploma Canine Behaviour Management) – a decent course, I believe. However efforts to join either of the bodies mentioned above is proving frustrating and putting me off joining them. There seems to be an inordinate amount of bureaucracy involved here, making it difficult. CFBF doesn’t seem interested in my course of study (irrespective that it is accredited by Lantra) – TCBTS expect me to travel to Windsor for an interview, just to join as a student member.

    Given that these bodies purport to have the interests of animal at there core; why is it then the those studying, legitimate courses face such an uphill struggle to become accredited. I for one, treat all of these bodes with a degree of scepticism. I don’t see this improving anytime soon.

    I will, probably, just qualify and practise (with my own strong, ethical approach) and, disregard these ‘professional bodies’.

    1. majorm2003 Post author

      I understand your frustration but any worthwhile body is going to want to assess you in person at some stage and this will require a face to face meeting. I would obviously recommend that you join an organisation that is approved by ABTC but if none meet your needs at the moment there are others that are in the process of joining which will add to your choices.


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