Who assesses the candidate centre?

The centre is assessed by two auditors recruited based on a series of criteria and trained to auditing by the CIEP.

How do the auditors work?

The auditors perform their role in accordance with the processes and procedures pertaining to the scheme, on the one hand, and using the audit manual and in accordance with the advice contained therein, on the other hand, in order to ensure that the results obtained are as objective as possible. The way in which the auditors work is described in detail in the document entitled 'Processus et procédures' (Processes and Procedures).

What do the auditors assess?

The auditors assess the quality of the services the centre provides. This assessment is based on the examination of documents, interviews with staff and observations of staff performing their roles.

What types of training courses are covered by the certification?

The training courses covered, also known as the 'scope of the certification', include all French as a foreign language training courses advertised on the centre's various communications materials, including brochures, the website, posters, etc., and included in its teaching calendar. Training courses aimed solely at teachers and trainers do not fall within the scope of the certification, even if they include a French improvement component;

How much confidentiality does the certification process afford?

The auditors, the operator of the scheme and the Interministerial Certification Committee observe the strictest of confidentiality standards with regards to any information to which they may become party over the course of the certification process.

Who awards the certification?

The Interministerial Certification Committee, once it has examined the audit report and the recommendation made by the auditors. The certified centre will then be informed by the CIEP, as the operator of the scheme, of the decision reached.

For how long is the certification valid?

The certification is awarded for a period of four years. The certification may, however, not last the full four years in the event that the centre finds itself in one of the situations outlined in the document entitled 'Procédure de retrait du label' (Procedure for Withdrawing the Certification) or if, following a surprise audit performed prior to the end of the four-year period, it is found that the centre no longer meets the requirements of the certification.

How much does certification cost?

The cost is stated in the Brochure d'information circulated by the CIEP and on the certification website.

When should a centre apply for certification?

When the centre believes that it meets the so-called admissibility criteria for applying for the certification. The centre is advised to consider whether it might satisfy the minimum standards required in order to obtain the certification before applying. This can be done by means of a self-assessment based on the framework provided.

What are the stages involved in the certification procedure?

The major stages that result in the awarding of the certification are the submission of the application, the examination and acceptance of the application, the compilation of the dossier of requested documents, the self-assessment, the on-site audit, the writing of the audit report and the recommendation by the auditors, and the decision of the Interministeral Certification Committee.

For a detailed explanation of each of these stages see the document entitled 'Processus et procédures' (Processes and Procedures).

Why does the certification involve a series of processes and procedures?

This is both an aid and a guarantee of effectiveness, efficiency and equality on the parts of all concerned, including the candidate centre, the operator of the scheme, the auditors, the Interministerial Certification Committee, students, councils and consultants.

Why is the certification based on a framework?

The quality of the services a centre offers can only be assessed based on certain criteria that are made operational through a series of indicators. All of these indicators join together to form a framework. This is standard practice in the quality assurance sector.

Why must the centre perform a self-assessment?

Self-assessment enables the centre to establish its strengths and weaknesses itself. In this respect, it is an important part of quality assurance and therefore of a global quality-driven approach. The self-assessment process covers all of the indicators within the framework.

Why do the self-assessment and the audit use a scoring system?

Given that there are different levels of quality that might be observed, it is wise to be able to assess the level of quality of the services a centre offers in order to better inform potential students of the centre, as well as councils and consultants. This also helps to give the centre an image as detailed as possible of its strengths and its weaknesses, in order for it to implement the appropriate measures to remedy the situation where necessary.

How can you tell whether or not a particular indicator is of relevance to a centre?

A critical indicator (marked [C]) cannot, under any circumstances, be self-assessed as not being applicable. Only in rare exceptional circumstances will an indicator be considered not to be applicable. This would be the case of indicator L20, for example ("If a centre offers distance learning, the equipment used (IT server, distance learning platform, etc.) must perform well and be reliable and appropriate to the number of users"), in the case of a centre that does not offer any distance learning courses. In the event that a centre considers one of the indicators in the self-assessment framework not to be applicable, the auditors will verify the grounds on which this claim is made during the on-site audit and may or may not agree with the centre's claim.

How do you go about managing certain requirements over which the centre has no control? This would be the case with accommodation, for example.

The manager(s) of the candidate centre is/are advised to inform its partners of the certification and of the requirements thereof and to promote the benefits for all concerned of offering services of a sufficient level of quality.

How can a centre prepare for the on-site audit?

The necessary preparations are outlined in the document entitled 'Formulaire de préparation à la mission d'audit' (Audit Preparation Form). Thorough preparations on the part of the centre will enable the on-site audit to run smoothly, with the added bonus of saving both staff at the centre and the auditors time.

When is the on-site audit performed?

The on-site audit takes place within a minimum of two months and a maximum of one year after the centre receives notification that its application has been accepted. The centre is informed of the exacts dates of the on-site audit a month in advance. Once the centre has been certified, a surprise on-site audit may take place at the operator's discretion and with a maximum of forty-eight hours' notice. The surprise audit does not require the centre to perform another self-assessment. The centre will be informed of the terms and conditions surrounding the surprise audit by the operator at the same time as it issues the notification.

How long does the on-site audit take?

The on-site audit is estimated to take a maximum of two and a half days, depending on the number of activities that fall within the scope of the certification. The centre will be informed of the duration at the same time as the dates of the on-site audit.

How does a centre go about renewing its certification?

The renewal process generally reflects the initial certification process, including, for example, the compiling of a dossier of requested documents, a self-assessment and an on-site audit. The process begins during the fourth year following the initial on-site audit.

Can the centre contest the Interministerial Certification Committee's decision?

Yes. The dispute process, which takes the form of an appeal, is described in detail in the document entitled 'Processus et procédures' (Processes and Procedures). The centre should assess the repercussions of initiating an appeal procedure in terms of both the time it will take and the potential financial costs incurred before doing so. Note: the rejection of a centre's application cannot be appealed.

What happens in the event that the centre fails?

If, following the on-site audit, the candidate centre is considered not to meet the minimum requirements to obtain certification it can resubmit its application during a later certification cycle.

Who should I contact with any questions or observations regarding the certification process or the outcome thereof?

You should contact the operator of the scheme only - the Centre international d’études pédagogiques (CIEP). This means, for example, that the candidate centre should not, under any circumstances, contact the auditors should they wish to dispute the content of the audit report. For further information please contact meunier@france-education-international.fr