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The Challenge of Achieving and Maintaining Accredited Provision

Or how Hull University Business School successfully navigated CIPD request for a full programme re-design following their new Profession Map launch

By Dr Bridget Freer, Hull University Business School Lecturer and Programme Director for MSc Human Resource Management

In 2021 the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), the professional body for HR and people development, launched their new Profession Map. The Profession Map sets the international benchmark for the people profession and reflects the changing nature of HR and Learning and Development. In order for students to prove they have met the new knowledge and behaviours expected at both Advanced and Intermediate levels, all Approved Providers were required to re-design their CIPD programmes.

Hull University Business School came successfully through CIPD accreditation in 2013 and a re-accreditation in 2016, so on the surface, this refresh was nothing new – for example Curriculum 2016 forced the creation of 20 credit modules and led to changes in delivery and structure. Currently we have CIPD Accreditation for our BA (Hons) Business and Management (BABM) with HRM pathway (four modules) and for MSc HRM (eight modules). However, the new Professional Map forced the biggest change to our provision since becoming an Approved Provider and the new standards created challenges for everyone involved.

As part of this change, the CIPD gave Approved Providers more autonomy and freedom to make decisions based on ‘what we do best’. From one perspective, this was a positive opportunity to shape our programmes as we saw fit, but with little guidance and no examples of good practice to follow, it was very difficult to know where to start. As the changes were also new to the CIPD, they were able to offer only general advice and direction. Therefore creating a programme with the absence of clear answers was a daunting prospect.

Reinventing our existing CIPD provision was an onerous and potentially risky task – our external examiner had repeatedly said that our existing MSc HRM was “an excellent learning experience and preparation for entry into or enhancement of practice in professional roles.” How could we maintain this level of excellence whilst making fundamental changes to its structure, content and assessment? There was also a real possibility that in making sweeping changes, we might lose what was considered ‘good’ about our existing offering.

"Evaluation is a key activity within our CIPD programmes and this good practice played a large part in finding a solution"

The CIPD state that evaluation should be a continuous process and ‘adult to adult’ conversation is important – leading to effective and healthy communication (Berne, 1958). Our regular student/staff informal review sessions, which involve all MSc HRM students and staff, were an opportunity to discuss everything course related and have over the years built positive relationships and improved the overall student experience. These meetings, along with our ongoing relationships with ex-students, went beyond the traditional gathering of reactions, and using ‘real time’ feedback, enabled us to ‘temperature check’ the student voice and see which elements of good practice needed to be left untouched and what could be changed (Warr and Brunce, 1995). They became a vehicle to gather information and provide guidance and direction. This left us in a position to decide how best to amend existing modules to map against new competencies and create others from scratch, whilst still maintaining an excellent learning experience.

The CIPD required detailed explanation of how we intended to deliver and measure each competency, so it was necessary to work collaboratively with the delivery team and whilst not losing our existing good practice, create something new and better (Bouckaert & Kools, 2018). Pandemic restrictions, forced working from home and online meetings, exacerbated the difficulty of the task. Opportunities to discuss ideas with colleagues and students were limited and informal conversations none existent. Networking with Programme Directors from other CIPD providers proved to be an opportunity to share good practice and gather ideas on what the ‘new’ programme might look like. These colleagues were very happy to collaborate in this way, the only downside being that we were much further along in the creation process and so whilst able to offer insights into our experience of the re-accreditation, others had little experience to share. None-the-less these discussions were of value and proved to be a sounding board for new concepts and ideas.

The process of realigning to the new CIPD Profession Map was complicated by the requirement to simultaneously go through Transforming Programmes (TP) - a project to ensure programmes are current, coherent, rigorous and academically excellent. Our CIPD provision did not fit neatly within the expectations of TP and the necessity to follow CIPD guidelines required treatment as an exception rather than the rule - for example the CIPD have many more competencies to map against than are required by the University. Our Accredited Provision therefore has the potential to be contentious and defending challenges requires a determined effort, a strong business case and demonstration of the value that it adds to the University.

"The passion to maintain our CIPD accreditation is driven by the desire to develop employability, equipping students with the skills needed for a lifelong career"

For example our BABM with HRM students gain Associate Membership of the CIPD, the first step on the career ladder to become an HR professional.

Our L7 provision allows HR professionals access to continued learning and helps us as a ‘civic university’ to build connections with local organisations contributing to the environmental, social, cultural and economic wellbeing of our area.

CIPD re-accreditation was successfully achieved in 2022, bringing with it many positive benefits. It is hoped that this result will positively support and drive our accredited programmes into the future and ensure the University and our students continue to thrive.

References

Berne, E. (1958). Transactional analysis: A new and effective method of group therapy. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 12(4), 735-743.

Bouckaert, M., & Kools, Q. (2018). Teacher educators as curriculum developers: Exploration of a professional role. European Journal of Teacher Education, 41(1), 32e49.

Warr, P. & Brunce, D. (1995). Trainee characteristics and the outcomes of open learning. Personnel Psychology; Durham Vol. 48, Issue 2. (Summer 1995): 347.

Image credit: Arek Socha from Pixabay

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