1. Purpose of the guidance

This guidance has been developed for awarding bodies intending to submit level 4 or 5 qualifications for approval by the Institute. The first approvals wave will focus on the digital route and will be followed by further routes in future.

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 of approval
  • criteria to decide whether copyright of key courses documents should transfer to the Institute
  • customer journey for awarding bodies
  • plans for further approval on other routes

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 (within two working days)
  • 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 awarding bodies, listening to your experiences and suggestions with a view to improving the approach for future approvals

We intend to learn lessons from the first approvals on the digital route, changing and adapting the approach by taking into consideration the views and feedback of awarding bodies.

2. Why submit qualifications for approval?

There is a growing demand for skills at levels 4 and 5 from employers and learners. Approved qualifications that align with occupational standards will provide clarity to employers and learners on the content and outcomes of different options. Securing the approval of your qualification will enable you to use a government-backed brand and quality mark leading to:

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

3. Qualifications in scope

Digital route

The Institute groups similar occupations that can be accessed by technical education into 15 routes to skilled employment and represents them on the occupational maps. For each occupation, there is an employer designed standard which sets out all the knowledge, skills and behaviours required to become fully competent. The first qualifications approved will align with digital occupations, where a standard exists.

This route has been chosen as it is fast-moving and provides high priority skills for the economy. The standards have recently been updated following our digtial route review in 2019 and we are confident they meet the needs of employers and learners. In addition, there will be an opportunity for the first digital T Level students to progress to these qualifications when they finish their courses in September 2022.

Available standards

There are currently nine level 4 and 5 occupations with occupational standards available in the digital route which should be accessed through the links below:

Any additional occupational standards that are approved after 16 September 2020 will not be included in this first approval process.

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 within a target period of 12 months.

As there will not be time to develop new digital standards for the current digital approval process, we will provide additional submission dates for relevant qualifications in due course.

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

Future opportunities for approval

For the first set of approvals, we expect digital qualifications submitted to be those that are already closely aligned to the available standards.

There will be further opportunities in the future to submit digital qualifications for approval and we will provide additional information on the timings in due course.

We urge you to begin reviewing your qualifications, such as those aligned to construction, and health and science occupations, 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.