What is an Accredited Qualification?

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Qualifications are a major part of the progression of any student. Qualifications represent a student’s skills and abilities and can open up pathways into education and employment. Therefore, it’s of the utmost importance that the qualifications you earn are valid, respected, and recognised by the institutions you pursue after earning them. You may have heard of an “accredited qualification” before – but what is an accredited qualification and are they worth it?

An accredited qualification is a qualification that has been verified by a recognised awarding body or organisation. Accreditation shows that a qualification meets national and international standards of quality. It is effectively a stamp of approval that you have developed the skills involved in earning the qualification. Accredited qualifications are highly regarded by higher education institutions and employers.

Don’t worry if you’re still confused about what an accredited qualification actually is. Keep reading this article for all the information you need to know!

Do you get an accredited qualification from an accredited course?

An accredited course is a course that has been approved by a professional body or organisation. Accreditation is effectively a stamp of approval that lets other institutions and employers know your course has been assessed for its outcomes and objectives.

While it may seem that studying an accredited course means you will receive an accredited qualification, this is actually not the case. Accreditation – approving courses for study – can be subjective, and does not necessarily have to be verified by an organisation outside of the institution providing the course.

However, an accredited qualification is accredited against the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF). This has to be regulated and overseen by Ofqual – I’ll be talking more about this later in the article, so keep reading for more information about what Ofqual does.

Because of the subjectivity of accreditation on courses, studying an accredited course might not always lead to an accredited qualification. This does not mean your qualification from an accredited course is worthless, it just means it has not been regulated by Ofqual.

Accreditation is a good way of assessing the quality and reliability of a qualification, so if a qualification is accredited, the course is guaranteed to be. However, remember that it is not always the same the other way around.

Why do qualifications need to be accredited?

Qualifications need to be accredited to show that the skills and information they offer to students is correct and will help them in higher education or employment. Unaccredited qualifications can still be valid, they just won’t have been officially regulated.

When employers or universities see an accredited qualification on your application, they know the skills and experience you gained from that qualification are officially recognised.

According to UKAS, “Accreditation involves the assessment of the competence and impartiality of an organisation and the compliance of their work to nationally and internationally recognised standards or schemes”. You can read more about this on this page of their website.

This means that if qualifications are not accredited, employers or higher education institutions have no way of officially knowing that your qualification has been provided by an unbiased organisation. Accredited qualification can go onto official documents such as your CV, and employers will be able to know that your skills are verified.

Similarly, accredited qualifications can be matched up to the government’s qualification levels. To read more about what qualifications levels are and how many there are, check out this Think Student article.

What are some examples of accredited qualifications?

There are many accredited qualifications in the UK, some general qualifications that most people earn, and others more specific qualifications that are limited to certain fields of work. For example, GCSEs and A-Levels are accredited qualifications!

All GCSE subjects are accredited academic qualifications in the UK, as stated on the government website here. Accredited qualifications can be either academic qualifications or professional qualifications! If you need more information on what professional qualifications are, this Think Student article has everything you need to know.

Qualifications like a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and apprenticeships are all accredited qualifications. For a list of all the accredited qualifications in the UK, you can search the Register of Regulated Qualifications on this page of the government website.

Online university courses can also offer accredited qualifications. For example, on this page of the University of Edinburgh’s website, it is stated that 8 of the online Medicine and Veterinary Medicine master’s degrees are accredited by the Royal College of Surgeons.

As mentioned earlier in the article, it does not always have to be an official governmental organisation that accredits a course or qualification – which can sometimes be an issue! However, most accredited qualifications you will have heard of will be accredited by a government-related body.

Who can accredit qualifications in the UK?

One of the most significant awarding bodies in the UK has already been mentioned in this article: Ofqual. Ofqual (The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation) accredits some of the major qualifications in the UK, including GCSEs, A-Levels, AS Levels, and apprenticeships.

Ofqual is one of the most respected accrediting bodies in the UK and all of their accredited qualifications are highly regarded by education institutions and employers. This is because Ofqual is a government department (although they are independent of the government.)

For more information about who Ofqual are and what they do, check out this page of the government website.

Although Ofqual is one of the major accrediting bodies in the UK, it is definitely not the only one! Another major accrediting body, particularly for professional qualifications, is UKAS. UKAS is a national accreditation body appointed by the government.

To read more about UKAS and what they do, check out this page of their website.

Organisations do not need government backing to be able to accredit courses and qualifications. As mentioned earlier in this article, the Royal College of Surgeons has accredited several of the Medicine and Veterinary Medicine master’s courses at the University of Edinburgh.

Since the bodies that accredit courses do not always have to be verified themselves, this is why accrediting bodies that are verified, like Ofqual and UKAS, are so respected.

What non-government organisations can accredit qualifications in the UK?

Often, the non-governmental accrediting bodies are subject-specific. For instance, the Royal Society of Chemistry accredits Chemistry degrees. While all chemistry bachelor’s degrees are accredited courses, they may not all be accredited by the Royal Society of Chemistry.

The reason this is important is that some employers will look for people with a degree accredited by a subject-specific organisation, not just a general body like Ofqual.

For instance, all medical degrees in the UK are accredited by the General Medical Council, and you need one of these degrees to becoming a practicing doctor in the UK. This page from their website lists the accredited medical courses in the UK.

However, although it may slightly limit your options in some fields, studying an unaccredited degree isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Keep reading for more!

Are unaccredited courses/qualifications bad?

The perception that a course or qualifications is “bad” or below standard because it lacks accreditation is not necessarily true. Of course, accreditation is a nice stamp of approval that shows institutions or organisations approve of the quality of the course/validity of the qualification.

However, if a qualification is unaccredited this does not mean it is suddenly worthless, or that there is no point in undertaking the course. You will naturally learn transferable skills from any course you take, accredited or not.

Therefore, unaccredited courses and qualifications shouldn’t immediately be written off as worthless or useless. Some university courses aren’t even accredited! Employers or higher education institutions won’t immediately reject you just because they see an unaccredited qualification on your application.

It is understandable that you might not want to pursue an unaccredited qualification, and it is your personal decision whether you do so! You may not know that it is actually possible to pursue accredited training – to read about this, check out this page of the NCFE website.

How do you know if a qualification is accredited?

The first and easiest way to check whether a qualification is accredited is to check the awarding body in the details of your course. If, for example, the awarding body for your qualification is Ofqual, then you know that your course and qualification is accredited.

If a course or qualification does not state the awarding body, then it is more likely than not that the qualification offered is not accredited. If you would like a resource for checking whether an awarding body is recognised, I’d recommend checking out this page of the government website.

Being aware of the major accrediting bodies in your field of study/work will help narrow down which qualifications you should pursue (if you only want to pursue accredited qualifications). It might be a good idea to check out the websites of the awarding bodies in your field to know which qualifications they accredit.

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