How can I be sure of the quality of my chosen course?
You should make sure that any course you are considering is of a high standard and will be recognised by potential employers. If you work for the NHS, certain courses will have been specially developed (commissioned) to fulfil the needs of staff, and funding may be available for you to take part (see the section on Funding).
Certain qualifications, such as GCSEs, AS and A Levels, Diplomas, Scottish National Qualifications at Higher and Standard grades, and National Vocational Qualifications are regulated and quality assured by Governments (by Ofqual (England), DCELLS (Wales) and the CCEA (Northern Ireland) or SQA). Some course units offered by professional organisations, private companies or employers, and other awarding bodies, may also be controlled.
You can check those that have been approved on The National Database of Accredited Qualifications, which is maintained by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.
Degrees, and the universities or colleges that award them, are overseen by government (all national Quality Assurance Agencies (QAAs) can be reached via the QAA website). Although they are not regulated in the same way, private institutions must have government approval to be able to award degrees.
If qualifications are needed for a professional role they are usually accredited by professional regulators as well. They meet educational standards and they are monitored by professional regulators. For instance, if you are considering training in nursing or midwifery (perhaps to become a community nurse) you should ensure that your course is approved (‘recorded’) by the Nursing and Midwifery Council, which is required by law to ensure the quality of nursing and midwifery education throughout the UK.
Similarly, if you want to become a dental professional (perhaps to work in dental public health), you should check that your course has been approved by the General Dental Council.
If you want to become a pharmacist (perhaps to become a community pharmacist), your MPharm degree must be accredited by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, or after 2010, the General Pharmaceutical Council.
All degrees leading to qualification as an Environmental Health Practitioner must be accredited by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health or the Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland.
Do not worry if you got some or all your qualifications outside the United Kingdom (or wish to move away). There are systems to check quality. For example, the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) is designed to make it easier to move around Europe, studying and working to gain experience. If you have international qualifications, you can check whether they will be recognised in the UK from UK NARIC. NARIC will charge you for this service, but much less than a course fee.
If you are thinking of studying a distance or open learning course, you can compare the course with the standards of a regulator. Ask the course provider to tell you the level and number of credits within the National Qualifications Framework that you would get, before you pay the fees.
Some providers may voluntarily seek approval from professional bodies to demonstrate the quality and value of their training. For instance, the Royal College of Nursing gives its approval to a range of learning programmes, events, resources and courses.