Stan Lester Developments






Dr Stan Lester




*      self-regulation

*      entry and qualifying

*      continuing development

*      conservation

*      architecture

*      family mediation

*      new technology

Professional competence

Work-based learning





Professions studies and projects


This page has some summaries of my research and development work with UK professions, with links to articles, resources and reports.  A separate page covers professional competence and practising standards.


What is a profession?

These thought papers explore what is meant by professions, professionals and professionalism.

   Professionals and professions (exploration of meanings)

   On professions and being professional (conceptual paper)


How do professions form and how do they regulate themselves?

This report, along with an associated article in Professions and Professionalism, draws on my work with four small occupational groups to explore how practitioner communities become professions and how they put in place processes and standards for self-regulation.  It offers some learning-points for communities that are looking to professionalise or to update their models of professionalism, for government departments and regulators, and for academic studies of professions and self-regulation. 

   Association and self-regulation in smaller UK professions,  Avista Press (2014)

   “The development of self-regulation in four UK professional communities”, Professions and Professionalism  6 (1), 1-14 (2016).

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Professions’ entry-routes and qualifying processes

A major function of professions is to qualify, license or accredit practitioners as fit to practise.  Requirements for becoming qualified vary between professions, as do the routes available to would-be practitioners to reach qualified level. 

I undertook some research in 2007 to identify how qualifying-routes were evolving across a sample of UK professions, published as a short book by the Professional Associations Research Network (PARN) and in an article in Studies in Higher Education.  As a general trend qualifying requirements are becoming more rigorous, while the routes available for meeting them are increasing in flexibility.  Many professions have made significant advances in recent years in among other things the assessment of professional practice and the widening-out of entry-routes, but there is still room for improvement in areas such as integrating theory and practice, developing more robust professional practising standards, making use of some of the more recent developments in higher education and supporting entrants through non-conventional or minority routes.

Subsequent developments, including Degree Apprenticeships, have tended to accelerate these trends and create alternative routes in professions such as law, architecture and (from 2023) medicine, which have largely relied on full-time degrees for entry. A further paper due in 2024 will update some of my work in this area and discuss the rise of the ‘integrated’ professional development route. 

   Routes and requirements for becoming professionally qualified:  summary

   Routes and requirements for becoming professionally qualified:  e-book available from PARN (£80)

   “Routes to qualified status: practices and trends among UK professional bodies,” Studies in Higher Education  34 (2), 223-236 (2009)

    Paper on professional bodies’ advanced designations and awards (2009)

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Continuing professional development

It is now generally accepted that professional practitioners need to continue learning throughout their careers.  The idea of continuing professional development or learning is championed by most professional bodies, universities and colleges, but the way it is interpreted varies and there can be an emphasis on ‘formal’ inputs and sometimes ‘measurable’ outputs, sometimes at the expense of more useful activities driven by individuals and workplaces.  Most of my work in this area is in internal reports or embedded in papers on other topics, but this (quite old) paper on setting up a CPD scheme in conservation provides an overview of some of the issues:

    "Professional bodies, CPD and informal learning: the case of conservation", Continuing Professional Development 2 (4), 110-121 (1999).

My MEd dissertation was on CPD in training and development, particularly in the form of ‘long’ programmes such as postgraduate degrees.  It is summarised in this article:

    Professional qualifications and continuing development: a practitioner perspective, Capability 1 (4), 16-22 (1995).

The following is a link to a long out-of-print seminal report on ‘informal’ CPD conducted by Jane Gear and colleagues at the University of Hull, with a brief foreword.

    Gear, McIntosh & Squires, Informal Learning in the Professions (1994).

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Case-study: the conservation of cultural heritage

Conservation of material heritage is an ancient profession, but until recently it has lacked formal organisation.  Between 1999 and 2002 the UK conservation community put in place some significant changes that saw the emergence of an authoritative professional institute and a rigorous qualifying process that was independent of entry-routes, making it accessible to both academically-qualified conservators and those who had trained in studios and workshops.  The approaches taken by conservation have influenced other professions particularly where they want to create experienced practitioner entry-routes and base qualifying on standards of practice.  I have worked with the conservation bodies since 1998 to provide some of the intellectual leadership for these developments, and have also drawn on them for use in other fields.  The following papers report on the first decade of development; conservation also features in the reports referred to above and in the section on professional competence.

    Putting conservation’s professional qualification in context”, The Conservator  31, 5-15 (2008)

    "Becoming a profession: conservation in the United Kingdom", Journal of the Society of Archivists 23 (1), 87-94 (2002)

    The Professional Accreditation of Conservator-Restorers", Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education  24 (4), 411-423 (2000).

External site:  Icon (The Institute of Conservation).

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Case-study: architecture

During the twentieth century architecture moved to a dominant sequential entry-pattern, with trainee architects completing a full-time bachelor’s degree (Part 1), spending a year in practice, returning to university for a two-year master’s degree (Part 2), then working for two or more years while taking a part-time course and completing a final assessment (Part 3).  Architecture has continued to define its requirements in terms of these three ‘parts’, limiting flexibility.  In 2023 a consultation was launched by the Architects Registration Board on a simplified approach based on two sets of criteria, one for academic learning and one for practice.  I worked with ARB on standards and criteria between 2017 and 2022, and my assessment of the context, issues and ways forward are in the following article:

    “Architecture in the UK:  a study in professional entry-routes and entry-gates”, Higher Education, Skills and Work-based Learning  12 (1), 1-12 (2022).

External site:  Architects Registration Board.

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Case-study: family mediation

Family mediation emerged in the 1970s largely in response to changes in UK divorce laws that allowed for negotiated settlements.  By the 1990s various associations for mediators existed, in addition to those intended primarily for lawyers but also catering for lawyer-mediators.  In 2013 a project was initiated by the Family Mediation Council, funded by the Department for Justice and with me as consultant, designed to revise and strengthen the systems and procedures used for what collectively might be called self-regulation – how family mediators are trained and approved, rules for admitting currently-qualified practitioners and those from other jurisdictions, the regulations for maintaining approval (including ongoing professional development), and the rules for responding to complaints and removing defaulting practitioners. 

  Professional organisation and self-regulation in family mediation”, Family Law (2014)

External site:  Family Mediation Council.  

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New technology and professions

Various predictions have been made about the pending effect of new technology on professional work.  This paper in Professions and Professionalism gives my take on this area and why I think some predictions are wide of the mark.  I haven’t yet seen anything in subsequent ‘AI’ developments that make me want to revise my analysis, and if anything they illustrate both for the potential to use technology in new ways and the need for strong oversight of analyses and decisions made by machines.

  “New technology and professional work”, Professions and Professionalism (2020)

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© Stan Lester 2023