1. Purpose of the approvals process

The purpose of the approvals process is to ensure that our approvals criteria have been met and to demonstrate that Higher Technical Qualifications approved by the Institute meet employer needs and lead to learners becoming employable in occupations relevant to the qualifications they undertake and complete.

As with the approval of apprenticeships and T Levels, employers will play a central role in providing insight and expertise through external consultation, a decision-making role as part of route panels and through peer reviews when deemed appropriate

Employer-led approach

Employers are at the centre of the Institute’s work on technical education through four broad stages for development outlined below.

Draft

  • applicants align their qualifications to employer designed occupational standards, verifying with specific employer evidence that outcomes will be attained.

Consult

  • public consultation on submissions to obtain the input of a wider group of employers, learners and providers.
  • submissions may be shared with relevant peer reviewers, experts in the specific occupation.

Approve

  • recommendations are provided to the employer route panels and the Approvals & Funding Committee on whether our criteria are met.
  • a final decision is made by Institute’s Chief Executive.

To obtain the widest possible input from employers, we intend to consult publicly for 4 weeks on applications for approval. The responses to the consultation form part of the Institute’s approval recommendation to route panels, the compliance board and the Institute’s CEO. Some aspects of consultation responses may be included in feedback to applicants.

We recognise that you may consider some information you provide in your application to be confidential and/or commercially sensitive, and therefore not appropriate for public consultation. We ask you to flag documents you consider confidential and/or commercially sensitive in the application form. We may contact you to discuss these details, with a view to ensuring that any public consultation is fair to all applicants and meaningful to participants.

We will also commission comments from our peer reviewers, for applications shared for review. Peer reviewers are occupational experts contracted by the Institute and are bound by obligations of confidentiality. 

Roles in the approvals process

Applicants submit qualifications for approval ensuring submissions meet the Institute’s criteria and are supported by appropriate evidence. They work with the Institute to address any feedback throughout the approvals process.

Institute officials review qualifications against Institute’s approvals criteria based on the evidence provided. They liaise with applicants to clarify issues and seek further information where necessary. They also prepare documents for route panels, the compliance board, and the Institute’s CEO, and make recommendations about whether qualifications have met the Institute’s criteria. 

Ofqual ,Office for Students confirm recognition and registration requirements and provide advice to the Institute on the qualifications or organisations they regulate. For qualifications submitted against statutory regulated occupations (as specified in the relevant occupational standard) the relevant statutory regulator may advise the Institute about any relevant ongoing or impending regulatory action into a relevant qualification, Awarding Organisation, Higher Education provider or Higher Education Institution.

Peer reviewers are occupational experts, they may be asked by the Institute to provide specific employer insight on technical education. Evidence obtained is included in the advice to route panels.

 The employer route panel provides the employer voice in the approvals process and ensures qualifications meet employer needs. Route panels review the evidence provided and ensure that the application of the Institute’s criteria takes into account employer insight. Makes recommendations to the Approvals & Funding Committee.

Compliance board provides accountability to ensure approval criteria has been applied and due diligence has been followed. The compliance board have Delegated Authorities they are individuals who have been identified as suitably qualified and experienced, to undertake specific approval activities. Compliance board has the final sign off for products including apprenticeships, higher technical qualifications and T levels. 

The Institute’s Chief Executive Officer makes final approval decisions, taking into account the recommendations and views of Institute officials, peer reviewers, route panels and the compliance board.

Applicant customer journey

Pre-window

  • attend Institute’s introductory and support webinars
  • review Institute guidance
  • book and attend individual support session with Institute officials who can provide early feedback
  • discuss specific questions and qualifications with Institute
  • identify qualifications for submission, prepare application
  • populate KSB mapping template
  • gather evidence from employers

Application window 

  • fill in the application form using Institute guidance
  • refer questions to Institute 
  • agree to terms and conditions for approval
  • Institute confirms receipt and feedback timeline

Review and consultation

  • feedback on the application process
  • Institute officials review and evaluate applications
  • Institute may share applications with peer reviewers to obtain expert advice
  • Institute officials review advice from OfS and Ofqual
  • Ofqual meetings with relevant awarding organisations 
  • Institute may seek further information

Decision and feedback

  • Institute provides feedback and timeline for future action
  • feedback on health of application

Refinement

  • make any required changes to qualifications and resubmit

Decision and final list of approved qualifications published

  • reconfirm acceptance of terms and conditions for approval
  • Institute requests feedback on the process
  • preparation for teaching begins

Procedural review

If you are unhappy with the final decision made in connection with your application for approval you may be able to challenge the Institute’s decision by way of Procedural Review.

Procedural Review is an opportunity to challenge the Institute’s decision if you feel that the published process has not been followed or if you think there has been a material error made by the Institute during the process. Procedural Review is not an avenue to challenge a decision of the Institute simply because you do not agree with it.

Time frames for submitting a Procedural Review request and details of the ground which must be met for a Procedural Review to be granted can be found in our guidance.

2. Cycle 2 approvals criteria

INTRODUCTION

To obtain approval, level 4 and 5 qualifications must meet the criteria below and applicants must agree to the terms and conditions for approval. 

Alignment to standards

Criteria

The Higher Technical Qualification must relate to one or more occupations for which occupational standards are published at level 4 or 5.

How the criterion will be applied:

We will verify alignment to the published standard(s).

Identifying occupations for which there are standards.

Approval will only be made against occupations where there is a published occupational standard. In the online application form, applicants will be asked to clearly identify the occupation(s) the qualification aligns to. Where a qualification aligns to more than one occupation, the approval criteria must be met in full for each occupation in order for the qualification to receive a quality mark.

Some occupational standards (called core and options standards) cover several separate occupations with similar training needs. Applicants should identify which occupation(s) /option(s) the qualification aligns to.

Levels of occupations and qualifications

We will accept the submission of level 5 qualifications against occupations at level 4. This may be appropriate because qualification content could go beyond the knowledge, skills and behaviours (KSBs) in the occupational standard. The level 5 qualification would need to meet our criteria for approval.  

Please contact the Higher Technical Qualification team before submission if you have a level 4 qualification that you feel aligns to a level 5 standard.

We will not accept the submission of a qualification unless it aligns to an occupational standard at level 4 or 5.  We will only accept submissions of level 4 and 5 qualifications.

Qualifications with multiple optional units

Some qualifications include multiple optional units, modules or pathways. We will only approve qualifications where all possible module, unit or pathway combinations cover the knowledge, skills and behaviours to ensure entry-level competence in the occupation(s) against which the Higher Technical Qualification has been submitted and for which the Institute has published an occupational standard.

We will not approve Higher Technical Qualifications where it would be possible for students to avoid learning certain KSBs, through their choice of optional modules or units.

Competence (coverage of standards)

Criteria

The Higher Technical Qualification must ensure a person can demonstrate they have attained as many of the outcomes set out in the standard(s) as may reasonably be expected to be attained by undertaking a course of education.

How the criterion will be applied

The level of competence attained by completing the qualification must enable a learner to enter into skilled employment in a relevant occupation (referred to as threshold/entry-level competence). To be credible to employers and learners as qualifications that deliver entry-level competence, we will expect Higher Technical Qualifications to cover all of the knowledge, skills and behaviours that can be obtained in an education setting within the specified standard(s). Applicants will need to indicate which KSBs cannot be achieved in an education setting or can only be partially achieved in an education setting and explain why.

The attainment of all the relevant outcomes of the occupational standard must be assessed using valid and appropriate methods for the occupation that can be delivered within the constraints of a course of (e.g. manageability, feasibility, affordability)

Employers must have been engaged in the development of the qualification, assessment materials and assessment outcomes. Evidence should include a detailed description of which employers have considered the qualification and how their comments have been factored in appropriately, and evidence that employers have demand for employees who have achieved the qualification. 

A Higher Technical Qualification may also include additional content over and above the KSBs set out in the occupational standard if that content is relevant to the occupation and valuable to employers.

The key test for approval is that by obtaining the qualification a learner can demonstrate that they have attained as many of the knowledge, skills and behaviours (in the standard(s) to which the qualification relates) as may be reasonably expected by undertaking a course of education. There are no limits placed on the duration of qualifications as long as they meet our criteria for approval.

We will ask you to provide a rationale for the exclusion of any knowledge, skills, and behaviours in the standard(s). The justifiable rationale could include (but not be limited to):

  • that there is limited access to specialist machinery or equipment required to practice a particular skill (however, this should not discourage submission of qualifications that have been designed for a specialist provider)
  • there are additional requirements, such as certification or registration, which are required meaning the knowledge, skill or behaviour cannot be achieved through this qualification.
  • the knowledge, skill or behaviour statement requires the individual to be based in an organisation or workplace (for example, understanding a particular company’s brand, goals, and commercial objectives)
  • the statement refers to the use of an organisation’s systems or processes which cannot be accessed e.g. content management systems, internal intranets, company guidelines and data.

Where it appears that a significant proportion of KSBs in an occupation cannot reasonably be obtained in an education setting, the Institute will seek evidence of employer support for Higher Technical Qualifications in the occupation, in order to ensure that approved Higher Technical Qualifications are credible with employers.

Behaviours

As described in our guidance on developing occupational standards, behaviours are mindsets, attitudes or approaches required for competence, generally across an entire occupation. Whilst these can be innate or instinctive, they can also be learnt.

We recognise that it can be challenging for learners to fully attain behaviours from a qualification rather than experience in the workplace. However, behaviours should be covered as comprehensively as possible, for example through teaching the expectations of behaviours.

Assessment

Criteria

A Higher Technical Qualification must also demonstrate that the attainment of all the relevant outcomes of the occupational standard is assessed using valid and appropriate methods for the occupation that can be delivered within the constraints of a course of education (e.g., manageability, feasibility, affordability).

We will seek to determine that the knowledge, skills and behaviours in an occupational standard are assessed in the qualification using valid and appropriate methods for the occupation that can be delivered within the constraints of a course of education.

We will also confirm with applicants that the assessment provides full coverage of the relevant knowledge, skills and behaviours. We ask applicants to explain:

  • why their chosen assessment methods are the most appropriate way of assessing the knowledge, skills and behaviours from the occupational standard(s)
  • how they ensure the assessment achieves and balances validity, manageability, reliability, comparability, and minimising bias

We will ask applicants to provide examples of their sample assessment materials as evidence of their approach. There is not a specific number of assessments that must be submitted per application; however, Institute officials must be able to make an informed decision on the quality of assessment materials. Therefore, assessment materials must meet the following requirements:

  • assessment materials must include an assessment brief, grade descriptors and grade boundaries, this is referred to as an ‘assessment package’.
  • assessment materials must represent a mixture of assessment methodologies, for example written and practical. Assessment material which only demonstrates one type of assessment method will not be accepted.
  • assessment materials submitted for review must assess mapped knowledge and skills within the occupational standard and not generic key skills, for example academic referencing or teamwork.
  • if the Higher Technical Qualification includes core and optional units, assessment materials submitted must be attributed to core units in the first instance.
  • if the Higher Technical Qualification offers multiple pathways which each mapping to a different occupational standard, assessment materials for each standard must be submitted as well as assessment materials for core components. Therefore, if a Higher Technical Qualificationincludes pathways which map to 4 occupational standards, the Institute would expect to receive a minimum of 5 assessment packages, 1 for each occupational standard and 1 for a core component.

For qualifications on Ofqual’s Register of Regulated Qualifications, Ofqual may meet with awarding organisations to discuss their qualifications, particular aspects of compliance with the General Conditions of Recognition, and the materials they have submitted, to inform the advice they provide to the Institute.

Further recognition and registration requirements are set out below.

Additional occupationally relevant content

Criteria

Qualifications may also include additional content relevant to the occupation(s) that is valuable to employers. Any content that does not align to the relevant occupational standard(s) should be included in the additional content section of the application form.  We expect the vast majority (substantive element) of the qualification to cover the KSBs within the occupational standard(s). 

You must provide a rationale for the occupational relevance of any content that does not directly align with the occupational standard. We may request employer engagement evidence if required and make suggestions to awarding bodies on the occupational relevance of submitted additional content.

 Additional content could include (but not be limited to):

  • content which will increase the breadth and depth of understanding of a learner in their chosen occupational field.
  • content that helps bridge a gap with a higher-level occupation and support progression.
  • content which provides additional transferable skills which will support a learner in their career within an occupation.
  • content not specifically agreed by employers as part of the relevant occupation, but relevant to the occupation in a specific context, sector, industry, or locality.
  • cutting edge or experimental content, not currently specifically agreed by employers as part of the occupation but which could be valuable in future.
  • content that adds value to learners’ employability that does not fit within any of the above bullet points.

Recognition and registration

Criteria

Qualifications submitted for approval must meet the regulatory oversight requirements.

Qualifications designed by Higher Education Providers must be awarded by a Higher Education Institution which:

  • has Foundation Degree/Degree Awarding Powers and
  • is registered with the Office for Students.

Qualifications designed by Awarding Organisations must be both:

  • on the Ofqual Register and
  • available to learners in England.

How the criterion will be applied:

To ensure approved Higher Technical Qualifications are high quality, any applicant seeking approval of their qualification must meet the regulatory requirements of either Ofqual or the Office for Students. We will check that the regulatory requirements set out above are met.

Qualifications regulated by Ofqual and the organisations offering them are expected to be compliant with the General Conditions of Recognition and, where relevant, any applicable Qualification Level Conditions and Subject Level Conditions, which apply to specific kinds of qualifications.

3. Cycle 3 approvals criteria

To obtain approval, level 4 and 5 qualifications must meet the criteria below and applicants must agree to the terms and conditions for approval. Applications should be made via the online cycle 3 application form. For your reference, an offline version of the application form is available.

​Alignment with standards

Criteria

The Higher Technical Qualification (HTQ) must relate to one or more occupations for which occupational standards are published at level 4 or 5.

How the criterion will be applied

We will determine whether or not your qualification relates to one or more of the published standard(s) which are in scope for this cycle of HTQs.

Identifying occupations for which there are standards.

The occupations and standards in scope for HTQ approval are listed on our website. Approval will only be made against occupations where there is a published occupational standard and where that standard is in scope for HTQ approval. In the online application form, applicants will be asked to clearly identify the occupation(s) the qualification aligns to. Where a qualification aligns to more than one occupation, the approval criteria must be met in full for each occupation in order for the qualification to be approved by the Institute as a Higher Technical Qualification.

Some occupational standards (called core and options standards) cover several separate occupations with similar training needs. Applicants should identify which occupation(s) /option(s) the qualification aligns to.

Levels of occupations and qualifications

We will accept the submission of level 5 qualifications against occupations at level 4. This may be appropriate because qualification content could go beyond the knowledge, skills and behaviours (KSBs) in the level 4 occupational standard. The level 5 qualification would need to meet our criteria for approval.  

We do not generally expect to approve level 4 qualifications against occupations at level 5 because it is unlikely that a qualification at level 4 could fully cover the knowledge, skills and behaviours of a level 5 occupation. However, please contact the Higher Technical Qualification team before submission if you have a level 4 qualification that you feel aligns to a level 5 standard and meets all of our other criteria. We will be happy to discuss this further with you.

We will not accept the submission of a qualification unless it aligns to an occupational standard at level 4 or 5. We will only accept submissions of level 4 and 5 qualifications for Higher Technical Qualification approval.

Qualifications with multiple optional units

Some qualifications include multiple optional units, modules or pathways. We will only approve qualifications where all possible module, unit or pathway combinations cover the knowledge, skills and behaviours in the occupation(s) to which the qualification relates (and for which the Institute has published an occupational standard).

We will not approve qualifications where it would be possible for students to avoid learning certain KSBs, through their choice of optional modules or units or where a qualification/programme contains pathways of study that are not mapped to an occupational standard in scope for HTQ approval.

Competence (coverage of standards

Criteria

A Higher Technical Qualification must ensure a person can demonstrate they have attained as many of the outcomes set out in the standard(s) as may reasonably be expected to be attained by undertaking a course of education.  

How the criterion will be applied

We will expect Higher Technical Qualifications to cover all of the knowledge, skills and behaviours that can reasonably be obtained in an education setting within the specified standard(s). Applicants will need to indicate which KSBs they think cannot be achieved in an education setting or can only be partially achieved in an education setting and explain why.

The attainment of all the relevant outcomes in the occupational standard must be assessed using valid and appropriate methods for the occupation that can be delivered within the constraints of a course of education (e.g. manageability, feasibility, affordability).

Employers must have been engaged in the development of the qualification, assessment materials and assessment outcomes (to ensure that qualification content, assessment methods and assessment contexts are occupationally relevant). Evidence should outline which employers have considered the qualification in detail and how their comments have been factored in appropriately. Applicants should also provide evidence that employers would hire learners who have completed the qualification into the occupation.

A Higher Technical Qualification may also include additional content over and above the KSBs set out in the occupational standard, if that content is relevant to the occupation and valuable to employers.

There are no limits placed on the duration of qualifications as long as they meet our criteria for approval.

We will ask you to explain why any knowledge, skills, and behaviours in the relevant standard(s) are not included in your qualification. The justifiable rationale could include (but not be limited to):

  • that there is limited access to specialist machinery or equipment required to practice a particular skill (however, this should not discourage submission of qualifications that have been designed for a specialist provider).
  • there are additional requirements, such as certification or registration, which are required meaning the knowledge, skill or behaviour cannot be achieved through this qualification.
  • the knowledge, skill or behaviour statement requires the individual to be based in an organisation or workplace (for example, understanding a particular company’s brand, goals, and commercial objectives).
  • the statement refers to the use of an organisation’s systems or processes which cannot be accessed e.g. content management systems, internal intranets, company guidelines and data.

We will make our own judgement about whether each KSB  (in the standard(s) to which the qualification relates) can reasonably be covered in a course of education and we may challenge applicants who propose excluding KSBs which we consider could be delivered in a course of education. In making these judgements the Institute consults route panel representatives and considers the following principles.

Knowledge statements:

We expect knowledge statements to be fully covered in the content of the qualification. Exceptionally, we may consider justification of partial coverage e.g. if a specific employer procedure is explicitly referred to in the knowledge statement, meaning that the knowledge could only be acquired when in the workplace.

Skill statements:

Usually, we would expect a skill statement to be fully covered in the content of the qualification. Many skills can be obtained in a peer-to-peer setting, through simulation, scenario or other training device without requiring an applied, clinical or specialist setting. Otherwise, partial or no (in very rare instances) coverage of a skill statement will be considered, taking into account access to required technology, training devices, setting, user groups etc.

Behaviour statements:

We always expect a minimum of partial coverage for behaviour statements. Occasionally it will be possible for a behaviour statement to be fully covered within a course of education. For further information on behaviours please see our guidance on developing occupational standards.

Where it appears that a significant proportion of KSBs in the relevant occupational standard(s) cannot reasonably be obtained in an education setting, the Institute will seek additional evidence of employer support for Higher Technical Qualifications in the occupation, in order to ensure that approved Higher Technical Qualifications in the occupation are credible with employers.  If following employer consultation we consider that there is a risk that qualifications aligned to the standard would not be credible with employers, meet our policy goals of improving quality and clarity in the higher technical education landscape, or meet our wider statutory duties (which include the requirement to have regard to the quality of training and the reasonable requirements of employers and learners), we may decide to not approve qualifications submitted against the standard.  We will also remove the standard from scope for future Higher Technical Qualification approvals. For more information on our policy goals, see the government response to the Higher Technical Education consultation.

Assessment

Criteria

A Higher Technical Qualification must also demonstrate that the attainment of all the relevant outcomes of the occupational standard is assessed using valid and appropriate methods for the occupation that can be delivered within the constraints of a course of education (e.g., manageability, feasibility, affordability).

We will seek to determine that the knowledge, skills and behaviours in an occupational standard are assessed in the qualification using valid and appropriate methods for the occupation that can be delivered within the constraints of a course of education.

We will also confirm with applicants that the assessment provides full coverage of the relevant knowledge, skills and behaviours. We ask applicants to explain why their chosen assessment methods are the most appropriate way of assessing the knowledge, skills and behaviours from the occupational standard(s)

We will ask applicants to provide examples of their sample assessment materials as evidence of their approach. Applicants must provide three sets of assessment materials that illustrate a minimum of two different assessment methods.

To demonstrate attainment of outcomes, each HTQ assessment must be valid and reliable. Where a sampling approach is used to assess content, each assessment series must sample from the full range of KSBs in scope for the qualification. The sampling approach together with the assessment design must ensure there is no negative impact on teaching and learning and gives a clear expectation that all KSBs in scope are taught.  Where the HTQ is delivered by the applicant, the applicant must ensure that they have procedures in place to guarantee that every student on the HTQ is taught all of the content specified in the course.  Where the HTQ is delivered by, or licensed to, a separate provider, the applicant must ensure the delivery agreement sets out this requirement for the provider.

Any application of credit transfer or recognition of prior learning must relate to specific content within the qualification i.e. students may not have credit transferred or prior learning recognised unless that credit/ prior learning directly relates to content that would otherwise be duplicated in the HTQ. Where such recognition is permitted by the course provider, the course provider must ensure that the student is provided with sufficient supplementary teaching to plug any previous gaps and make sure that each KSB covered in the course has been taught to the student, and any delivery agreement with a course provider sets this out.

For qualifications on Ofqual’s Register of Regulated Qualifications, Ofqual may meet with awarding organisations to discuss their qualifications, and the materials they have submitted, to inform the advice they provide to the Institute. The Institute will have regard to Ofqual’s advice when making approval decisions and may not approve qualifications if we have concerns about assessment (or any other areas brought to our attention by Ofqual, or otherwise) including the validity, appropriateness or deliverability of assessment methods.

Further recognition and registration requirements are set out below.

Additional occupationally relevant content

Criteria

Qualifications may also include additional content relevant to the occupation(s) that is valuable to employers. Any content that does not align to the relevant occupational standard(s) should be included in the additional content section of the application form.  We expect the vast majority (substantive element) of the qualification to cover the KSBs within the occupational standard(s). 

You must provide a rationale for the occupational relevance of any content that does not directly align with the occupational standard. We may request employer engagement evidence if required and make suggestions to awarding bodies on the occupational relevance of submitted additional content.

We may not approve a qualification if we have significant concerns about the amount of additional content and / or its relevance to the occupation. One of the key priorities set out in the government response to the Higher Technical Education consultation is helping employers and learners find the qualifications which meet employers’ needs. The knowledge, skills and behaviours employers need in a given occupation have been established by employers and published as Institute standards.  Additional content is not mapped to the occupational standard to which the qualification relates and a disproportionate amount of additional content may therefore impact the overall quality of the qualification and/or the credibility of the qualification with employers. We would therefore need to carefully consider our policy goals of improving quality and clarity in the higher technical education landscape, and our wider statutory duties (which include the requirement to have regard to the quality of training and the reasonable requirements of employers and learners) when making an approval decision on qualifications containing significant amounts of additional content.

 Additional content could include (but not be limited to):

  • content which will increase the breadth and depth of understanding of a learner in their chosen occupational field.
  • content that helps bridge a gap with a higher-level occupation and support progression.
  • content which provides additional transferable skills which will support a learner in their career within an occupation.
  • content not specifically agreed by employers as part of the relevant occupation, but relevant to the occupation in a specific context, sector, industry, or locality.
  • cutting edge or experimental content, not currently specifically agreed by employers as part of the occupation but which could be valuable in future.
  • content that adds value to learners’ employability that does not fit within any of the above bullet points.

Recognition and registration

Criteria

Qualifications submitted for approval must meet the regulatory oversight requirements.

Qualifications designed by Higher Education Providers must be awarded by a Higher Education Institution which:

  • has Foundation Degree/Degree Awarding Powers, and
  • is registered with the Office for Students.

Qualifications designed by Awarding Organisations must:

  • have the relevant level and sector/subject area in their scope of Ofqual recognition, and
  • be on the Ofqual Register

For qualifications which relate to occupations where there is a statutory regulator:

  • the Awarding Organisation and/or the qualification must be recognised/registered by the statutory regulator]

Statutory regulated occupations

To practice in some occupations (professions), it is a legal requirement for individuals to be registered with a statutory regulator. Applicants submitting qualifications against statutory regulated occupations (as specified in the relevant occupational standard) must be recognised/registered by the relevant statutory regulator prior to submission. When submitting your application, you will be asked to provide Statutory Regulator recognition/registration numbers for your Institution and/or the qualification you are submitting, where relevant. We will not approve qualifications submitted against statutory regulated occupations (as specified in the relevant occupational standard) where the applicant and/or submitted qualification is not recognised/registered by the relevant statutory regulator prior to submission.

How the criterion will be applied

To ensure approved HTQs are high quality, any applicant seeking approval of their qualification must meet the regulatory requirements of either Ofqual or the Office for Students (and, where relevant, be recognised/registered with a statutory regulator). We will check that the regulatory requirements set out above are met.

Qualifications regulated by Ofqual and the organisations offering them are expected to be compliant with the General Conditions of Recognition and, where relevant, any applicable Qualification Level Conditions and Subject Level Conditions, which apply to specific kinds of qualifications.

To remain registered with the OfS, a provider must continue to meet the definition of ‘an English higher education provider’ and must demonstrate that it satisfies the ongoing general conditions of registration applicable to the category of the Register in which it is registered, as set out in the Securing student success: Regulatory framework for higher education in England.

As part of the HTQ application process OfS, Ofqual or the relevant statutory regulator may advise us about any relevant ongoing or impending regulatory action into a relevant qualification, Awarding Organisation, Higher Education provider or Higher Education Institution. When making approvals decisions, the Institute will have regard to this advice.

We are likely to withhold making a final approval decision until we are satisfied that any ongoing or impending regulatory action has concluded. When making our decision about whether to pause an HTQ application and withhold a final approval decision we will consider the specific circumstances of the case (including the nature of the regulatory action and the timeframes in which it is anticipated the regulatory action may be resolved), any relevant information from Awarding Organisations, regulators and other stakeholders, our policy goals of improving quality and clarity in the higher technical education landscape, and our wider statutory duties to have regard to (amongst other things) the quality of training and the reasonable requirements of employers and learners.

Once the regulatory action has concluded we will proceed to decide whether or not the qualification should be approved, applying the criteria set out in this document.  ​

4. Cycle 3 application form and guide

Application form

You must submit Higher Technical Qualifications applications for approval via the online application form, and you must submit one application form per qualification. The key task will be to evidence that qualifications meet the approvals criteria. We have provided additional guidance which has been embedded within the form.

Below is a summary of the evidence you will be expected to provide. It is possible to save your progress and return to the form later by selecting the save option and providing an email address.

Please contact htq.approvals@education.gov.uk if you have any accessibility requirements.

Section 1: Terms and conditions and data security

This section requires you to: a) agree to the Institute’s terms and conditions for approval, b) list any materials submitted that you consider to be confidential and/or commercially sensitive (as we may need to discuss these documents with you in connection with the prospect of public consultation) and c) note the Institute’s rights and responsibilities in relation to freedom of information and data protection.  The Institute’s privacy notice for awarding bodies is included below.

Section 2: Awarding body information

The purpose of this section is to capture contact details and ensure that you meet the relevant regulatory requirements of either Ofqual or The Office for Students. You must include additional registration/regulation information if the occupational standard aligns to a qualification or occupation that is regulated by a statutory regulator.

Evidence required:

  • Ofqual or The Office for Students recognition/registration numbers
  • (Where applicable) Statutory regulator recognition/registration numbers. Please note, applicants must be recognised/registered by the relevant statutory regulator prior to submission.
  • Confirmation about whether you are the validating body of the submitted qualification and hold the necessary IP and copyright or permission.

Section 3: Qualification information

This section of the form requires basic information about the qualification including title and level.

Evidence required:

  • qualification or institutional reference numbers

Section 4: Our digital and sustainability frameworks

The purpose of this section is to help us understand how our Digital Skills Framework and Sustainability Framework are reflected in your qualification. The Institute recognises that digital skills and sustainability are fundamental to the UK’s social and economic prosperity. Digital knowledge and skills are essential across all sectors and we want to ensure technical qualifications deliver appropriate digital content, allowing learners to benefit from and participate in the digital world. All sectors and occupations can contribute to a more sustainable economy and support the UK in achieving its commitment to national and international sustainability goals. Our frameworks help us ensure these principles are embedded in everything we do. The two questions in this section ask you to consider how digital characteristics, as outlined in our Digital Skills Framework, and sustainability themes, as outlined in our Sustainability Framework, are reflected in your qualification. This does not influence our approvals decision.  

Section 5: Employer engagement

In this section you must demonstrate that:

  • employers would hire learners who have completed the qualification into the occupation
  • you have engaged with a range of relevant employers during the design and development of the qualification and assessment materials and assessment outcomes (to ensure that qualification content, assessment methods and assessment contexts are occupationally relevant)
  • you have captured employers’ views about your qualification, and responded to their comments and feedback making amendments to your qualification as appropriate
  • you have plans in place to ensure employers’ views are central to future reviews of your qualification

If your qualification maps to multiple occupations, we expect credible employer engagement evidence for each occupation.

The Apprenticeship End-Point Assessment plan includes assessment methods for each standard that have already been deemed occupationally relevant by employers. If you are using any assessment methods different to those in the EPA, we may need to request evidence of employer support for these methods after we have completed our initial analysis.

Any letters of support should be recent (typically written within 12 months) individual responses from a named person and should outline how a particular employer was involved in the development of the qualification and why the qualification meets industry needs. The Institute may directly contact employers cited in the application.  

Section 6: Route and Occupational Standards

In this section you must identify the occupational standard(s) the qualification aligns to.

Evidence required:

  • identification of occupational standards qualification aligns to
  • a document detailing the purpose and content of the qualification, for example a specification of content or syllabus
  • (Where applicable) Statutory Regulator recognition/registration numbers.

Section 7: Knowledge, skills, and behaviours coverage within qualification

In this section you must demonstrate that all of the knowledge, skill and behaviour statements are covered.

Evidence required:

  • mapping of qualification content to knowledge, skills, and behaviours (KSBs) in the KSB mapping spreadsheet.
  • justification and rationale for the exclusion of any KSBs from the qualification on the basis that these cannot be delivered in an education setting and are contingent on being in work in the occupation.
  • overview of qualification structure, using the template.

Section 8: Additional occupationally relevant content

This section asks you to summarise any additional occupationally relevant content and to quantify what proportion of guided learning hours (GLH) or total qualification time (TQT) students spend on content aligned to the relevant standard(s).

Higher Technical Qualifications may include additional content relevant to the occupation that is valuable to employers. Any content that does not align to the relevant occupational standard(s) should be included in the additional content section of the application form. We expect the vast majority (substantive element) of the qualification to cover the KSBs within the occupational standard(s). Any unit, module, and/or components that do not cover any of the KSBs in the specified standard(s) are classed as additional content.

We may request employer engagement evidence to justify the occupational relevance of additional content and may make suggestions to awarding bodies on the occupational relevance of submitted additional content. 

Evidence required:

  • summary of any additional content included
  • total GLH or TQT for the qualification, and the proportion of that which students spend on content aligned to the relevant standard(s)

Section 9: Assessment

In this section we will ask you to submit:

  1. Information about your assessment approach
  2. Assessment packages

Details of both are outlined below.

Information about your assessment approach

You must upload evidence to cover all of the points below and to indicate clearly which of your uploaded documents covers each of the key categories.

Assessment design:

  • for assessment methods not included in the EPA, an explanation for each unit/component of assessment of why the proposed assessment methods are considered the most valid for the KSBs being targeted. Explanations could include detail about the principles, theories and practical considerations when determining the best method of assessment to assess a particular construct.
  • explanation of approach used to determine controls for each assessment, including non-examined assessments
  • where relevant: explanation of principles/approach to whether and to what extent centre adaption of tasks is permitted, including rationale for approach
  • where relevant: explanation of measures in place to support centres in adapting tasks, including monitoring of any adaptations.
  • the approach taken to ensure that the demand of assessments is set appropriately to the level of the qualification
  • explanation of types of mark schemes and marking criteria employed and their suitability for the assessment methods
  • an explanation of how mark schemes will provide differentiation between grades and how they are applied consistently
  • explanation of the approach taken to develop mark schemes and marking criteria, and how the approach has been reviewed over time. Explanations could include detail of the controls used when developing marking criteria to ensure reliability of judgements made against marking criteria.
  • explanation of how assessments will be delivered consistently from series to series over the lifecycle of the qualification
  • quality assurance processes used when designing assessments.  

Content coverage:

  • content in scope to be addressed by each unit/component of assessment
  • how content covered by each assessment is varied over time, where relevant
  • where content covered by each assessment is not varied over time, the rationale for this and how inappropriate predictability is mitigated

Minimising bias:

  • how you ensure bias is minimised when developing and administering your assessments

Marking approach:

  • How examiner recruitment, training and/or standardisation (including ongoing CPD requirements and training guidance, where appropriate) ensures reliability.
  • Reviewing examiner marking and adjusting it where necessary to mitigate risks including where centres carry out assessments (where applicable

Grading approach:

  • range of qualification-level and (if applicable) component-level grades available
  • how overall qualification-level grades are derived from component-level grades (if applicable) and whether requirements for component-level grades (such as number of marks) to achieve a given grade are set out upfront or determined after assessments have been taken
  • the overall awarding process (i.e. academic board process)
  • moderation processes and any internal verification undertaken

Standard setting:

  • How standards are/were set initially, and how standards are maintained over time and between different cohorts. This could include processes to adjust expectations at component level to secure suitable qualification level standards and the technical methodology and range and weighting of evidence used, with examples.
  • How comparability is maintained where there are multiple modes (e.g. paper and computer)

Ensuring manageability:

  • module and course summative assessment windows
  • how you ensure your assessments are manageable for students and providers

Assessment Package

Please provide three assessment packages for review. The materials submitted must be no more than 2 years old and assess mapped knowledge, skills and behaviours within the occupational standard.

The three assessment packages submitted must illustrate a minimum of two different assessment methods.

  • Each assessment package must include: module/unit learning objectives
  • live or sample question paper(s) and/or task brief(s) that illustrate a minimum of two different assessment methods
  • associated mark scheme(s) and/or assessment criteria (eg marking rubric) for each question paper/and or task brief
  • specification content coverage record for each assessment, where applicable
  • unit/component and qualification-level grade descriptors, where applicable

Where the qualification contains core and optional modules, at least two of the three sets of assessment packages must map to the core modules.

If the HTQ offers multiple pathways which each map to a different occupational standard, assessment packages for each standard must be submitted as well as assessment materials for core components if they also map to KSBs. This may mean that more than three sets of assessment packages are required. For example, if a qualification includes common core content mapped to KSBs, and then 4 optional pathways which map to 4 different occupational standards, the Institute would expect to receive a minimum of 5 assessment packages, 1 for each occupational standard and 1 for a core component.

Section 10: Contextual information and evidence upload

Contextual information

In this section we collect information to understand the delivery and geographical spread of Higher Technical Qualifications. This is to help us monitor and improve the effectiveness of the programme over time rather than to influence an approval decision.

Evidence upload

Please add your attachments in this section. Where possible, submit a zip folder if there are multiple items under the same category. Please avoid uploading scanned documents. Please label your attachments clearly.

There are three categories of attachments required:

  • Qualification documents and KSB mapping evidence
  • Employer engagement evidence
  • Assessment policies and evidence

Public consultation

Please provide details and an explanation of any materials submitted that you consider to be confidential and/or commercially sensitive as we may need to discuss these documents with you in connection with the prospect of public consultation.

Checklist

We have provided a checklist to help you check your evidence submission.

Section 11: Higher Technical Qualification Privacy Notice

Our contact details

Name: Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education

Address:

Sanctuary Buildings,
20 Great Smith Street,
London
SW1P 3BT

Email: htq.approvals@education.gov.uk

The type of personal information we collect

We currently collect and process the following information:

  • name of the primary contact
  • telephone number
  • email address

How we get personal information and why we have it

All of the personal information we process is provided to us directly by you through the online application form for one of the following reasons:

  • maintaining contact with the applicant throughout the Higher Technical Qualification approvals process
  • maintaining contact with the applicant post Higher Technical Qualification approval

Under the UK General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR), the lawful bases we rely on for processing this information are:

  • we need it to perform a public task (under our governing legislation, the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009)
  • we need it for the performance of a contract

What we do with the information we have

We use the information that you have given us in order to:

  • call or email the primary contact to address questions/queries related to the submission for Higher Technical Qualification approval
  • call or email the primary contact to provide additional information on the submission for Higher Technical Qualification approval
  • call or email the primary contact post review for the purposes of feedback on the submission for Higher Technical Qualification approval
  • call or email the primary contact for the purposes of renewal of the approved status for Higher Technical Qualifications
  • call or email the primary contact to discuss adherence to quality mark usage guidance and terms and conditions of approval

We may share this information with the Department for Education, Ofqual, and the Office for Students for the purpose of evaluation of the programme and/or evaluation of the submitted qualifications. They may wish to contact you during the approvals process. Each of these public bodies has a broad statutory power to disclose information to and receive information from the other where this relates to its functions. We will ensure that any personal data disclosed is kept safe and in line with these functions.

How we store your information

Your information is securely stored on internal Institute file storage and information management systems.

We keep the name, email address and telephone number information for the applicant’s primary contact for seven years [from the date of application?]. We will then dispose of your information by securely deleting all electronic copies of the data.

Your data protection rights

Under data protection law, you have rights including:

Your right of access - You have the right to ask us for copies of your personal information.

Your right to rectification - You have the right to ask us to rectify information you think is inaccurate. You also have the right to ask us to complete information you think is incomplete.

Your right to erasure - You have the right to ask us to erase your personal information in certain circumstances.

Your right to restriction of processing - You have the right to ask us to restrict the processing of your information in certain circumstances.

Your right to object to processing - You have the right to object to the processing of your personal data in certain circumstances.

Your right to data portability - You have the right to ask that we transfer the information you gave us to another organisation, or to you, in certain circumstances.

You are not required to pay any charge for exercising your rights. If you make a request, we have one month to respond to you.

Please contact us at htq.approvals@education.gov.uk if you wish to make a request.

How to complain

You can also complain to the ICO if you are unhappy with how we have used your data.

The ICO’s address:            

Information Commissioner’s Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF

Helpline number: 0303 123 1113