Education CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by the Chartered Institute of Housing


1. CIH is the professional body for people involved in housing and communities. We have over 22,000 members across the UK and the Asian Pacific. Our members are primarily employed by social housing organisations—that is, local authorities, housing associations, ALMOs and other similar organisations. We also have members working in the private sector, education establishments and for government agencies.

2. We are a registered charity and not-for-profit organisation. Our vision is to be the first point of contact for—and the credible voice of—anyone involved or interested in housing. We exist to maximise the contribution that housing professionals make to the wellbeing of communities.

3. The main ways in which we do this are by:

(a)setting professional standards for individual housing professionals and housing organisations;

(b)providing training and development services (such as training courses, seminars, conferences, publications and distance learning) to help housing professionals acquire the skills and knowledge they need to continuously improve the service they provide to their local communities; and

(c)helping politicians and other decision makers to understand the implications of housing (and related social) policy options and helping to develop alternative approaches to housing policy.

4. There is no requirement to be professionally qualified in order to practice in housing. CIH aims to be an open organisation and we consider everyone working in the sector to be housing professionals. Unlike some other professional bodies, our education programme is not restricted to the accreditation of undergraduate and postgraduate university courses. We are approved by Ofqual to award our own CIH qualifications at levels 2, 3 and 4. This enables us to provide standards for a wide range of people working in housing and we have extended our education programme to include tenants and other residents.

5. Our approach has evolved to suit the requirements of our industry. We are aware that we have developed these mechanisms to meet our needs and that some of them may not be relevant to the teaching profession. However, it is hoped that the following evidence will explain how CIH operates as a professional body and that this understanding will help the “Attracting, Training and Retaining the Best Teachers” Select Committee in its evaluation of the development of the teaching profession.

CIH Membership

6. The Chartered Institute of Housing has over 22,000 members who are individuals working in housing at all levels from junior, front line roles through to chief executives, as well as tenants, board members and others.

7. CIH membership is open to anyone who shares our values. We have two categories of membership to facilitate this open approach and to encourage wide participation. People who have demonstrated that they have met the standard for full qualification are entitled to use the designation “CIH Chartered Member” or “CIHCM”.

8. Other people are welcome to join as CIH Members. From January 2012, they are entitled to use the designation “CIH Member” or “CIHM”. Although they are not fully qualified, this designation is a public statement of their commitment to CIH’s values and to their own personal development.

9. Some CIH Members have achieved a CIH qualification (or equivalent) at level 2, 3 or 4 within the Qualification and Credit Framework. This does not give entitlement to Chartered Membership but we think it is important to recognise their achievements. We have, therefore, developed a specific designation—Cert CIH—for this purpose. CIH Members who have completed a recognised certificate can incorporate this into their designation. For example, a CIH Member who has completed a Level 2 certificate may refer to themselves as “A N Other—CIHM, Cert CIH2”.

10. We have recently changed our constitution so that all members, regardless of their membership category, have equal rights to participate within the organisation. This includes the right to stand for any position.

Setting and Achieving Membership Standards

11. One of our central functions is to set the standards for Chartered Membership and Cert CIH and to ensure that they are applied consistently across the country. We operate two slightly different systems to reflect the different contexts in which we work.

(a) Chartered Membership

12. We review the standard for Chartered Membership every five years. Because it is the standard for a fully qualified housing professional and we are working on a long lead-in time, it is important that we get it right so that people going through the process are as well equipped as they can be for their future careers in housing. Our quinquennial review is, therefore, a substantial exercise which is overseen by a specially appointed Steering Group which reports into our governance structure. After synthesing the key issues that might need to be addressed and submitting them to scrutiny by the Steering Group, we embark upon an extensive consultation process with members and non-members. The consultation document is placed on our website and we use various communication channels to direct people to it.

13. We collate the feedback from this exercise and test the findings with face-to-face meetings. Typically, this would involve meetings with each of our UK national and regional committees and with the HEIs that we accredit to deliver housing programmes. It may also involve consultation with other groups depending upon the issues that we identify at the start of the process and our interpretation of the feedback. The culmination of the consultation process is the development of a specification or “Expectations of a Qualified Housing Professional” document which becomes the new standard for Chartered Membership. Our current specification sets out core requirements, specialisms and other possible content.

14. We have recently piloted an experiential pathway which enables people to demonstrate their achievement of the standard through their experience of working in housing over a long period. However, achievement of the standard for Chartered Membership is still primarily through the completion of an undergraduate or postgraduate degree at a higher education institution that we have accredited for this purpose. The following sections describe how we accredit HEIs.

15. Most housing students get a job in housing first and then go on to study later. As a result, the vast majority of housing students study part time. It is, therefore, important that, wherever possible, there is an accredited centre within easy travelling distance. Because the number of potential housing students in any part of the UK is relatively small, we have adopted an approach whereby we only work with selected HEIs and we discourage new centres from entering the market. We currently work with 24 UK HEIs and most of them have been providing CIH accredited courses for 20 years or more.

16. When our review of the “Expectations of a Qualified Housing Professional” document is complete, we present it to our HEI partners and ask them to design a course that they think will meet our requirements. Our specification is not prescriptive and we encourage HEIs to assemble the course content in ways which make sense to them. This means that each accredited programme will have its own “flavour” which reflects the strengths of the course team and the requirements of local employers. We recognise that our members may want to study at different levels, depending upon their previous academic achievement. So, although our professional standard is constant, we accept proposals at Level 5 (Foundation degree), Level 6 (Honours degree) or Level 7 (Masters degree).

17. Each HEI prepares an accreditation document setting out their proposed course and their rationale for the structure, content and assessment of the programme. This document includes a range of additional information (for example, about the teaching team, learning resources, marketing plans and, equality and diversity considerations).

18. For each HEI proposal, we assemble an accreditation panel which would typically consist of a housing lecturer from another accredited centre, a housing practitioner who we have briefed about the accreditation process and a member of our Education team. This panel then visits the HEI for a day to discuss the document with HEI staff. The programme for the day is likely to include meetings with: senior staff, to discuss resources; the teaching team, to discuss the rationale, structure, content and assessment of the course; local employers to assess how well the course meets their needs, and; students, to get their perspective of how the course is delivered and whether it meets its stated objectives.

19. At the end of the accreditation event, the panel will decide:

Whether to accredit the course and, if so, for how long (up to a maximum of five years);

What conditions, if any, to attach to the accreditation and how and when the course team should respond;

Whether to make any additional recommendations for the course team to consider.

20. Until recently, we have also required candidates to complete a practice requirement, in addition to their academic course, before they are accepted as full CIH members. However, over time, this distinction between theory and practice has broken down as the courses that we accredit have become more vocationally relevant. Feedback from candidates told us that our practice component repeated content that they had already covered in their courses and that it was not adding value to their learning. We, therefore, included this as a component of our consultation when we last reviewed our specification. We concluded that we would remove the separate practice component and incorporate the main elements as explicit requirements in our specification for HEIs. As a result, when someone completes a CIH accredited course, they are immediately eligible for Chartered Membership, subject to completing at least 400 hours of practical experience in housing related employment/practice.

(b) Cert CIH

21. Our approach to qualifications at the lower educational levels is different because we operate as an approved awarding organisation within the Ofqual framework. The principles are similar but the processes differ in some respects.

22. At levels 2, 3 and 4, we offer a range of qualifications which are generally shorter and targeted at specific roles within the sector. When we are designing a new qualification, or reviewing an existing qualification, our starting point is to understand the needs of the job roles that we are catering for. To do this, we would typically set up an Advisory Group to tell us what knowledge and skills people need and to help us convert it into a qualification.

23. When we are working within the Ofqual framework, we are more prescriptive than when we work with HEIs. We develop a number of units of learning and specify how they can be assembled into qualifications—awards, certificates and diplomas—depending upon size. These units/qualifications are then placed in the public domain so that potential providers may decide whether they want to offer them.

24. Until recently, the providers were almost exclusively further education colleges but this is changing significantly and about half of the providers we now work with are employing organisations or training providers.

25. Whatever the organisation, a potential provider will first approach our Education team (as the awarding organisation). As long as we are satisfied that they have the necessary resources to deliver the programme, we are duty-bound to consider their application. We do this in two parts. Firstly, we assess their suitability as an organisation and the likelihood of them being able to sustain a course. Secondly, we consider their ability to deliver the specific course(s) that they have submitted for accreditation.

26. In most cases, the accreditation of qualifications at levels 2, 3 and 4 is light touch compared to the process described above for HEIs. We still require potential centres to submit a course document setting out how they will resource and deliver the course but it is usually much thinner than an accreditation document submitted by a HEI and the accreditation process does not normally require a visit to the organisation. In part, this is because there is less need for us to consider the course content that we have prescribed. It is also because we have an ongoing role in the quality assurance that we do not have with universities. We have a pool of paid moderators which we have selected and briefed for this role. When we accredit a provider, we appoint a moderator to ensure that all of our approved centres are operating to the same (minimum) standard. The moderator will scrutinise a sample of the students’ assessed work and, if they are satisfied that the provider has applied the appropriate standard, they will sign off the pass list. When our awarding organisation receives the pass list, we then issue the relevant CIH qualification to the successful candidates. At this point, they are entitled to use the appropriate Cert CIH designation.

27. Our moderators report on their centres and their reports are considered by our Chief Moderator, who is appointed on the basis of their experience and reputation. The Chief Moderator produces an annual report which is considered by our awarding organisation staff and presented, with our proposed response, to the Education Audit Committee, which is independent of CIH. An annual report, incorporating the feedback from the Chief Moderator and the Education Audit Committee, is presented to the appropriate part of our governance structure.

Professional Development

28. Whilst qualifications are important, they do not provide all of the professional development that housing professionals need. Housing is a dynamic sector in which government policy and associated good practice is constantly changing. Consequently, housing professionals continually need to update their skills and knowledge. We are not the only source of this information but we are the largest provider of training, seminars, conferences and other support services and, in some cases, we are the only organisation that is able to develop and deliver the right service. This is the case with our Practice online service which provides an encyclopaedic coverage of housing practice, together with advice about how to develop an appropriate housing management policy. Similarly, we have jointly developed HouseMark as a benchmarking tool to enable housing organisations to compare their performance with others.

29. Sometimes we provide this information free of charge to our members, through our magazines, our website or regional member events. At other times, we operate as a quasi-commercial organisation so that we can use the surplus that we create from our short course training programmes, conferences and our distance learning courses to supplement our income from membership subscriptions. This enables us to provide much more benefit to housing professionals and the sector generally.

30. Like other professional bodies, we have a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) scheme. Our scheme tries to be sufficiently flexible to accommodate the different requirements of our members. Our view is that a wide range of activities could contribute towards an individual member’s continuing development and that the only person who can really say whether any particular experience has contributed to their personal development is the individual member themselves. For this reason, we do not accredit training programmes for CPD purposes or recommend a particular amount of CPD credit. Instead, our approach is to provide a CPD framework as a service to our members to help them structure their personal development. We suggest that members identify their development objectives for the forthcoming year and that they develop their own plan to achieve this. We also ask them to allocate appropriate CPD credit depending upon the value that they received from each learning experience.

31. To support our members, we collate information about all of the activities that they complete with CIH and make this available to them on line. Members can then add other activities and they can see the content to prepare their curriculum vitae or use it as evidence within their own organisations.

Career Progression

32. CIH qualifications are highly valued by housing professionals and housing employers. Individuals benefit from the knowledge and skills they gain from studying a CIH qualification and employers are able to use this added value to improve their organisational performance. It is widely acknowledged that CIH qualifications help people to progress in their careers but there is not a direct relationship between achieving a housing qualification or CIH membership and career progression within the housing sector and there are some notable examples of senior people who are not CIH qualified. Some housing employers specify CIH qualifications for certain types of jobs but most operate their own internal systems based upon competence and proven experience.

33. In this context CIH qualifications are used by candidates to equip themselves with the knowledge and skills they need to progress. CIH qualifications are also highly regarded by housing employers. In effect, CIH has become a mediator between employing organisations and the education system. There is a myriad of qualifications that may appear on application forms. This can be confusing for employers and the CIH brand provides reassurance that a qualification will be vocationally relevant. Similarly, because they trust the CIH accreditation process, employers send their staff to CIH accredited courses when they are planning their staff development programmes. Conventionally, this has involved supporting staff to attend a local college or HEI. However, it is becoming more common for employers to approach us direct to make arrangements to accredit their own in-house programmes. This normally involves Level 2 or 3 qualifications for front line staff but, occasionally, it can include units towards higher level qualifications.

Professional Regulation

34. There is no licence to practice in housing and it is possible to be successful in housing without belonging to CIH. For this reason, the threat of being struck off is not, in itself, career threatening. Nevertheless, we expect our members to comply with our code of conduct and, if we become aware that someone is in breach of this code, we could invoke our disciplinary procedure.

35. We prefer to work on prevention by ensuring that our Code of Conduct is relevant and accessible and helping new members to become aware of the behaviour that is expected of a CIH member.

February 2012

Prepared 2nd May 2012