Skip to main content

KIS record 2016/17 - Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Bodies (PSRBs) and professional accreditation of undergraduate programmes

Back to C16061

KIS record 2016/17 - Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Bodies (PSRBs) and professional accreditation of undergraduate programmes

Version 1.0 Produced 2016-05-05

Professional, statutory and regulatory bodies and accreditation statements in the KIS

Accreditation is a process for verifying or approving a higher education programme or higher education provider (HEP). As part of the development of the Key Information Set (KIS), accreditation granted to courses by professional bodies was identified as an information item that was helpful in enabling students to make informed choices about undergraduate courses.

Accreditation is usually granted by professional, statutory and regulatory bodies (PSRBs), which are a 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, accrediting or endorsing courses that meet professional standards, provide a route to the professions or are recognised by employers. The KIS also includes organisations not usually referred to as PSRBs, for example employers' representatives which may undertake scrutiny of programmes with reference to industrial content or higher skills development.

Some accreditation statements included in the KIS therefore indicate that a course results in membership, chartered status or full or partial exemption from exams; others, that it is recognised as meeting a particular set of criteria or a quality threshold that is recognised by employers. Where accreditation is referred to in this document it is intended to encompass this broad range of accreditation, recognition or endorsement.

The accreditation information table used for the KIS holds lists of accrediting bodies and statements describing the accreditation(s) that they offer. These statements are referred to as accreditation types, recorded in the Accreditation.ACCTYPE data item. Each combination of accrediting body and type has a unique code and providers may select one or more codes to include against each of their KIS courses where appropriate. There may be multiple bodies fulfilling a variety of roles in some areas, which is why multiple accreditations are permitted for each course. In cases where a whole provider or school's provision is accredited, providers are advised to include the relevant accreditation for all courses offered by the provider. There are annual processes for applications to add new bodies or new accreditation types to the table.

The Higher Education Better Regulation Group (HEBRG) has examined the nature of the relationship between PSRBs and the higher education sector and published its findings in 2011 in the report 'Professional, statutory and regulatory bodies: An exploration of their engagement with higher education'. Its work has informed the development of the criteria used for the inclusion of bodies in the KIS.

It is a requirement that organisations included as accrediting bodies in the KIS provide information about their accreditation or endorsement of higher education courses on their web-site. This information is then linked to from the KIS accreditation statement to enable prospective students to fully understand the nature of the accreditation or endorsement that has been granted to the course and the potential benefits of this to them.

As there is no central regulator of professional and training bodies, we request that all applications to be added to the accreditation table are initiated or supported by a higher education provider which intends to use the accreditation in the KIS. This provides an appropriate safeguard, ensuring that only PSRBs who are recognised by higher education providers are accepted to join the list of accrediting bodies.

Assurance of accreditation information

Higher education providers submitting KIS data are responsible for assuring their accuracy. The primary relationship in the area of accreditation information is between the povider and the accrediting body, and institutions should seek advice from the relevant accrediting body if they are unsure which accreditation applies to their course. Accrediting bodies are in the best position to understand whether their accreditations are being used accurately in the KIS and it is therefore appropriate for them to carry out periodic checks of the data and liaise directly with any provider where they identify an issue. Accreditation information forms part of the audit programme for the KIS audits that HEFCE conduct annually.

Process for applications to be added to the accreditation table

Application process

Decisions about the application of the criteria for inclusion in the accreditation list will be taken by a panel with representatives from HEFCE, acting on behalf of all four UK HE funding bodies, and the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA). A sub-group of the Higher Education Public Information Steering Group (HEPISG), which is a UK-wide body with HE stakeholder and sector group representation, will consider any appeals. The application process is administered by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).

The addition of an accrediting body to the list of bodies may be requested by a provider, if it wishes to indicate that a course it intends to return in its KIS dataset is accredited by that body. The provider should request the addition by contacting HESA with an explanation of the benefit of the accreditation to prospective students, and should direct the accrediting body to complete an application form. This should explain its accreditation process in more detail, and demonstrate how it meets the criteria for inclusion of accrediting bodies in the KIS. This form must be returned to HESA ([email protected]) by 1 December for inclusion in the following year's KIS.

This application form, along with the information from the requesting provider, will be considered by the KIS PSRB decision-making panel in January. Decisions will be issued by the end of January.

If an accrediting body wishes to be added to the list, it must ensure that a provider contacts HESA to support the addition prior to submitting its application.

If an accrediting body has already been subject to a rigorous approval process, for example where it is licensed by a regulatory or statutory body, it may request exemption from the application process. It should put the reasons why it believes it should be exempted from the application process in writing to HESA. HEFCE and QAA will consider these requests on an individual basis.

The application deadline is set as 1 December to allow sufficient time to assess applications and consider any appeals, as the content of the accreditation table must be finalised in advance of submission systems opening for the KIS collection, which usually occurs in May.

Appeals

If an accrediting body is not accepted for inclusion in the list, it will have a right to appeal. Reasons for appealing should be put in writing, within one month of being notified of the initial panel decision. Appeals will be limited to 1,000 words. The case will then be considered by a sub-group of HEPISG, which will decide whether there are grounds for accepting the appeal. If HEPISG rejects the appeal, an applicant will not be able to submit a further case for inclusion until there has been a material change to the organisation's accreditation process.

Assessment criteria

Applications will be assessed against the following:

  1. Benefit to the student: The accreditation should represent a potential benefit to the student, of which it is valuable for them to be aware when choosing their undergraduate course. The body should therefore be able to demonstrate that its accreditation meets at least one of the following criteria.
    • Graduates are able to practise as a professional in a specific field (for example, they receive a license to practise that is required by law), or completion of the accredited programme allows them to apply to practise.
    • Graduates are granted chartered status or the completion of the accredited course forms part of a recognised pathway to professional recognition.
    • Graduates are granted exemption from all or some professional exams.
    • Graduates are eligible for entry to membership of a professional association or learned society.
    • The programme has been assessed as meeting externally designated standards and quality thresholds that are recognised by the sector's industry and employers.
  2. Accreditation process: In addition to explaining the benefit of the accreditation to the student, the body will need to demonstrate that its accreditation process is robust and involves the following.
    • A time-limited period of accreditation, with further review by the end of the accreditation period; or, where an accreditation is open-ended, a process of regular monitoring with the possibility of revocation if the programme fails to meet the standard of accreditation.
    • External peer review.1
    • A formal decision-making process where the body agrees to grant accreditation or not based on the outcome of the review of the programme.
    • Regular monitoring of academic standards.
  3. Availability of information about accreditation: The accrediting body should include a clear description of its accreditation process and the value of the accreditation on its website, along with a list of accredited courses. This should include an explanation of the implications for students currently pursuing an accredited programme of study if the accreditation is not renewed. It should provide a link to this information.

Applications for addition to the KIS list of accrediting bodies

If you would like to request an addition to the Accreditation Information table maintained by HESA, please fill in the relevant application form from the following table and submit it to [email protected] by 1 December for inclusion in the following year's KIS collection.

New accrediting body Application for inclusion in KIS Guidance for inclusion in KIS
New accreditation type text Application for new ACCTYPE type text Guidance for new ACCTYPE text

Maintenance of the accreditation table and amendments

Changes to 'accreditation type' text

Accrediting bodies may request amendments to the description of an existing accreditation at any point in the year. They should submit these requests to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). If a provider believes a change should be made to this text, they should contact the accrediting body and ask them to request the change.

HESA will update the accreditation type text and contact any institutions that are using the existing text to inform them of the change. If there is a substantive change in the nature of the accreditation (for example if it no longer confers the same exemptions), accrediting bodies should follow the process for a new accreditation type.

Applications for an additional accreditation type

If a provider identifies a new accreditation type for an accrediting body that already exists in the accreditation table it may propose the addition of this to HESA. It should then contact the accrediting body and ask them to complete the 'Application for a new KIS accreditation type' form.

If an accrediting body wishes to request inclusion of a new accreditation type it should submit the form but, as with the process for addition of a new body, they must ensure that written support from a provider that will use the accreditation in their KIS data is also sent to HESA.

The application form must be returned to HESA ([email protected]) by 1 December for the accreditation to be included in the following year's KIS.

Applications will be considered by the KIS professional, statutory and regulatory body decision-making panel, which includes representatives from the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. HESA will inform the body of the panel's decision and the reasons for this. It will be able to appeal this decision and any appeals will be considered by correspondence by the sub-group of the Higher Education Public Information Steering Group.

If an accrediting body identifies a substantive change in an existing accreditation type that may have bearing on its inclusion in the KIS, it should request the 'Application for a new KIS accreditation type' form directly from HESA. Changes to existing accreditation types will be considered by correspondence on receipt.

Process for removal of accrediting bodies or accreditation types from the Key Information Set accreditation table

Requests to remove an accrediting body or an accreditation type from the Key Information Set (KIS) accreditation table should be directed to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). These should be made on the grounds that the accreditation is no longer in use or that the body no longer meets the criteria to be included and a justification must be provided for the removal request.

  1. Requests from accrediting bodies: If the request is from the accrediting body, HESA will action the removal and confirm this to the accrediting body.

    If the accrediting body or accreditation type is currently in use, but the accrediting body has requested its removal, HESA will also contact any institutions using this item to inform them of the removal.

  2. Requests from other organisations or parties: If the request has been made by an organisation other than the accrediting body, which may be an institution or another party, HESA will contact the relevant accrediting body to seek its agreement to the removal. If the body agrees, HESA will proceed as for a. above.

    If the accrediting body contests the removal, it will be asked to provide a justification for remaining on the list. This, along with any further evidence that officers are able to provide by, for example, reviewing the body's web-site and checking for past usage, will be forwarded to the KIS professional, statutory and regulatory body (PSRB) decision-making panel, which will determine by correspondence whether the body should be removed from the list.

    HESA will inform the accrediting body of the panel's decision and the reasons for it. It will be able to appeal this decision, and any appeals will be considered by correspondence by the sub-group of the Higher Education Public Information Steering Group (HEPISG).

    If the decision is made to remove the body or accreditation, HESA will also contact any institutions using this item to inform them of the removal

  3. Removal of unused accrediting bodies and accreditation types: The use of accrediting bodies and associated accreditation types will be reviewed annually and the following action taken:
    • Any accreditation types that have not been used in the final KIS dataset during the previous two years will be removed.
    • Any accrediting bodies whose accreditation types have not been used in the final KIS dataset during the previous two years will be removed.
    • An accrediting body will be informed by HESA in the event of its removal from the table or the removal of any of its accreditation types on these grounds.

HESA will produce a report of accrediting body usage each autumn, and will process any removals before publishing the manual for the next year's KIS collection.

Process for assuring accuracy of accreditation listings on Unistats

The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) publishes on its web-site a table of all accreditations currently associated with courses that appear on Unistats. This is updated weekly, and is available as a file within the Unistats Dataset. To download the file follow the instructions on the page at Unistats dataset. Within the compressed archive (ZIP) file, locate the file 'AccreditationByHep.csv'. This file shows all instances where a HEP is using an accreditation type within KIS, showing the KIS course ID and the associated Accrediting body.

This table can be downloaded as a .CSV file ('AccreditationByHep.csv') within the Unistats dataset.

While the institution providing the data is responsible for its accuracy, it would be very helpful if accrediting bodies could check these listings periodically. Accrediting bodies are in the best position to understand whether their accreditations are being used accurately in the KIS and to enter into dialogue with institutions about this. Should a body find that any of the accreditations claimed do not reflect their records of a course's accreditation status, or if the statement is, for example, inconsistent with the qualification aim of the course, they should contact the relevant institution(s) to discuss the issue and request that the institution ensure that its KIS data are updated.

If the information is not updated appropriately by the institution in response to their request, the accrediting body should contact HESA ([email protected]) to request assistance in the case of higher education institutions' data and HEFCE ([email protected]) for further education colleges' data. Please be aware that, due to the required approval processes and the weekly update of the Unistats website, it may take some time for the KIS to be updated, so please sufficient time to allow for this prior to contacting HESA or HEFCE. Ideally, a timeline for update should be agreed with the institution and the matter only referred to HESA or HEFCE if this is not met.

1. [Peer review is generally a process of review conducted by experts in the field. It may include academics and professionals, but review of programmes may also involve relevant stakeholders such as students and service users.] Back to footnote 1

Need help?

Contact Liaison by email or on 01242 211144.