Making Sense Of The Training Minefield

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Published on: 27 Jun 2018

A Guide to Accredited Qualifications

Over my 30-something years in education and training I have seen the comings and goings of numerous government policies and initiatives, the constant evolution of education methodologies and curriculum design formats, regular adaptations to occupational standards and ever-changing requirements for measuring achievement. Terminology also changes with the wind.   Indeed, it is such a major feat to keep up with the latest acronyms, ‘buzz words’ and ‘in’ phrases that even the savviest educationalist will sometimes struggle to keep up. To anyone outside academia it must appear at times like a minefield of jargon.

With this in mind, and with the advent of the UK’s new qualification standards for the aesthetics industry, we have recently been asked many questions, and seen much confusion, over what makes a qualification and what type of qualification you should look for.   What determines if a course is accredited and who provides this accreditation? What are qualification levels? And what is the difference between an Award, a Certificate and a Diploma course?

These are just some of the uncertainties I will hope to address in this piece. I will try to make sense of the UK’s education framework, together with some of the language used, in order to clarify what differentiates a training course from a qualification, and one type of qualification from another.

Qualification Accreditation

Let us start by looking at what an accredited qualification looks like.

In essence, the term accreditation should only be used for courses which have been recognised by a government-registered education body such as a university or one of the Ofqual awarding bodies – for example Edexel, City and Guilds, Industry Qualifications (IQ), CIBTAC or VTCT.

Ofqual stands for ‘The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation’. It regulates qualifications, examinations and assessments in England and reports directly to parliament. Ofqual maintains education standards in GCSE’s, A Levels. AS Levels and Vocational Qualifications.

The process of getting a course accredited by Ofqual is a complex, skilled and laborious exercise. When developing a qualification, it is not just a case of preparing some slides or course notes. Each required element of study or indicative content must be meticulously specified and documented; Every learning outcome has to be reflective of the National Occupational Standards or the regulations and guidelines of professional statutory bodies. Furthermore, how this learning will be delivered, where in the course structure will it be included, how this learning will be assessed, or competency measured and where the achievement of the learning outcome will be evidenced all has to be detailed and wrapped up in the correct terminology.

Suffice to say attention to detail is key in proving to Ofqual that the course is educationally rigorous and in line with its exacting standards, with the law where applicable and with professional or industry requirements.

Establishing whether a course you are looking to enroll on is accredited by Ofqual or by a university is fairly straight forward. You may need to get the course reference code from the training provider but usually you will find the course you are looking for by its title.

For courses on the Ofqual Framework go to:

For University accredited Courses go to: NB – If the course is not visible on either of those registers then it is either unaccredited or it may be a customised qualification which is unique to the training provider. In this case you must contact the Awarding Body to check the credentials of the course.

Qualification Levelling

The different levels learning is defined by Ofqual. The levels reflect an upward sliding scale in the advancement of the complexity and depth of the knowledge or skill being learned, the teaching and learning styles employed and modalities of assessment.  In respect of the HEE guidelines to the new qualification levelling for cosmetic interventions the element of risk is also factored into the levels of qualification into which each treatment modality falls.

In the UK Education Levels range from 1 – 8 and the full detail of what types of qualifications sit at each level is given at the following government web address –

However here are some examples:

Level 1 – GCSE – grade D – G / Level 1 Essential Skills / Level 1 NVQ

Level 2 – GCSE Grade A-C / Level 2 NVQ / Intermediate Apprenticeship

Level 3 – A Level Grade A – E / AS level / Adv Apprenticeship / Level 3 NVQ

Level 4 – Cert HE / HNC / Higher Apprenticeship / Level 4 NVQ

Level 5 – DipHE / Foundation Degree / HND / Level 5 NVQ

Level 6  – Bachelor’s Degree / Graduate Diploma / Degree Apprenticeship L6 NVQ

Level 7 – master’s Degree / Post Graduate Diploma / Level 7 NVQ

Level 8 – Doctorate / PhD

NB The JCCP / HEE Qualification Levels can be seen in their initial form at the end of this document. However please note that this framework is being further developed to include other treatment modalities at varying levels.

Qualification Titles and Types 

Many people get confused about qualifications in respect of their title or type of certification – principally is the course you are looking at an Award, a Certificate, a Diploma or a Degree? In the first instance this comes down to the size of the course which will be measured in unit credits according to the requirements of the QCF – the Qualification Credit Framework (3) [1]. The unit credits of a qualification determine whether it is an Award, a Certificate, a Diploma or a Degree and each unit of credit represents 10 hours of learning time. See the summary below:

An Award = 1 – 12 credits or 10 to 120 hours

A Certificate = 13 to 36 credits or 130 to 360 hours

A Diploma represents over 37 credits or 370 hours of study.

Of the credited learning hours, a proportion will be taken up by guided learning and the rest given to private study and assignment work.

Degrees are slightly different in that they accredited by a university rather than an awarding body and there are a number of different types or levels beginning with a Foundation, Undergraduate or Bachelor’s Degree, onto a Master’s Degree and then up to a Doctorate or PhD.

Who can provide Accredited Qualifications

 Accredited qualifications may be provided by education establishments from the public or private sector, and such establishments will need to be working under an awarding body or university in order to deliver and assess the accredited qualifications in question.

Furthermore, from November last year, (2017) training organisations and individual trainers will need to gain registration via the JCCP on their Register of Training Providers if they wish to offer the JCCP accredited Level 4 – 7 qualifications in aesthetic practices. This is to ensure that their educational provision is robust and that the teaching is provided to the required standard by qualified and experienced educators and clinicians. This registration in itself will help potential students sift out which training organizations are the ones to choose.

Endorsed Short Courses and Validated CPD

Certified short courses, CPD programmes or supplier-driven training all have a very important place in our sector but do not constitute accredited qualifications. They can vary extensively in their quality and rigour and achievement of competency standards are rarely formerly measured or evidenced. Moreover, often the curriculum will be designed around a single brand or piece of equipment rather than looking at the broader scope of an area of study.

You may have come across the term ‘CPD accredited’ for short courses and also courses ‘accredited’ by industry insurers, trade magazines or representative organisations. This can very confusing and misleading as the term accreditation should not be used in this context ….So how do these courses measure up?#

CPD stands for Continuous Professional Development and such provision can be validated or non-validated. If the course materials have been inspected and assessed for their educational rigour and quality by a CPD Certification Service then this validation will give the learner the assurance of a well put together training programme which carriers an endorsement of its standard. In this case the delegate or learner will receive a certificate bearing a registration code which verifies it a s a genuinely validated CPD course.

Endorsement of such CPD may also be awarded by a Professional Statutory Body such as the GMC, NMC or GDC or by industry bodies such as the BACN, RCN, HABIA and BABTAC or by insurance companies.

It is important to note here however that a course which is representative of a particular brand or is designed to sell a specific product will not be awarded CPD validation. In this case, a certificate of attendance can be issued by the course provider and the training can be counted as non-validated CPD.

Either way, CPD courses and short courses endorsed by non-governmental organizations are NOT Qualifications.


The Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL) and the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) are standards practices in education. In principle the process of accrediting or recognising prior learning requires documented evidence of that learning and the assessment of knowledge and competency.

However, it is important to realise that in the aesthetics sector this is very hard to do due to the lack of formal education and training in the past. For example, a supplier’s certificate for attendance to a one-day course on a brand of chemical peels cannot be used for APL because the syllabus for that course will usually not be formally set out and mapped against the National Occupational Standards. Equally the measurement of knowledge and practical skill will not have been carried out be under formal assessment conditions and with detailed documentation.

NB at the point of writing this piece, the assessment of prior learning is on the agenda for the JCCP Working Party for Education Training and Accreditation to establish how APL can be incorporated into education framework for aesthetic practice.


In this time of change within the aesthetic sector it is important to remember that education and training of any kind should be a worthwhile and rewarding experience. It is forever on-going and none of us, particularly in our fast-moving industry, can afford to be complacent without risking poor practice or being left behind our competitors. Whether you are looking to gain higher level qualifications to enable you to practice more advanced treatment procedures and improve your career opportunities, or whether you simply wish to extend your knowledge and skills by way of your own CPD, the quality of the course provision, and the qualification and credibility of those who will teach you, must be ascertained. Equally, the value of robust quality training has to be recognised. It is your level of knowledge, understanding and expertise that will define you as a specialist in your field and secure your place in the future of the aesthetics industry.

Sally Durant Aesthetic Education & Training







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