1. Purpose of the guidance

This guidance has been developed for applicants intending to submit level 4 or 5 qualifications for approval by the Institute.

This guidance will explain:

  • qualifications in scope of the approvals process
  • approvals criteria against which qualifications will be assessed
  • process for approval, including the roles of different groups in the process
  • application form and the supporting evidence required
  • terms and conditions for approval
  • criteria to decide whether copyright in key course documents should transfer to the Institute on approval
  • customer journey for applicants
  • plans for future approval

The Institute commits to:

  • provide written guidance online and through webinars on the approvals process 
  • deliver an efficient process and minimise the administrative burden
  • promptly respond to queries as they arise during the development of your submissions
  • keep you updated at each stage of the approvals process so you can track the progress of your submission
  • review each stage of the process with participating applicants, listening to your experiences and suggestions with a view to improving the approach for future approvals

2. Why submit qualifications for approval?

There is a growing demand for skills at levels 4 and 5 from employers and learners. Securing the approval of your qualification will enable you to use a quality mark leading to:

  • higher demand from providers, employers and learners looking for the most occupationally relevant, reliable and up-to-date content
  • employer recognition and increased prestige for the qualification
  • increased value of the qualification in the market

3. Qualifications in scope


The Institute groups similar occupations that can be accessed by technical education into 15 routes to skilled employment and represents them on occupational maps. For most occupations on the maps, there is an employer designed standard which sets out all the knowledge, skills and behaviours required to become fully competent. The first Higher Technical Qualifications approved aligned with digital occupations.  The next routes for approval digital, construction, health & science.

Occupations without standards

If you have a qualification that aligns to an occupation that is not included in the occupational maps, we want to know. If the identified occupation meets our criteria we will work with you and relevant employers to develop a standard.

Please contact Enquiries.IFA@education.gov.uk to discuss new occupations.

Future opportunities for approval

We will provide applicants with the timelines for future cycles as soon as possible to give them maximum time to align their qualifications to available standards within the relevant routes.

To prepare for submission we urge you to begin aligning your qualification to the relevant standard’s KSBs and review your qualification’s content and assessment to ensure they are in the best position to be approved.

We will continue to ensure that the most up to date standards are available on our website and will keep you updated on any revisions.    

Support and resources are available to support applicants in making their applications.