QCF Procurement Diplomas – Update

The 9 Questions CIPS Will NOT Answer et al
It is almost two years since the deadline agreed between CIPS and the Awarding Organisation, Pearson (Edexcel) , for last “registrations” (30th April 2014) for those students who wished to commence an NVQ Level 4 in Supply Chain Management, which together with three years relevant experience, would make them eligible to apply for full membership of CIPS i.e. MCIPS.
Qube, along with three other training providers formed the NVQ Providers Association(NVQPA) and worked in partnership with Skills for Logistics (now defunct), Awarding Organisations, Gateway Qualifications and ABC Awards, and were responsible for the accreditation by OFQUAL of some new QCF procurement qualifications to replace the “old” NVQs. These new “competency based” qualifications introduced Autumn 2014 were specifically designed to be a match for CIPS’ own academic qualifications in terms of levels and content:

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Levels 4, 5 and 6 of the QCF qualifications were submitted for CIPS accreditation and a possible pathway to full membership (MCIPS) by both Gateway Qualifications and ABC Awards in September 2014. It is disappointing, therefore, that following a so called “mapping” exercise CIPS announced in February 2015 they had decided not to accept these NVQ replacements for membership. Their decision has effectively disenfranchised many procurement practitioners who are unable for various reasons to take their examination route to obtain full membership.
Since then the NVQPA has been working with the two awarding organisations to try and find out more information regarding why CIPS will not accredit these NVQ replacements. Anyone with basic procurement knowledge can see that the QCF qualifications do, in fact, substantially cover the CIPS syllabus, so one should ask why have they refused to continue with a pathway that has been in existence for at least 15 years? We fully understand CIPS’ concerns regarding the wide variations in the quality of delivery of the “old” NVQs by some of the more unscrupulous providers. We feel these have been addressed by the more detailed procurement content in these new QCF Diplomas as they are to a much higher standard than the SCM NVQs, which together with the robust assessment and verification procedures of the awarding organisations, should allay CIPS’ fears about the quality of delivery.

It is interesting that the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) has recognised all levels of the QCF Procurement Diplomas for various grades of membership. They had no doubts about the qualifications as they are part of the QCF (Qualifications Credit Framework) accredited by OFQUAL. Leading academic, Professor Andrew Cox, has examined the Diplomas and confirmed in writing ” …after reviewing the comprehensive and extensive materials that you have sent us I am pleased to be able to inform you that the Institute has today agreed that someone with the Levels 5 or 6 Diploma in Procurement (QCF), and with over three years work related experience will satisfy the IIAPS (International Institute For Advanced Purchasing and Supply) entry requirements for participation in the International Green Belt in Advanced Purchasing & Supply programme.” This clearly confirms that the Procurement Diplomas are substantial qualifications and should be recognised as such.
The NVQPA posed nine key questions to CIPS about their accreditation process – see the letter here (DOWNLOAD) and then read their reply here (DOWNLOAD). Not one of the questions has been answered! The only glimmer of hope is David Noble’s (CIPS CEO) comments that “my professional development team is trying to find a solution where the learners’ achievement can still have some form of recognition.” However, there are no details or timescales mentioned.

CIPS accreditation process was not perceived as being “clear” or “transparent” by the Awarding Organisations who despite expressing their concerns have simply been ignored.

My conclusion is that CIPS currently do not want any competition to their own revised academic qualifications which has been a major investment and they know how popular the vocational route would be if it were allowed to be a permitted pathway to MCIPS. This policy decision I believe has been taken at the highest level as they want full control of all major routes to membership. To use an accreditation process which was clearly designed to accredit university degrees and other academic forms of study to competency based qualifications was obviously flawed and was not appropriate.

We providers appear to be perceived by CIPS as “troublemakers” and the “enemy” rather than recognising our past contribution of providing a valuable source of members . CIPS need to get over their apparent obsession with looking at the past difficulties with the “NVQ route” and instead look forward and embrace the new QCF Procurement Diplomas which represent a significant improvement. If they truly believe in supporting a “competency based” route as part of their “public good agenda” then they should work with us and not against us. However, sadly, I feel this will fall on deaf ears. When the popularity of the NVQs were at their highest I was aware that CIPS’ UK membership had already plateaued and now it is likely to decline as the prospect of taking three years of exams to attain MCIPS is simply not a viable option for many procurement practitioners. I suppose as long as CIPS can attract the volume of students from other parts of the world this will compensate them for the loss of membership revenue from the NVQ route, so why should they worry about the UK market?

On a wider note, as a UK based chartered body with charitable status I believe CIPS have a moral obligation to act in the interests of the whole procurement community and not pursue what appear to be narrow commercial objectives. This is the spirit of their Royal Charter which I believe is not being adhered to. However, who do you complain to? The Privy Council? No, they are not “policemen”, so who? Nobody it seems. CIPS employees appear not to be beholden to anyone! CIPS is supposed to be answerable to its members, but is it really? For example, I cannot recollect ever receiving a membership survey asking if CIPS HQ are doing a good job and if they are providing services that members actually want! There has been recent email survey from CIPS, but this was about CIPS Conference in October 2016 and NOT about the performance of the Institute generally.

How democratic is the organisation? Since the introduction of “congress” what has been achieved? Do members actually feel part of CIPS? Participation of CIPS members at many Branch events is very poor and I wonder why. There has been controversy surrounding the introduction of “chartered” status and the “licensing” of the profession, issues which appear to have been ill thought out and instead of bringing the profession together has marginalised many people who perhaps thought “MCIPS” meant professional recognition of their procurement job role rather than being part of what now appears to be a rather “elite” club.

N.B. All views expressed are the personal opinions of the author

Stefan Thresh, MCIPS, CMILT, FCMI
Managing Director
Qube Vocational Development Ltd