Last updated on: 11/03/2008
What are accredited qualifications?
Accredited qualifications are those that have been reviewed by the regulators of external qualifications (Ofqual, DCELLS and CCEA) against specific quality criteria to meet identified needs.
Qualification requirements are set out in the document The statutory regulation of external qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Qualifications that are intended to meet specific sector needs are required to:
- have support from the relevant sector skills council or similar organisation
- conform to national occupational standards.
Once qualifications meet these criteria, they are placed on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF). All qualifications on the NQF are offered by recognised awarding bodies.
A full list of accredited qualifications and the awarding bodies that offer them can be downloaded from the National Database of Accredited Qualifications (NDAQ) website.
What types of qualifications are accredited by the regulators?
The regulators' remit includes the accreditation of the following types of qualifications:
- entry level qualifications
- adult literacy and numeracy qualifications
- English for speakers of other languages qualifications (ESOL)
- key skills qualifications
- GCE A levels
- advanced extension awards
- national vocational qualifications (NVQs)
- higher level qualifications (at level 4 or above)
- qualifications that fall under the common criteria (including vocationally related qualifications, occupational qualifications and other general qualifications).
The criteria of all these qualification types can be found in The statutory regulation of external qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
How are the accredited qualifications approved and funded?
Once qualifications are accredited and admitted to the National Qualifications Framework (NQF), the regulators are required to provide advice to their respective education ministers about the qualifications.
Through this process, qualifications are approved for specific groups of learners in England and Wales under sections 96 and 97 of the Learning and Skills Act 2000 and the Education (Northern Ireland) Order 1998.
For more information on qualification approval arrangements you can view the different websites depending on the country and the regulatory body involved.
- England: Department for Children, Schools and Families
- Wales: Department for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills
- Northern Ireland: Department of Education, Department for Employment and Learning for Northern Ireland.
These lists of approved qualifications are then shared with the respective funding agencies in each country, which are:
- Learning and Skills Council (LSC) in England
- Education and Learning Wales in Wales
- Department of Education and the Department of Employment and Learning in Northern Ireland.
Qualification accreditation is neither a guarantee of approval nor of funding. Funding agencies do, where appropriate, fund non-NQF qualifications. For further details about the funding process in England, refer to the funding guidelines in the reading room of the LSC website.
When visiting the databases for the different qualifications, it is important to be aware that due to the nature of the accreditation and approval process, there may be a time lag causing information discrepancies. For more information, please view our Qualification approval process pages.
How can I, as a centre, offer existing accredited qualifications?
If you are a school, further education college, training centre or other kind of adult learning provider that is offering a course not currently leading to a certificated outcome, it may be possible for that course to lead to a nationally accredited qualification. If this is of interest, follow these steps.
Visit the National Database of Accredited Qualifications (NDAQ) website and choose the qualification(s) that interest you. Use the advanced search facility to search by qualification title, sector subject area, qualification type and level. Be aware that awarding bodies may offer the same qualification by title but with varying contents.
Having identified which qualifications you would like to offer, use the awarding body link on NDAQ to access the contact details for the awarding body or bodies, and express to them your interest in offering the qualification. Where applicable, awarding bodies will provide advice on their centre approval process and any fees that apply. It may be worth contacting more than one awarding body to compare different approval processes and identify which is most appropriate for you as a centre.
How can I get the qualifications I have developed accredited by Ofqual?
If you have already followed the Ofqual recognition process and have been approved by Ofqual as a recognised awarding body, you may begin to submit qualification proposals for accreditation, following the process and criteria detailed on this website.
There are two different routes to get a qualification accredited once you are recognised as an awarding body.
The standard accreditation process:
All awarding bodies are recognised to develop qualifications via the standard accreditation process, using the web-based accreditation system. This system is detailed on the Standard accreditation page. Under the standard accreditation process, proposals submitted will undergo detailed scrutiny, and will generally be accredited within a maximum of three weeks, providing all the relevant information is submitted in accordance with the criteria laid out by Ofqual.
The five-day accreditation process:
To submit a qualification via the five-day accreditation process, awarding bodies must first apply for access. During this process, awarding bodies must prove that they have robust qualification development processes and have a good track record for developing qualifications. This is because they will have less regulatory intervention in the accreditation of qualifications and will not be required to submit as much detail regarding a proposed qualification. This means that awarding bodies will take on extra responsibility for ensuring that the qualification meets all relevant criteria. As in the standard accreditation process, these qualifications will be submitted following a web-based accreditation system.
The five-day accreditation process does not apply to:
- GCE AS/A levels
- English for speakers of other languages (ESOL)
- free-standing mathematics units
- adult literacy and numeracy
- international baccalaureate
- Welsh baccalaureate
- basic skills, key skills and entry level qualifications.
All of these qualifications must be submitted for accreditation using the standard accreditation process. More information regarding the standard and the five-day accreditation process is available on the Accreditation process pages of this website.
Where can I find a list of the awarding bodies who develop qualifications and locate centres which deliver qualifications?
You can find a list of the different awarding bodies by using the awarding body directory on the National Database of Accredited Qualifications.
This list also includes all of the details that are needed to contact the awarding body to discuss past examination papers, qualification content, and to locate recognised centres where qualifications are available.