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KIS record 2013/14

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Statement about PSRBs and accreditation for the KIS Technical Guidance

Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Bodies (PSRBs) and professional accreditation of undergraduate programmes

Version 1.2 Produced 2013-04-29

Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Bodies (PSRBs) are a very diverse group of professional and employer bodies, regulators and those with statutory authority over a profession or group of professionals. PSRBs engage with higher education as regulators. They provide membership services and promote the interests of people working in professions; accredit or endorse courses that meet professional standards, provide a route through to the professions or are recognised by employers.

A number of professions have multiple PSRBs with different roles and responsibilities that may accredit, endorse and recognise individual courses. As part of this process of accurately defining the role and remit of these bodies, the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) asked universities and colleges to let them know if there were any omissions from the accreditation information table that was derived from the HEBRG database.

The KIS states where courses enable students to progress to the next phase of their career or require further learning and study before the student can progress.

Work to understand PSRBs' roles and relationships with the HE sector was conducted by the Higher Education Better Regulation Group (HEBRG) (which can be reviewed in the document: Professional, statutory and regulatory bodies: an exploration of their engagement with higher education).

An accredited course is defined as one which is recognised by an accrediting body and may confer membership, chartered status or partial exemption. Accreditation may be 'any process of approval leading to assurance that a programme meets the standards required by a particular profession'.

Users of the KIS are encouraged to explore the exact nature of accreditation, what the accreditation/endorsement confers on prospective students, or other benefits that would accrue from studying such courses.

In research informing the development of the KIS, students requested more information about courses that are professionally accredited and accreditation is an item of information that students considered important (which can be reviewed in the document: Understanding the information needs of users public information about higher education).

As HEBRG's report makes clear the range and scope of professional bodies extends beyond those with regulatory powers that have been established by statute, such as architects and doctors.

This is a statement from HEBRG (Higher Education Better Regulation Group).

  1. The decision that the KIS should include information about accreditation by professional, statutory and regulatory bodies reflects the interests of students, as identified in the original research published by HEFCE, in having information about the professional bodies that recognise the course and hence about how the course might improve their employment prospects. However it is recognised that PSRB is an umbrella term for a very diverse group of organisations, including professional bodies, regulators and those with statutory authority over a profession or group of professionals. One of the roles of a PSRB may be to accredit programmes of higher education, either directly or through institutional accreditation.

  2. 'Accreditation' is used in this context as a mark of assurance that the programme (or in some cases the institution as a whole) meets the standards set by the accrediting body. The outcome of a successful programme accreditation by a PSRB may include one or more of the following:
    1. graduates are able to practise as a professional in a specific field, and in some cases receive a license to practise that is required by law;
    2. graduates are granted chartered status;
    3. graduates are granted exemption from all or part of professional exams;
    4. graduates are eligible for entry to membership of a professional association or learned society;
    5. the programme is confirmed as meeting externally designated standards and quality.

  3. There are many types of accreditation and processes vary widely, but they normally involve:
    1. external peer review;
    2. a definitive yes/no decision at the end of the accreditation process;
    3. a time delimited period of accreditation, with further review by the end of the accreditation period;
    4. regular monitoring of student performance.

  4. Accreditation of programmes may be essential and required by law if the graduate is to be permitted to practice in their chosen profession, or it may more generally be considered a worthwhile exercise by the higher education provider in ensuring that the course meets professional needs and will improve the employment prospects of students. Whatever the aim of the accreditation, the PSRB should be committed to ensuring that its processes are not unduly burdensome and that they align with other sector-specific regulatory processes where they exist. Bodies are expected to adhere to the Principles of Better Regulation for Higher Education developed by the Higher Education Better Regulation Group (HEBRG).

  5. Organisations that undertake accreditation of HE programmes and are identified through a KIS will be asked to provide relevant information on their own websites explaining in general terms the purposes of accreditation of higher educational programmes and the potential benefits to students.

  6. The PSRBs currently recognised as eligible for inclusion in the KIS are listed in the Accreditation information table

  7. There may also be other organisations, for example employers' representatives, not normally referred to as PSRBs and not involved in professional education; nevertheless they may undertake scrutiny of programmes with reference to industrial content or higher skills development that institutions would find valuable in informing prospective students and therefore wish to record in the KIS.

  8. Such an organisation may be considered for acceptance onto the list of bodies eligible for inclusion in the KIS if it undertakes accreditation of higher education programmes that:
    1. results in all or most of the outcomes listed in paragraph 2;
    2. involves at least some of the processes listed in paragraph 3.

  9. Where institutions believe other bodies should be added to the list of PSRBs they should contact [email protected] in the first instance.

Procedure for updating the accreditation information table

Employers are consulted via their involvement in professional development in the professions and bodies relevant to the professions. For example, Creative Skillset, the industry body for the UK creative industries, accredits digital media and computer games courses to ensure that qualifications being developed for use in, or progression into, the creative industries will meet the needs of employers and individuals. The Society of Biology is also developing a framework to accredit programmes that are valued by major pharmaceutical companies.

Where professions are not regulated by statute, employers will have their own recruitment policies and practices.

HEPISG, the Higher Education Public Information Steering Group, has ultimate responsibility for information contained within and developed for KIS. While certain functions associated with professional accreditation are devolved to HEFCE, HESA, QAA and HEBRG (the Panel, see below), HEPISG's decisions are final over inclusion to the accreditation information table.

The accreditation information table is continually evolving and changing in response to new knowledge, regulation or regulatory changes, and the needs of students, employers and wider society: this procedure is designed to deal with that. The table should be seen as a living document.

There are two broad categories of changes to the accreditation information table:

1. Relatively straightforward cases

An example here would be an existing body that wishes to transfer its accreditation function to another body. The strength and rigour of its accreditation process is unchanged; this could also reflect a change in name or merger between accrediting bodies.

If a new body is formed through the merger between bodies already in the Accreditation information table, then the merged bodies should be returned against the KIS course. If an accrediting body changes its name this will be incorporated into the Accreditation information table as part of a scheduled release. If an accrediting body ceases to exist during the collection, and HESA is made aware, it will be removed from the lookup table as part of a scheduled release. Institutions must then re-submit their data with a valid Accreditation.ACCTYPE. No wholly new bodies will be added to the accreditation information table for the 2013/14 KIS collection.

2. Additions to the list

There is no further opportunity to make additions to the list for the C13061 collection.

If a returning institution believes that either the 'Accreditation type text' or the 'Accreditation URL', in the Accreditation information table, are not correct for the purpose of accrediting a KIS course, the institution should contact the accrediting body to discuss in the first instance.

To add a new PSRB to the accreditation information table, follow the Process for adding new PSRBs to the accreditation information table document.

Contact Liaison by email or on +44 (0)1242 388 531.