STEP is introducing a new look to its qualifications in July this year with the launch of the Qualifications Framework. We will be giving more detail over the coming months in the STEP Journal and other channels, but it might be useful to give some background on the drivers for this change, and the resulting benefits that we envisage. As highlighted in the STEP Journal last year, the STEP Qualifications Framework creates a structure within which STEP can place its qualifications, together with content from other providers such as universities and professional bodies, and assign a credit value that can be counted towards a level of membership. This offers close alignment, therefore, between qualifications and the new membership levels, those levels being Student, Affiliate, Technician and TEP.
The qualification system is simple and enables STEP to standardise entry requirements and create flexibility in how an individual can achieve membership of STEP through examination. More than this, it enables STEP to develop a lifelong learning offering that goes well beyond simple qualifications. Already graduates of the International and England & Wales Diplomas can study for a BSc in Management, Trusts and Estates with Manchester University. Last year saw the first cohort coming through this new degree programme and the 40 STEP graduates proved the most successful out of all the other professional bodies involved. STEP members will, in time, be able to gain even higher level (Masters +) academic qualifications through STEP university partnerships.
The impact of the new Qualifications Framework will be mild initially and relevant particularly to new entrants to STEP. However, existing students will automatically be credited for the exams they have taken once the new framework is launched and those with sufficient credits will be upgraded automatically. A student who has the appropriate combination of STEP certificate, prior qualification and experience will be able to enter the Diploma programme and, once they have passed two papers, be eligible to become a STEP Technician.
In England & Wales and Scotland initially, as the modular approach is being piloted, students will have a couple of optional routes to a STEP Diploma, namely the Will Preparation route and the Tax and Estate Planning route. Those students and affiliates with the STEP Advanced Certificates in Will Preparation or UK Tax for International Clients will be able to credit these, retrospectively and in the future, towards a STEP Diploma and application for TEP. Next year we hope to open this up further with the STEP Advanced Certificate in Advising Vulnerable Clients creating a third specialist stream. Once we are confident the system is working then we will look to extend options to other STEP regions.
STEP’s Qualified Practitioner route, too, which currently requires the submission of three 5,000 word essays, is also likely to be brought into the Qualifications Framework in due course. Over time we hope that the new Qualifications Framework starts to achieve a range of outcomes for STEP members and prospective members:
- coherence and simplicity of qualifications across borders
- wider access to STEP membership for appropriate groups
- a tight match between qualifications and the skills and knowledge that employers require
- a framework for lifelong learning
- close and productive relationships with non-STEP providers of learning.
The benefits of this new Qualifications Framework will be incremental initially but potentially significant over time.
We will be supplying further information over the next few months as we move towards the July launch date, but if you have any questions please email [email protected]