Certification and Accreditation

Important guidance on UKAS Accredited Certification Bodies and CQI / IRCA Registered Lead Auditor training

Commonly confused terminology

It's normal for an MD to proudly declare that their "organisation has just got their ISO 9001 accreditation" or words to that effect. However, did you know that within the management systems industry there are actually some subtle differences betweeen three key terms:

Registration (aka Certification)



An organisation can become 'ISO 9001 Registered' by an Accredited Certification Body, when they prove they meet the requirements of the ISO 9001 Standard. The Certification Body is independentally accredited by a higher authority (in the UK, we recommend that authority is UKAS -- see below), and the Certification Body provides the ISO 9001 Certificate to the applying organisation, thus becoming their higher authoirity in the chain.

Therefore, the correct terminology is: "our organisation is ISO 9001 registered with a [UKAS] accredited certification body" or "a [UKAS] accredited certification body provides our ISO 9001 certificate."

Similarly, when choosing a training provider, an educated auditor will seek their own personal training certificate from an independentally accredited training company. At the Scottish Quality Management Centre, successful trainees become 'SQMC certified' auditors, gaining a qualification from a recognisable provider that holds accreditation from a higher authority -- the Chartered Quality Institute (CQI) and the International Register of Certificated Auditors (IRCA). Moreover, the advanced auditing qualification available through successful completion of our flagship ISO 9001 Lead Auditor training course is, itself, controlled and certified by the CQI and IRCA.

Confusing, we know! And mostly semantics, not worth losing sleep over! Now, let's take a look at the individual entities involved in the management systems industry; starting with our own accreditors...

The International Register of Certificated Auditors (IRCA)

The Scottish Quality Management Centre is accredited by the the world's original and largest international auditor certification body, known by the acronym, IRCA. We are also an 'Approved Training Partner' of the Chartered Quality Institute (CQI).

IRCA was formed in 1984 as part of the UK government's enterprise initiative, designed to make industry and business more competitive, through the implementation of quality principles and practices. As well as IRCA, this structure included an accreditation body (now known as UKAS -- see below), a national Standard-making body (BSI Standards), and a number of commercial certification bodies. The original Quality management Standard used was British Standard BS 5750, which has since evolved to become an international Standard: ISO 9001.

With the help of partnering training organisations such as SQMC, IRCA promotes auditing as a valued profession, through the promotion of auditing best practice. 

Which of the CQI / IRCA training courses does SQMC offer?

The Scottish Quality Management Centre offer around a dozen courses in our syllabus that are SQMC Certified, plus one which is IRCA Certified -- our ISO 9001:2015 Lead Auditor. This is the most advanced qualification in Quality Management Systems auditing, and is required by IRCA as part of their personal auditor registration scheme; something Lead Auditor students often pursue. For many years, SQMC also offered IRCA branded qualifications in ISO 9001 Foundation and Internal Auditor courses. However, this policy is discontinued as of 1st January 2017 in response to changing preferences and requirements in the auditor training marketplace.

The United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS)

UKAS is the sole national accreditation body recognised by government to assess (against internationally agreed Standards) the organisations that provide certification, testing, inspection and calibration services.

UKAS is a non-profit-distributing private company, limited by guarantee.

What is the ‘tick and crown’?

There is one symbol that is common to all activities accredited by UKAS – the Royal Crown.  This signifies Government recognition.  The Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) has licensed UKAS to use accreditation symbols featuring the Royal Crown and to sub-license the use of these marks to UKAS accredited organisations.

Why is the UKAS ‘tick and crown’ crucial?

The UKAS 'Tick and Crown' is an assurance that an organisation is auditing consistently to the interpretation and in the application of the Management Systems Standard. Only UKAS-approved Certification Bodies have the authority to provide Registration Certificates (for example, to ISO 9001) which feature the Tick and Crown; which is the common 'yardstick' of compliance in the UK and internationally.

Why don’t SQMC provide ISO 9001 certificates?

Although UKAS accreditation is not a legal requirement, we believe there is no genuine value in an ISO 9001 certificate awarded by the same company that implemented your System – due to a conflict of interests (cleverly compared elsewhere online to your driving instructor providing you with your driving licence). Also, in most cases, an auditor should not audit their own work. That's where the 'UKAS factor' is so helpful in procurement: it guarantees this was not the case. It's reassures customers that a supplier's Quality credentials have been independentally verified, in accordance with rigourous, government-backed regulations.

SQMC are delighted to help you get your system ready for certification -- but then it's over to an independent 3rd party to verify the System and certify it.