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There’s something missing from my profession…


A couple of years ago I realised something important was missing from my chosen profession – a qualification for L&D professionals on par with other postgraduate qualifications and most importantly one that aligns L&D as a profession and practice with the needs of organisations, rather than just the needs of the learner.

In the New Year of 2008 I was thinking what might be the next step in my  professional development. I decided that one option for me, as an experienced L&D professional would, be to undertake a postgraduate qualification allied to my consulting and managerial role. I was looking for a qualification that would bridge the tangible divide that I firmly believe exists between L&D from the perspective of a practitioner and the need to bring learning in to the heart of organisational transformation.

A thorough search on the Internet revealed that a wealth of postgraduate and professional qualifications exist for those in the compulsory and further education sectors, including the familiar; PTLLS, CTLLS and DTLLS, as various forms of Professional and Postgraduate Certificates in Education, M.Ed and of course Ph.D/Ed.D doctorial research programmes. These qualifications are already recognised by the Institute for Learning (IfL) and variously lead to Qualified Teacher Learning & Skills or Qualified Associated Teacher Learning & Skills status.

Those who have taken PTLLS or aligned qualifications will be aware that it’s very much centred on the needs of the learner, and teaches concepts that are important in the further education sector, such as inclusion, diversity, functional skills, differentiation and so on. For the L&D practitioner working in modern business it is no longer sufficient to be a thoroughly confident and competent trainer; in order to be valued and recognised L&D practitioners must show tangible business value in what they deliver and the tangible impact of learning outcomes against organisational objectives.

A quick scan of the leading offerings for L&D professionals in the private sector revealed the following well-known qualifications (among others):

The CIPD Certificate in L&D Practice mapped to Qualification and Credit Framework (NVQ/QCF), at level 3. CIPD recognise this qualification for associate membership.

IITT have done sterling work in embracing the QCF assessment criteria in their Trainer Performance Monitoring and Assessment Programme (TPMA) that leads to the Institute Certified Training Practitioner certificate (ICTP). The qualification draws from the syllabus of the PTLLS programme mapped to QCF at level 4. IITT recognise the qualification for associate membership.

The Training Foundation (a private training provider) offer the Trainer Assessment Programme (TAP), again a mature and respected offering, that can with substantial additional study and assessment lead to a foundation degree awarded by Chester University (FHEQ level 5 equivalent to QCF level 5). TAP is recognised by both IITT
and BILD for membership.

These qualifications are all mature and respected, albeit that they are not aimed at the very senior, consulting or managerial L&D professional in the private sector. After reviewing what is available in the market I still felt there was a clear gap at the top end of the L&D profession for a postgraduate qualification with a modern business oriented focus especially one that included technology based learning and informal/social learning within the syllabus.

During my search I came across an Advanced Diploma in L&D offered by the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Continuing Education (ICE).  I quickly sent off an email to the university enquiring as to how I might enrol and just as quickly received a reply advising me that the qualification had been withdrawn pending a review and potential redesign. Never having been one to take no for an answer I wrote back, with a copy of my CV, offering to contribute to the redesign. Soon after I was on my way to Cambridge for an initial meeting at the ICE’s magnificent venue, Madingley Hall.

That was the start of a long road leading to the recent announcement of the University of Cambridge’s Postgraduate Diploma in Training, Learning and Development studies at masters level (FHEQ level 7 equivalent to QCF Level 7) aimed at senior L&D practitioners who are seeking a flexible, primarily distance learning qualification from a world-class university.

Fast-forward two and a half years during which the University of Cambridge marked its 800th year since foundation and my wife and I had our first child.

Reflecting on my experiences during the design and development of the programme over the past two and a half years, I realise that the qualification now goes a very long way to filling the gap that I identified back in early 2008.

The design and development of this new qualification has throughout involved a number of L&D professionals from industry, and received the endorsement of IITT early in the process, thus ensuring that the qualification is rooted in the latest theory and practice in Learning & Development.

The programme is designed to be completed in either 2 or 3 years, and is conducted via a blended learning approach; each course includes a residential weekend at Madingley Hall followed by a 10 week online study period.

As one would expect from the University of Cambridge, the teaching staff assigned to this programme are academic leaders in their field, and will be complimented by guest speakers from the public and private sector who are also leaders in their respective L&D organisations.

My own employer has already committed to provide appropriate case studies, sample materials and guest speakers to the programme. The programme curriculum comprises six courses that may be studied independently
if desired. The postgraduate diploma will be awarded upon passing the assessments associated with each of the six courses.

Recently IITT have recognised the qualification as criteria for fellowship of the institute, an appropriate accolade reflecting the academic standing of the qualification and the calibre of candidates to which the programme is aimed.

The residential components are held at Madingley Hall, a stunning 14th Century Hall on the outskirts of Cambridge. The hall has excellent and modern residential facilities and provides an environment conducive to collaborative learning away from the pressures of work.

Throughout the programme students have access to the resources of the University of Cambridge, including ICE’s online classrooms and virtual learning environment.

In my opinion if the programme lacks anything at this time, it is adoption by the other relevant professional bodies in the L&D profession for either full professional membership or fellowship. I have confidence that the University of Cambridge’s brand, combined with the excellent teaching programme, will encourage the CIPD and the Institute for Learning to formally endorse the qualification in due course as IITT have already led the way.

The first intake of students will start the programme in January 2011, and I wish them every success in achieving what will be a stellar L&D qualification, blending the best of academic theory with pragmatic, business experience.

To find out more about this programme, you can join me and the University of Cambridge for a live web conference on 30th September 2010 at 11am.  You’ll need to call in on 0800 3585489, the PIN Code is *202492* and the website is;

Or you can visit ICE’s website to find out more about the programme.

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