About Training Standards

Training Standards evaluation for FEACH in Chile (Photo: Steve Long)

The UIAA Training Standards Label is an internationally recognized accreditation and certification scheme which examines and evaluates the training and assessment programs of our member federations. The process includes an independent assessment of the training provided to voluntary leaders and instructors by a UIAA expert which is then endorsed by an international panel of experts.

The standards were first adopted by the General Assembly in 1993 (Santiago de Chile) and the Mountaineering Commission formed a Training Standards Working Group (TSWG) to assist Member Associations wishing to use the original four standards. In 2001 and 2003 the TSWG held seminars (Le Tour, France) to discuss the use and application of the standards. The regulatory body is today called the Training Standards Panel.

The Model Training Standards for Voluntary Leaders and Instructors managed by members of the Training Standards Panel makes it possible for mountaineers from different countries to recognise each other’s qualifications.
The standards cover seven areas:

  • Mountain Walking and Trekking Summer
  • Winter Mountain Walking and Snowshoeing
  • Sport Climbing (indoor and outdoor)
  • Adventure/Traditional and Rock Climbing (leader placed protection)
  • Ice Climbing
  • Alpine Climbing or High Alpine
  • Ski Mountaineering

Frequently Asked Questions answered by Steve Long, Chair of the Training Standards Panel:
What are accredited qualifications?

Accredited qualifications, also known as regulated qualifications are those that are reviewed, recognised and monitored by a regulatory body in order to make sure that they meet specific criteria and quality standards. For mountaineering activities the appropriate regulatory body at an international level is the UIAA - the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation. The requirements for the qualifications to be accredited are set out online in the UIAA’s Training regulations page

What are the advantages of accredited over non-accredited qualifications?

The most obvious advantage of accredited over non-accredited qualifications is that the accredited ones provide the learners and stakeholders with a guarantee of quality of both the qualification programme and the awarding body that offers accredited qualifications. Non-accredited qualifications, on the other hand, are not regulated and there is no external guarantee  that they meet appropriate standards - making it difficult for a sponsor or government department to tell whether they are fit for their purpose, whether they include relevant content or even if appropriate methodology for assessment is used.

How does the UIAA ensure high quality of accredited qualifications and their compliance to the Training Standard?

The regulators use several methods to ensure high quality of accredited qualifications before and after they are listed in the Register of Accredited Qualifications. In order to be recognised and have their qualifications accredited by the regulators, the awarding organisations first has to fulfil the UIAA’s affiliation requirements before being allowed to register witht the UIAA Training Standards Panel, at which point an experienced mentor is assigned in order to help with the process.
The Training Standards carefully reviews both the awarding organisation and the proposed qualification, culminating in a field visit to compare the course reality with the paperwork. If the qualification programme meets the UIAA’s criteria, it is recognised and listed in the online Register. If the programme does not meet the set criteria, it is rejected and an action plan is negotiated to help reach the standard. In order to make sure that the accredited qualifications maintain appropriate standards and quality, they are kept under review by the UIAA Training Standards Panel who also have the power to withdraw accreditation.

What are the other advantages of registration and accreditation?

Training Officers for registered member associations will be kept informed of seminar reports and training advice gathered from the UIAA Commissions. This will benefit members by gaining immediate access to advice on accepted current best practice. Registered associations also have exclusive access to the UIAA’s Training Memento/Handbook for the use of their trainees.

Although the UIAA Training Standards are intended primarily for voluntary use within the member-association’s home borders the association is free to recommend the qualifications as appropriate training also for professional instructors operating within its borders. There is no obligation for cross-border accreditation but several federations have already recognised the benefits of shared core syllabus areas and have developed simple systems to accredit prior learning to simplify career pathways between countries.