We are pleased to announce that the next approvals window for Higher Technical Qualifications will open from 5 July 2021. The next approvals cycle will cover Digital, Construction and Health & Science standards. Further information and timelines are available in the Cycle 2 section and through our webinars. We strongly recommend Awarding Bodies begin aligning their qualifications to occupational standards ahead of the window opening

Please email the approvals team at HTQ.approvals@education.gov.uk for further information, guidance or support.

1. Purpose of the approvals process

The purpose of the approvals process is to demonstrate that Higher Technical Qualifications approved by the Institute meet employer needs.

As with the approval of apprenticeships and T Levels, employers will play a central role in providing insight and expertise through external consultation and peer review as well as a decision-making role as part of the route panels. We use this expertise to ensure that approved qualifications will provide learners with the skills they need.

2. Employer-led approach

The Institute currently delivers employer-led approval processes for apprenticeship standards and T Levels. Employers are at the centre of the Institute’s work on technical education through four broad stages for development. We have replicated this for Higher Technical Qualifications as set out below.


  • awarding bodies refine qualifications to align to the content of occupational standards
  • awarding bodies map their qualifications to occupational standards, verifying with specific employer evidence that outcomes will be attained


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


  • the advice provided to employer route panels on the alignment of qualifications to standards
  • a final decision by Institute’s Board


  • where necessary awarding bodies amend qualifications to meet requirements of approval

The approval of Higher Technical Qualifications will follow the same stages to ensure consistency with other technical education products (apprenticeships and T Levels), reinforcing their alignment to the same occupational standards.

In line with our current approach to apprenticeships and T Levels, we intend to consult publicly for 4 weeks on submissions for approval to obtain the widest possible input from employers. The outputs from the consultation will form one part of the approvals advice to route panels and the Institute’s board and some aspects may be included in feedback to awarding bodies.

We recognise that some elements of the evidence you provide in the approvals process will be commercially sensitive, and in the application form, we will specifically seek your advice on what can be used for the consultation. We will not publish any evidence which awarding bodies have raised concerns about. We will evaluate the use of public consultations at the end of the first approvals on the digital route to consider whether this should continue for other routes.

We will also commission comments on submissions from our peer reviewers. Peer reviewers are occupational experts contracted by the Institute and are contractually bound to confidentiality. 

3. Roles in the approvals process

Awarding bodies 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 from the approvals process.

Institute officials review qualifications against Institute’s approvals criteria based on the evidence provided. Preparing documents for employer review and advising whether qualifications have met the Institute’s criteria. 

Ofqual or Office for Students provides advice to the Institute on the qualifications they regulate.

Peer reviewers are occupational experts asked to provide specific employer insight on technical education. Evidence is included in advice to route panels.

The employer route panel provides the employer voice in the approvals process and ensures qualifications to 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.

The Approvals & Funding Committee (a subcommittee of Institute’s Board responsible for technical education approval and apprenticeship funding) provide an assurance role, ensuring that Institute officials and route panels have applied approvals criteria correctly.

4. Approvals process and timeline

The application window for approvals on the digital route will open at midday on 23 September and close on 16 December at 5pm.

Higher Technical Qualification approvals process: key stages

Application window opens - 23 September 2020

Phase: Draft

  • application window opens
  • events for awarding bodies
  • awarding bodies gather evidence from employers and make applications   

Application window closes - 16 December 2020

Phase: Draft

  • awarding bodies submit all applications

Institute Review and Consultation - December 2020 to February 2021

Phase: Consult

  • Institute holds public consultation
  • peer review input received
  • Ofqual hold meetings with relevant awarding organisations and provides advice
  • analysis against criteria

Digital route panel and Approvals & Funding Committee - February to March 2021

Phase: Approve

  • officials put the advice to route panels
  • route panel meet and make recommendations
  • Approvals & Funding Committee final decisions

Feedback - March 2021

Phase: Refine

  • Institute provides feedback on approval and copyright transfer
  • some qualifications are approved
  • some qualifications are approved with required changes

Resubmission of required changes - May 2021

Phase: Refine

  • qualifications resubmitted with required changes and institute confirms approval
  • if changes not possible, approval in next process for digital qualifications

Approved qualifications confirmed - June 2021

Phase: Approve

  • final list of approved digital qualifications published
  • agree to terms & conditions of approval

We expect most awarding bodies will submit qualifications for approval towards the end of the application window and receive feedback in the new year. However, if we receive early applications from awarding bodies we will contact you and discuss an alternative timeline on a case-by-case basis. 

Further detail on the timeline will be provided once the window for submissions has closed. We will keep you continually updated throughout the process. 

5. Awarding body customer journey

Announcement – July 2020

  • review government response

Information gathering – July to September 2020

  • attend Department for Education introductory event
  • identify qualifications for submission

Prepare to submit – September 2020

  • attend Institute events
  • review Institute guidance
  • discuss specific questions and qualifications with Institute

Application – September to December 2020

  • gather evidence from employers 
  • fill in the form with Institute guidance
  • refer questions to Institute 
  • agree to terms and conditions
  • Institute confirms receipt and feedback timeline

Institute review – December 2020 to March 2021

  • feedback on the application process
  • waiting for Institute feedback
  • Ofqual meetings with relevant awarding organisations 
  • Institute may seek further information

Decision and feedback – March 2021

  • Institute provides feedback and timeline for future action
  • feedback on approval and copyright transfer

Refinement – March to May 2021

  • make any required changes to qualifications and resubmit for confirmation of approval

Final list of approved qualifications published – June 2021

  • agree to terms and conditions of approval
  • Institute requests feedback on the process
  • providers decide on courses
  • preparation for teaching begins

First teaching of the approved qualification – September 2022

  • first teaching of the qualification with the brand and quality mark

6. Procedural review

We will publish details of our updated procedural review guidance shortly, which will take into account Higher Technical Qualifications.