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What is a Higher Technical Qualification?

Higher Technical Qualifications (HTQs) are level 4 or 5 qualifications that have been quality marked by IfATE to indicate their alignment to employer-led occupational standards. New or existing level 4 or 5 qualifications submitted to IfATE’s approvals process will receive a quality-mark if the qualification satisfies IfATE's approvals criteria. HTQs align to approved occupational standards and allow learners to enter their chosen profession or progress onto higher education.

1. Purpose of Reforms

There is a growing demand for skills at levels 4 and 5 from employers and learners. The number of learners taking qualifications at level 4 and 5 is low compared to other countries and other levels of education.

In July 2020, the government published its plans for the future of higher technical education at level 4 and 5 in England. These plans set out the government’s ambition to increase the number of learners at level 4 and 5, and the supply of much-needed skills, to raise productivity and prosperity. This will be achieved through three key reforms:

  • ensuring qualifications are prestigious and meet employer needs through an IfATE-led national approvals process backed by a new quality mark for level 4 and 5 qualifications
  • ensuring that courses and providers delivering the approved qualifications are high-quality
  • developing level 4 and 5 qualifications as an attractive choice for learners and employers. This includes raising the profile and understanding of higher technical education courses through the quality-mark, a communications campaign and improvements to information, advice, and guidance


The Department for Education’s Role

The Department for Education (DfE) is responsible for developing the policy for the reforms of higher technical education and qualification funding. The department also has responsibility for increasing the prestige of higher technical provision through the promotion of the HTQ quality-mark and communications material, as well as improving information, advice, and guidance.

For more information please visit their Get the Jump and Provider Toolkit webpages.


IfATE's Role

IfATE have put in place an employer-led HTQ approvals process, building on our experience and expertise of approving apprenticeships and T Levels. We will compare submitted qualifications against approved occupational standards, ensuring sufficient coverage and assessment of the knowledge, skills and behaviours that are needed for an occupation. We will also require robust employer engagement and endorsement of submitted qualifications.

IfATE are responsible for making final approval decisions.


Office of the Independent Adjudicator

The Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) is an independent body set up to review student complaints about higher education providers in England and Wales. The 2004 Act defines the higher education providers that are required to be members of the OIA’s Scheme.

The Department for Education encourages all providers which own an approved HTQ to join OIAs scheme, to provide a consistent approach for complaints from students.

2. Cycle 5 process and application timeline and occupational standards in Scope

Cycle 5 process and application timeline summary

For cycle 5 there will be two application windows, each are a month in duration.

The application windows for cycle 5 will be as follows: 

  • Primary window: Monday 11th March 2024 – Friday 12th April 2024 
  • Secondary window: Monday 23rd September 2024 – Friday 25th October 2024 

We will analyse applications in the order in which they are received. Some applications that are approved in the primary window of cycle 5.1 may be approved in time for a first teach date of September 2025. Applications approved in the primary window of cycle 5.1 that do not achieve this first teach date will have a first teach date of September 2026

Qualifications submitted in the secondary window will only be available for first teach from September 2026. 

We strongly recommend all new applicants and all Ofqual regulated Awarding Organisations submit in the primary window to ensure their applications are approved before the cycle cut off in March 2025.  

We ask applicants to attend a support session prior to submitting their application. You will need to have a support session before being able to access the online form.

Further information on available support can be found on our support and resources page. Please email the HTQ approvals team for further information, guidance, or support.


Cycle 5 occupational standards in scope

You can download a list of occupational standards in scope for cycle 5 of the Higher Technical Qualification approvals process.

Please contact the HTQ approvals team if you are considering submitting a qualification against an occupational standard not listed above, and we will be happy to discuss the case with you. Some of the occupational standards not listed here are under-going review or have reviews scheduled to start during cycle 5.

We will periodically update this list when occupational standards become available, and if there is a need to remove occupational standards from the scope of HTQ approval. 


Occupations without standards

If you have a qualification that aligns to an occupation that is not included in IfATE’s occupational maps, we want to hear from you. If the identified occupation meets our criteria we will work with you and relevant employers to develop an occupational standard. Please email us to discuss new occupations.



Last updated 23 April 2024
(SW, NS)