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Note on the necessity of official accreditation for seminars and training in the UK


“Liberties, they depend on the silence of the law. In cases where the sovereign has prescribed no rule, there the subject hath the liberty to do, or forbear, according to his own discretion”.

Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, The Matter, Form and Power of a Commonwealth Ecclesiastical and Civil, chapter 21 p.18.


1. This basic rule enunciated in the 17th century by Thomas Hobbes is still valid as a general approach to what a person or institution can do or not. As a matter of principle, the legal system regulates behaviours and tell people what to do and what is forbidden, being that what is not regulated or forbidden is allowed. 

2. To consider if a private institution, to give seminars or training courses in the UK, needs an official accreditation, the same principle applies. The rules of freedom and the restrictions should be found and an inquiry to their application made. 

3. Broadly, the deliverance of seminars or training is part of the freedom of expression. For example, article 10,1 of the ECHR prescribes that:


“Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.”


So, there is a general freedom of expression that, however, could be restrained if “necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.” (article 10,2 ECHR).


Consequently, here applies the general legal pattern mentioned above. A general rule of freedom that can be only restricted by law.


4. Also, the right of education can be invoked simultaneous with the freedom of expression. Such right is also fundamental in the UK legal order. Again, the ECHR can be quoted in its Protocol 1, article 2, which says “No person shall be denied the right to education”.

5. This is the fundamental legal basis to consider. The next step is to search for legal restrictions to those freedoms of expression and education. Of course, there is abundant legislation. The first one to consider is the Higher Education and Research Act 2017. Such Act, prescribes at s. 42 that authorisation to grant degrees may be given by an Office of Students. Such degrees will be:


An authorisation under subsection (1) may authorise a provider to grant, as the case may be—

(a) Taught awards or research awards of any description;

(b) Specified taught awards or research awards;

(c) Taught awards or research awards of a specified description.


In this Part—

“Taught award” means a degree (including a foundation degree), diploma, certificate or other academic award or distinction granted to persons who complete an appropriate course of study and satisfy an appropriate assessment; 

“Research award” means a degree, diploma, certificate or other academic award or distinction granted to persons who complete an appropriate programme of supervised research and satisfy an appropriate assessment; 

“Foundation degree” means a foundation degree granted to persons who complete an appropriate course of study and satisfy an appropriate assessment; 

“Foundation degree only authorisation” means authorisation under subsection (1) to grant taught awards where foundation degrees are the only degrees which the provider is authorised to grant.”


6. The important aspect to note in this legislation is that it refers to specific degrees; it does not address the case of seminars, conferences, or any kind of non-formal education or expression without an appropriate course of study and assessment. The law regulates awards given at the end of an appropriate course of study and appropriate assessment, nothing further.

7. The law does not regulate a meeting of a group of people with a teacher or expert for training, discussion, or study on a particular subject or a meeting in which you receive information on and training in a particular subject.

8. The reading of s.214 of the Education Reform Act 1988 leads to the same conclusion. It says:

1) Any person who, in the course of business, grants, offers to grant or issues any invitation relating to any award—

  (a) Which may reasonably be taken to be an award granted or to be granted by a United Kingdom institution; and
  (b) Which either—    

    (i) Is described as a degree; or
    (ii) Purports to confer on its holder the right to the title of bachelor, master or doctor and may reasonably be taken to be a degree; shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale.


It is strictly forbidden to confer degrees or right to use the titles of bachelor, master or doctor without proper authorization.
On the contrary, it is not forbidden to give courses that do not award any degree or rights.
Institutions can have meetings or sessions of group of people to train, discuss, or study a subject, given that at the end no degree or legal official title is awarded.


9. The same could be said specifically of training. Some qualifications or vocational courses are regulated by Ofqual. Ofqual regulates certain qualifications, end-point assessments and the organisations which offer them. It does not regulate training courses. The difference between a training course and a qualification is that a qualification:

  - tests someone’s knowledge, skills or understanding of the subject
  - is only awarded to someone who has demonstrated a specified level of attainment
  - awards a certificate to anyone who completes it successfully.

10. Training courses do not need any authorization, although some specific ones, for example Solicitors Training, are subject to specific rules (in the case of Solicitors, the SRA Training Regulations 2014 made on the 6 June 2014 by the Solicitors Regulation Authority Board under section 2, 28, 79, and 80 of the Solicitors Act 1974, with the approval of the Legal Services Board under paragraph 19 of Schedule 4 to the Legal Services Act 2007).



Seminars and training courses are developed according to the freedom of expression and right to education and are not subject to regulation.

Regulated is the offer of degrees (bachelor, master, doctor) and some specific training courses (solicitors, p.e.).

An institution could freely develop seminar programmes or training sessions provided they did not grant a degree regulated by law or a training course also regulated.

It is better that the Certificates delivered at the end of the sessions are not called as Diplomas, but Certificates of Attendance or similar, and (although not mandatory) is better that they refer that are not part of a Degree Course and did not confer any Legal Title.

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