Thank you for engaging in the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education approval process for technical qualifications at level 3.  

For cycle 1, our submission window will be between 3 July and 31 July 2023.

Submissions will not be accepted outside of this window.  If IfATE is satisfied that it was not reasonably practicable for the awarding body to meet the deadline due to:

  • technical failure (either at the AB or IfATE end)
  • exceptional circumstances e.g. bereavement, natural disaster etc

The awarding body should communicate this at the time of the event, with evidence, in order for their submission to be considered.

Qualification submissions will be accepted within these routes: 

  • construction and the built environment
  • digital
  • education and childcare
  • engineering and manufacturing  
  • health and science  

Qualifications relating to other routes will be accepted in future cycles.  

Applicants will be able to submit proposed level 3 technical qualifications that fall under the above routes and are within one of the following categories: 

  • occupational entry technical qualifications for 16-19 and adults
  • occupational entry technical qualifications for adults
  • additional specialist technical qualifications for 16-19 and adult

Resources you may find useful are:

The registration window for level 3, cycle 1 is now closed.


1. The post-16 skills system

As set out in the purpose of the reforms, all new IfATE approved technical qualifications will be approved against an IfATE defined technical qualification category. Each category is distinct, with its own core aim and purpose statement, as well as its own bespoke criteria for approval.  

Please also refer to Ofqual's General Conditions of Recognition which underpin the regulation of most qualifications, including strengthened technical qualifications.


2. Applying for technical qualification approval

This page explains the process of how to apply for approval. Additional guidance for awarding bodies will be released at a later date and will contain further information for applicants as well as details on the sub-processes IfATE will follow when reviewing qualification proposals and submissions.  

Qualification submissions must be linked to the occupational standards and where relevant, pre-defined specialist areas in scope so that your application can be considered appropriately. If applicants wish to develop an additional specialist qualification that does not align to IfATE’s list of pre-defined specialist areas, they will be required to submit a proposal stage form. See further information on the proposal stage process.

IfATE approval of technical qualifications confers eligibility to be considered for Department for Education funding approval. Applicants should ensure that they are familiar with DfE funding requirements and how this will affect the funding available for submitted technical qualifications.  

3. Criteria for approval

Bespoke criteria for approval is provided for each category within the approval criteria. You will also need to consult the relevant Ofqual Qualification Level Conditions to make sure that your application meets the requirements of both organisations.  

An essential part of the approval process will be IfATE assessment of the evidence of employer demand for a submitted qualification. Please read the requirements for evidence of employer engagement to make sure that your application matches the expectations required. With regards to assessment, you can find full details of the necessary sample assessment materials (also listed in the criteria documents). 


4. Seeking advice and support

IfATE colleagues are available to support you throughout the pre-submission and submission approval process. Our support section allows you to access pre-recorded webinars and find details on how to book an online support session. If you are planning to submit an application, we strongly recommend that you book an online support session or email us for further assistance:


5. Submitting an application

We use a series of online forms to gather the information needed to make our decision about whether to approve a qualification.

Firstly, we ask applicants to complete the Registration Form with the details of the technical qualifications that they intend to submit in the approvals cycle. This enables IfATE to manage applications as efficiently as possible, design tailored support sessions and provide further clarity and guidance, as requested. The deadline for completing this form is 10 February 2023.

Secondly, for the qualification categories that require a proposal recommendation before advancing to full development, please use the Proposal Stage Form to send us the requested information. This form will be live between 14 February 2023 to 24 March 2023.

An offline copy of our main submission form can be found in the support section of our website in early 2023 and will also be linked on the Single Access Point. The main submission form is where qualification specifications, sample assessment materials, evidence of employer engagement and all other requested documents will be submitted. 


6. Roles in the approval process

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

IfATE Officials review qualifications against IfATE’s approvals criteria and liaise with applicants throughout the approvals process. They prepare and present advice to internal boards and committees.

Ofqual confirm recognition and registration requirements are met and provide advice to IfATE on the qualifications or organisations they regulate.

Statutory Regulators may advise IfATE about any relevant ongoing or impending regulatory action into a relevant qualification, Awarding Body, Higher Education provider or Higher Education Institution. When making approvals decisions, IfATE will have due regard to this advice.

Peer Reviewers are occupational experts, they may be asked by IfATE to provide specific employer insight on technical education. Evidence obtained is included in the advice presented to internal boards and committees.

Employer Route Panels provides the employer voice in the approvals process and ensures qualifications meet employer needs. Route panels review advice provided by IfATE Officials and ensures that IfATE’s criteria takes into account employer insight. 

Compliance Board provides accountability to ensure approval criteria has been applied and due diligence has been followed. The Compliance Board have delegated authorities who have been identified as suitably qualified and experienced individuals, to undertake specific approval activities. The Compliance Board has the final sign off for products including apprenticeships, HTQs and T levels. 

7. Obtaining scope of recognition and IfATE’s approvals process

Applicants must be recognised by Ofqual to offer qualifications in the relevant sector subject area (SSA). This is called the “scope of recognition”. Where they are not, they will need to gain the necessary recognition from Ofqual. They should do this before they send IfATE a submission for approval.

Some applicants may already have engaged in the process and be awaiting the outcome of a live application for Ofqual recognition. In these cases, IfATE may agree to review a submission for approval. Final approval cannot be considered until Ofqual recognise an applicant to offer qualifications in the relevant SSA. IfATE will inform applicants of the timetable for approval decisions once a submission has been made. Ofqual has its own process and timescales for recognition. There is no guarantee that Ofqual will meet requests to give or extend the scope of its recognition by a specific time. Applicants should contact Ofqual as early as possible to avoid delays.

If IfATE advises an applicant to seek Ofqual recognition for a specific SSA, the applicant will need to follow Ofqual’s process. If they do not do this, IfATE is likely to refuse to review a submission for approval.

If Ofqual rejects an application for SSA recognition, IfATE will stop reviewing the application. In this case, IfATE cannot give approval to the submission. However, it may be possible to ask IfATE to consider the application in a future cycle.

8. Further guidance on the approval process

At the end of the approval process, applicants will be issued an approval decision which determines the eligibility of their technical qualification to be considered for public funding. If IfATE approves a technical qualification, then the Department will undertake a funding approval review. DfE have published their funding requirements. This is a separate funding approval decision point, owned by DfE.   

IfATE aim to get our decisions right first time, every time. However, we know that sometimes people may disagree with how we reached that decision. Therefore, in certain circumstances we will review our decision-making process. This is known as procedural review. If you disagree with a final IfATE decision you may be able to seek procedural review and should consult the guidance available on our procedural review page.


9. Future cycles

Please note that this section is subject to change and further information will be released in early 2023. 

For cycle 2, our submission window will open in summer 2024. Our current ambition is to accept qualification submissions within the following occupational routes: 

  1. Agriculture, environmental and animal care
  2. Business and administration
  3. Catering and hospitality
  4. Care services
  5. Creative and design
  6. Legal, finance and accounting
  7. Protective services
  8. Sales, marketing and procurement
  9. Transport and logistics 


Awarding bodies will be able to submit level 3 technical qualifications that fall under the above routes and are within one of the following categories: 

  • occupational entry
  • additional specialist
  • occupational progression
  • employer-proposed
  • cross-cutting function – including qualifications that align to standards in the occupational routes listed in cycle 1.

Details around carry over from cycle 1 will be released in due course, including what happens if you have been asked to withdraw your application and re-submit in the second cycle.  


Published 10 Jan 2023
Last updated 15 November 2023
(LH, NS)