People often ask me, ‘What does the Edinburgh Whisky Academy’s SQA accreditation mean?’
This question (a very valid one) is often followed by, ‘What is the difference between accreditation and certification?’
Both are excellent questions. The difference between accreditation and certification was an area I found puzzling myself. When I began the EWA, I regularly had my knuckles (figuratively) rapped by the SQA for saying that our Diplomas were accredited by them. In actuality, the Scottish Qualifications Authority does not accredit courses; they certify courses and accredit schools or businesses. Clearly, this is an area that many people find confusing, so I thought I would take this opportunity to explain what our accreditation and certification mean and why they make the Edinburgh Whisky Academy unique.
Firstly, how do the definitions of ‘accreditation’ and ‘certification’ differ?
Accreditation is an authoritative body’s formal recognition of a party’s competence to work to specified standards.
Certification, on the other hand, represents a written assurance by a third party of the conformity of a product, process, or service to specific requirements.
We, the Edinburgh Whisky Academy, are an SQA-accredited centre, whereas our Diplomas are SQA-certified. The certificate a candidate receives upon passing the assessment is an assurance that they have reached the required standard.
An understanding of accreditation versus certification, often leads to another common question ‘Who are the SQA?’
The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) is the executive non-departmental public body of the Scottish Government, responsible for accrediting educational awards. SQA’s functions are set out in the Education (Scotland) Act 1996 as amended by the Scottish Qualifications Act 2002. They create and develop internationally recognised qualifications and services.
The organisation has two main roles:
Firstly, the SQA approves and assures the quality of organisations that plan to award people qualifications by continually monitoring their performance against the SQA Regulatory Principles. This is done by:
• Auditing and reviewing of centres
• Self-assessment records
• Provider monitoring
• Centre records
And secondly, certifying qualifications other than degrees, meaning the SQA;
• Validates qualifications (makes sure they are well written and meet the needs of learners and tutors)
• Devises and develops qualifications
• Reviews qualifications to ensure they are up to date
• Quality-assures education and training establishments which offer SQA qualifications
• Issues certificates to candidates
With the Academy being an SQA-accredited centre, it means that the SQA has approved and quality-assured us as an education centre for whisky and gin courses.
Accomplishing the status of an SQA-accredited centre allows the Academy to have autonomy in teaching, assessing, internally verifying, and certifying our candidates. To retain this status, we are audited every year by the SQA to ensure the highest standards are being maintained.
At the forefront of these audits is the assurance that the candidate is getting the best learning experience available. Evidence shown must demonstrate the following for the SQA to continue certifying our courses:
• All learning outcomes are covered in the course material
• Each learning outcome is fairly assessed
• The SQA approves each teacher through demonstrating extensive knowledge and experience of the subject matter they are teaching
• Internal verification procedures are in place
• Robust policies and procedures are in place and sent to the candidate in advance of each course
• Candidate feedback is gathered and listened to
• Diplomas are continually monitored and updated
I know this must all sound very bureaucratic and dry. However, when it comes to the Diploma candidate experience, the most common feedback we hear commends the professional nature of the courses; the depth of knowledge gained and the superior knowledge of our lecturers.
All of these qualities stem from the verification processes of the SQA, which ensure the highest standard of learning for our candidates
Moreover, the SQA cannot certify two awards of similar content. In order words, there can only be one SQA certification in Whisky and Gin. Consequently, our candidates can be assured that the certificate they achieve with the Edinburgh Whisky Academy is unique in more ways than one.