The course accreditation minefield (continued)

Compass was one of the first course providers in the Animal Care Industry to go down the route of having its courses accredited by a regulated awarding body over 20 years ago. Since then much has changed in the academic world of accreditation. The questions we have been asked over the years have also changed as students have become more aware that an advertised course may not be exactly all it is presented as.

The process of achieving accreditation has become steadily more involved over the years with more and more hoops to jump through and corresponding additional cost. Costs have to be passed on to the students and a growing number of course providers have decided that the benefits do not justify the cost and effort involved and have abandoned formal accreditation, some have turned to unregulated accreditation bodies which confuses potential students even more (see my last blog) but others have simply given up altogether in favour of keeping costs and burdensome administration down.

Those course providers who remain with an Ofqual regulated Awarding Body have two choices for accreditation, they can adopt Customised Qualification status for their courses or Regulated Qualification status. Already I can hear the majority of readers losing the will to carry on with this blog but if you are interested in the subject the difference is important.

Both types of qualification go through essentially the exact same process of checks to ensure they meet the high level of quality required by Ofqual in terms of content and delivery. They must reach the level of study claimed which indicates the difficulty and depth of the course and they are allocated a Total Qualification Time (TQT) figure to indicate the length of the course. TQT is often quoted in ‘credits’ with one credit equalling 10 hours so, to give you a benchmark, the TQT of a GCSE is usually around 120 hours or 12 credits while each year of a three year degree is typically 1200 hours or 120 credits.

So far there is absolutely nothing to distinguish between Customised and Regulated qualifications but there is one crucial difference. When an organisation submits a qualification for Regulated status through their awarding body it relinquishes its intellectual property rights, in other words it no longer owns the course. Customised qualifications remain the property of the course provider who produced it. In giving up ownership the now regulated course is given an identifying number and appears on a register of regulated courses published by Ofqual, customised qualifications do not have such a number and do not appear on the register. The process of appearing on this register does not alter the value or purpose of the course in any way.

A question I am constantly asked is ‘is your course a recognised qualification?’ and my answer is to ask ‘recognised by whom?’. For qualifications to reach their potential they must attract industry recognition to be of any real value other than just for personal interest. It is possible to have a regulated qualification (registered by Ofqual) that is not recognised by industry. In this case Ofqual is saying that the course meets educational requirements but industry says it falls short of their requirements. Equally, a customised qualification that does not appear on the Ofqual register may be recognised by industry as fulfilling all the requirements of industry. The reasons that industry might reject a regulated qualification range from incorrect content (not covering required topics) to inadequate level or too low a TQT value (the course is too short). Courses that are produced by industry tend to meet their requirements exactly because they are written to satisfy their own requirements whether they are regulated or customised qualifications.

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