News & Commentary on ISO Management System Standards

    Why ISO 21001 and not ISO 17024 or IRCA or EXEMPLAR Approval?
    Why ISO 21001 and not ISO 17024 or IRCA or EXEMPLAR Approval?

    Our ISO 21001 certificate

    deGRANDSON Global holds ISO 21001 Certification because it's the only one that matters as, without independent auditing to confirm compliance, it's only a badge.

    We started by asking what would be the best choice for Lead Auditors, Consultants, and others wishing to audit, implement, or maintain ISO Management Systems to a high standard. 

    Table of Contents

    deGRANDSON Global's ISO Certifications

    From August 2015 to August 2021, we have held certification from BQAI, an accredited Certification Body, for ISO 29990.  a management system for Learning Services for non-formal Education and training.  We have now updated and upgraded our certification to ...

    • ISO 21001:2018, Educational organizations - Management systems for educational organizations and incorporating the additional requirements of ...
    • ISO 29993:2017, Learning Services outside formal Education – Service requirements
    • ISO 29994:2021, Education and learning services - Requirements for distance learning

    We are the only ISO Auditor Training provider in the world to hold this challenging set of independently audited management system standards.

    Click to examine our ISO 21001 accreditation

    ISO 17024 Certification

    The obvious choice is ISO 17024, Conformity assessment – General requirements for bodies operating certification of persons,  offering the possibility of auditors having accredited certification for their auditor training.  This standard was mentioned in ISO 19011:2010 as a possible step towards competency in auditing.  But that was the end of it.  We found one company offering such accredited certification training some years ago based in Australasia, but nothing since. 

    No organization is promoting such certification, and, more importantly, no accreditation body requires such training for the lead auditors of the CABs they audit.  So, there is no demand from the marketplace from CABs, accreditation boards, industry, commerce, or elsewhere.

    Social media around ISO 9001 and other Standards is constantly carping on about auditors making findings based on opinion, freely interpreting standard requirements based on their preferences, consultants who don't understand the requirements of updated Standards, and still implementing systems near-identical to those they implemented 10-15 years ago, etc. 

    ISO 17024 offers a way of significantly improving things.  However, until ISO 17024 accredited certification is mandatory, the current situation where, effectively, professional training of auditors is optional will persist.

    From the viewpoint of a training organization, ISO 17024 accreditation is a non-starter.  So, the question becomes:

    IRCA Approved vs. ISO 21001 Certified - which is better?

    This is a question prospective ISO auditors frequently ask themselves when selecting a suitable training course.  It was also the question that we at deGRANDSON asked when we established the business in 2011.

    With the recent amalgamation of IRCA with their parent CQI (it will be CQI/IRCA from now on), we decided to compare IRCA Certification with ISO 21001 Certification, both from the training organization's viewpoint and the Learner's viewpoint.  Below is what we found.

    IRCA Approval vs ISO 21001 Certification Side-by-Side Comparison


    IRCA Approval

    ISO 21001 Certification

    Courses Approved Yes Yes
    Approved Training Providers/Educational Organization (EO) Yes Yes
    Published ATP/EO approval criteria No Yes
    Internationally recognized ATP/EO approval criteria No Yes
    Initial Auditing of Providers Yes Yes
    Annual Auditing of Providers No Yes
    Independent 3rd-party Auditing No Yes
    Low ongoing Fees for ATP/EO No Yes
    Recognized internationally No Yes
    Free Register of Auditors No Yes
    No ongoing Fees for auditor registration No Yes
    Curriculum approval & monitoring No Yes
    Trainer/instructor approval & monitoring * No Yes
    Learning environment approval & monitoring * No Yes
    Monitoring delivery of learning services No Yes
    Ongoing evaluation of learning goals and scope No Yes
    Ongoing evaluation of the learning service No Yes
    Ongoing evaluation of the learner experience No Yes
    ISO Certification  No Yes


    deGRANDSON's Courses are delivered online by a Learning Management System (LMS), so no trainer/instructor is involved, and the Learner chooses their learning environment (could be the back of a bus going to work).

    And so, our opinion has not changed.  We still consider that, for all learners and our business, ISO 21001 is the superior choice.

    What About EXEMPLAR Approvals or ASIC Accreditation?

    Same story as with IRCA; they're just badges and do not demonstrate compliance with the internationally recognized ISO Standards for educational organizations.

    ISO Compound Logo v2-1

    7 Reasons why we think ISO 21001 Certification is the 'Gold Standard' for e-Learning

    1. IRCA (and Exemplar) approved Courses; they do not deliver them.  Training is delivered by IRCA Approved Training Partners (or ATPs).  Note that claims that organizations are 'IRCA-accredited training organizations or that courses are 'IRCA accredited' are no longer made.

    2. While ATP selection criteria are not in the public domain, organizations seem to be initially vetted prior to approval.  On the payment of ongoing fees, their status is maintained with little formal auditing of their performance.

    3. We find that there is little recognition of IRCA outside the United Kingdom.  And so, costly IRCA approval would provide little, if any, benefit to overseas-based Auditors.

    4. IRCA's register of certified auditors has been redundant for several years now.  In the past, IRCA's register was often used by certification bodies when selecting competent lead auditors.  That is no longer the case.

    Since about 2011, the standard for certification bodies, ISO 17021, has required that the certification bodies themselves take responsibility for deciding on the competence of the lead auditors and the other auditors they select for their audit teams. 

    And that competence is based on a suitable combination of training, technical expertise, knowledge of relevant standards, and auditing experience - no mention of a register.

    1. To become certified, ISO 21001 requires Educational Organizations (EOs) to be subject to periodic independent audits.  This ensures that standards of performance, having been established, are maintained and improved over time.

    2. And, of course, ISO 21001 certification has international recognition built in.

    3. The standard has requirements in relation to both learning services and the management of the EO.  In brief, these are:

    Learning services

      • Determining learning needs, including Stakeholder needs
      • Design of the learning services, including Curriculum planning
      • Provision of learning services, including a suitable learning environment
      • Monitoring the delivery of the learning services
      • Evaluation of goals and scope of learning and the learning service

    Management of the Learning Service Providers

      • General management requirements
      • Strategy and business management
      • Management review
      • Preventive actions and corrective actions
      • Financial management and risk management
      • Human resources management, including competencies of the LSP's staff and associates
      • Communication management (internal/external)
      • Allocation of resources
      • Internal Audits
      • Stakeholder feedback

    ISO 21001's Recognition and Acceptance

    Overall, ISO 21001 is the one for us, and it is recognized and accepted worldwide by L&D Directors, CABs, and Accreditation Boards.

    We consider that IRCA and EXEMPLAR certifications,' both of which have been around and well-respected for more than 30 years, are not the best options for the 2020s.  

    Instead, we believe that these days, ISO 21001 certification is a superior option.  This is because it offers both the Learner and the Sponsor, who often pays for the Learner, real assurance as to the performance and capabilities of the chosen training organization.

    That is, of course, until, if ever, the market decides that personal certification as per ISO 17024 is a better option.  But that's a story for another day.

    deGRANDSON Global is an ISO Certified Educational Organization

    In October 2021, we secured certification to three education-related ISO Standards.  We now have a university-grade management system in place conforming to the requirements of  …

    • ISO 21001, Educational Organizational Management System,
    • ISO 29993, Learning Services outside formal Education,  and
    • ISO 29994, Learning Services – additional requirements for Distance Learning.

    We have chosen ISO 21001 Certification because, unlike IRCA and Exemplar badges (which, in our opinion, are commercially compromised), it is based on independent third-party assessment.  It is a 'university grade' standard used globally by schools, colleges, and universities to demonstrate their competence.

    We offer Certified Courses for ISO 9001, ISO 13485, ISO 14001, ISO 17025, ISO 27001, ISO 45001, Data Protection and Risk Management.


    Written by Dr John FitzGerald

    Director & Founder of deGRANDSON Global. Spent 15 years in the manufacturing industry and 25 years training, consulting & auditing management systems
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