Professional Development and Structured Learning

Accredited courses, particularly in specific subjects (e.g. community, enterprise)


Professional training for the sector is on the increase – at one time there were concerns from short course (open access) providers that their business would go down the pan as people focused on gaining qualifications and credits for ‘continuous professional development’ (CPD). There is room for both. While short courses are often seeing as having more immediate relevance to day-to-day work, part-time and distance/flexible learning (such as Open University) can also have direct, practical impact on your current job.

It would be a little foolish of us to give general guidance on how to decide what is most appropriate for you, as there are so many factors, courses and a lot of change too. Managing the time commitments, how much you can afford, whether your organisation has a training policy restricted on what it recognises for promotion, funding etc, are obvious questions. Bear in mind that some have entry requirements – postgraduate courses MAY take mature students with relevant experience rather than a degree but could require a lot of persuading; others will be aimed at those in particular stages of their career or from certain parts of the sector (possibly due to how their funding works). Above all be clear why you want to study, and what you hope to achieve. This may change as you go along, but it gives you a base to judge courses and your progress.

Accreditation and Qualifications

Accreditation can be by a number of different bodies, at different levels. At the moment we don’t cover CPD rated courses but short courses may count to ongoing development requirements for membership of professional bodies (e.g. accountancy, CIPD, law).

Chartered Institute of Fundraising has developed the Certificate for Fundraising Managers which can be obtained via a number of providers (some indicated on the training pages). It is worth checking out the other Professional bodies to see if they run, recommend or list development programmes.

Foundation degrees are relatively new – vocationally focused higher education courses at ‘intermediate’ level, the same as HND/C and NVQ level 4. Unionlearn has relevant info.

Also see Professional Qualifications page for degree courses, diplomas etc. in more general voluntary sector subjects (e.g. management).

Finding Courses

The National Open College Network site gives quality standards and local OCN contacts who may offer qualifications in community development, volunteering training, management.

Accredited courses, NVQ etc

Gloscat (Gloucestershire College of Arts & Technology) had qualifications and/or training through various routes for local voluntary sector. Haven’t located in new Gloucestershire College site but probably still there.

Money Advice Scotland is an (SQA) Approved Centre for the delivery of the Scottish Vocational Qualification (SVQ) in Advice (money advice route) at levels 3 and 4.

Truro and Penwith College, Penzance. Charity Administration evening course.

No exam and/or formal qualification

Note: Some courses created with qualifications in mind do allow study excluding examination/assessment.

No current info at Nov 2013.

Professional Development in specific issues

Roughly grouped by issue. Not just NVQs.

See Volunteer Management, Trustee Resources for training in those areas.


  • Masters in Citizenship and Human Rights at Glasgow Caledonian University, created in partnership with Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (new August 2014?).


Housing, Regeneration

  • Urban Studies at University of Glasgow has various Postgraduate and Continuing Professional Development courses in Housing, Regeneration.

Humanitarian, Development


Fundraising, charity marketing

Philanthropy courses: see Philanthropy education in the UK and continental Europe: Current provision, perceptions and opportunities (pdf, 694KB) from Centre for Charity Effectiveness, Oct. 2014. Also check Centre for Philanthropy at University of Kent.

Professional Qualifications

Higher level courses in voluntary sector management and related subjects.


Voluntary Sector Studies Network has a Courses section giving some details of those provided by its members. This may be updated quicker than our information below.

This page is for more general voluntary sector higher level courses in management, communications etc. See Professional Development page for specific topics (e.g. Community, Enterprise, Fundraising), and a section on Volunteer management courses.

Foundation degrees

Foundation degrees are employment related higher education qualifications. As experience can be as important as traditional educational qualifications, usually there are no, or flexible, set entry requirements. While not on the same level as honours degrees, they can lead on to these. See Professional Development page for such courses in specific topics.

Study online, open/distance learning

  • Open University Business School Runs a Management Certificate programme tailored to the voluntary sector, which can become part of Diploma or MBA. Various courses can be done online. Winning Resources and Support meets criteria for Institute of Fundraising’s Certificate. VolResource was (maybe still is) one of their Top 10 reference sites. Course Enquiry Services, Freepost, PO Box 625, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA, phone 01908 858585.
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Professional Enhancement (Online) awarded through the University of Bradford, and meets criteria for full corporate membership of the Institute of Leadership and Management. Modules on supervision, managing change and others. Contact Norman Borrett, phone 01274 753425, email:
  • University of Wales Lampeter MA in Voluntary Sector Studies is dormant at spring 2015.
  • Masters in Public Policy and Management or postgrad diploma/certificate from University of York.
  • Others. Some of those listed by location below now also provide open, distance or e-learning options which don’t require regular physical attendance. It is worth checking websites for updates.

Educational institute based

Listed by location.

  • University of Birmingham College of Social Sciences Public Service MPA, with specific voluntary sector management option (may have changed at autumn 09). Full or part-time options, and MSc/postgrad certificate programmes too. MBA Programme Administrator, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT, phone 0121 414 5006, email:
  • Newman College of Higher Education (Birmingham) Public and Voluntary Sector Management BA; also Foundation Degree in Voluntary & Community Organisation Development, 4 year part time course.
  • Bradford College Postgraduate Certificate/Diploma/MA in Managing Change in the Community. Phone 01274 433004.
  • University of Bristol School for Policy Studies. “The MSc in Management Development and Social Responsibility fully integrates concern with social values in its content and learning processes, and is intended to equip students with the knowledge, skills and awareness necessary for them to operate as reflective, competent and socially informed managers in a changing environment.” 2 year, part-time. Phone 0117 954 6755, email:
  • Cambridge MBAJudge Business School Have a Bursary Scheme for “UK professionals in the not for profit sectors”. Phone 01223 337051, email:
  • Centre for Charity Effectiveness at Bayes Business School (previously Cass) (City University, London). Part-time postgraduate MSc or Diploma in Voluntary Sector Management; PgDip/ MSc Charity Accounting & Financial Management. Also from the Business School is the ICAEW Diploma in Charity Accounting. Occasional short courses. Contact Cass Business School, 106 Bunhill Row, London, EC1Y 8TZ, phone 020 7040 8667.
  • University of Chichester BA in Charity Development is purely about fundraising.
  • University of Derby Foundation Degree in Voluntary Sector Management, 2 year full time course. Email:
  • Edge Hill University, in Ormskirk, Lancs, has (at 2014) a third sector pathway for its MSc Leadership and Management Development – look under Modules.
  • Leeds Beckett University (was Leeds Metropolitan).  Used to have part-time Professional Diploma, Managing in the Community and BA in Managing in Health & Social Care Organisations. No longer?
  • Charity Law and Policy Unit, Liverpool Law School, University of Liverpool. Postgraduate research opportunities. They also run regular seminars on various issues.
  • Birkbeck College, University of London courses includes Voluntary and Community Sector Studies MSc / Diploma / Certificate – search from the course index page. Completion offers pathways to research study at MPhil/PhD level.

  • Norwich City College Edexcel/BTEC Professional Development Certificate in Voluntary Sector Management, 1 day a week for 30 weeks.
  • University of Nottingham Business School Public Services MBA Programme – Voluntary Sector. Not sure that this exists still as a specific option – there is a Public Services Policy module to the MBA.
  • Robert Gordon University Part-time postgraduate Certificate/Diploma or MSc courses on Scottish Public Sector Management – not sure how much voluntary sector content. Course Leader is Kirsteen Davidson at the School of Public Administration and Law, phone 01224 263400.
  • Roehampton University, Centre for the Study of Voluntary and Community Activity link not valid at Dec. 2013, and Voluntary Action Management, MSc/Postgraduate Diploma no longer offered?
  • Voluntary Action Research Group, Sheffield Hallam University. Various charity management courses discontinued at autumn 2017? Worth checking.
  • University of Southampton may have something on the lines of Postgrad Certificate in the Management of Voluntary Organisations – try a search under social work.
  • St Mary’s University, Twickenham MA, Postgraduate Diploma or Postgraduate Certificate in Charity Management.
  • National College of Ireland, Dublin, School of Business and Humanities. Certificate in Managing Organisations in the Voluntary and Community Sector, one year evening course.

Functional Support

Support and development bodies for specific internal sector functions – admin, comms, tech etc.

Function specific (professional) support and development organisations for charities and other voluntary organisations.

Also see: general national bodies, issue-based support.

Finance, Legal and Admin

For Community Accountancy projects dotted around the country, see Accountancy Services page.


  • Association of Charitable Foundations Exists to promote and support the work of UK grant-making trusts and foundations, membership open to all such bodies and some administrative trustees. Web site has guidance notes available for both funders and applicants, and alphabetical list and web links (with basic info) to ACF members. Central House, 14 Upper Woburn Place, London, WC1H 0AE, phone 020 7255 4499.
  • Community Fundraisers’ Forum (started 2007) designed for fundraisers in smaller charities who are working by themselves and need a bit of support. This may be the same as the IoF special interest group.
  • Chartered Institute of Fundraising Park Place, 12 Lawn Lane, London, SW8 1UD, phone 020 7840 1000. Has various national, regional and special interest groups.
  • Institute of Legacy Management promotes professional standards in legacy administration and provides consultancy, training and support services to its members.
  • London Funders is “open to all London-based local authorities, public, independent and corporate funders and to all charitable funders and investors in the capital’s voluntary and community sector”.

Information, Research, Impact

Communications and Campaigning



  • Charity Retail Association (was Association of Charity Shops). Brings together over 300 member charities which have about 7,000 charity shops between them. Aims to help member organisations through the sharing of information and representing their interests by lobbying and informing. Has developed kitemark scheme. 5th Floor, Central House, 14 Upper Woburn Place, London, WC1H 0AE, phone 020 7255 4470.
  • Community Transport Promotes safe and efficient use of community and accessible transport.