NSETS – North/South Education and Training Standards – is responsible for the professional endorsement of youth work programmes on the island of Ireland

Who are NSETS?

The North South Education and Training Standards Committee for Youth Work (NSETS) was established on a cross-border basis in 2006 by the Department of Education for Northern Ireland and the Youth Affairs Unit of the Department of Education and Science (now the Department of Children and Youth Affairs).

Department of Children Equality Disability Integration and YouthDepartment of Education NINYCI

Funding to support the work of NSETS is provided by both Departments, North and South, DCYA and DENI and also through cost recovery from the Higher Education Institutions.

NSETS works to ensure and promote quality standards in the education and training of youth workers through an endorsement process based on a rigorous assessment of all aspects of programme content and delivery.

NSETS professional endorsement represents a formal recognition by the youth work sector that programmes of study in youth work have met prescribed criteria and are fit-for purpose.

  • Institutions submit an application for professional endorsement to the NSETS based on set criteria and a panel of sectoral experts (which includes academics and educators, managers, practitioners and other stakeholders) considers its content.
  • The panel visits the institution and conducts a series of interviews with the management, programme developers, tutors, students, practice teachers and other stakeholders to determine if the programme and infrastructure supporting it meet the NSETS standards for professional formation. Additional documentary and observational data may also be collected.
  • Endorsement may be conditional on specified improvements or amendments to programmes. Endorsed programmes are subject to annual monitoring and to a full re-endorsement exercise every five years.

The North/South Education and Training Standards Committee for Youth Work (NSETS) was launched in January 2006 by Angela Smith MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland at the time, and Síle de Valera TD, Minister of State for Youth Affairs in the Republic of Ireland. The launch was the culmination of several years of discussion between the Youth Council for Northern Ireland (YCNI) and the National Youth Work Advisory Committee (NYWAC), in consultation with the Departments of Education north and south and with other relevant interests in the youth work sector. All were agreed on the need for an all-Ireland framework for the professional endorsement of youth work education and training which would ensure and support best practice and facilitate professional mobility and exchange both on a north/south and east/west basis.

The NSETS Committee includes representation of the youth work sector in both the North and South, including both Departments (DENI and DCYA) in an ex officio capacity and representatives from HEI’s, Employers, Practitioners, etc…

Membership of NSETS, by category, is as follows:

North No. of Reps South No. of Reps
Voluntary Sector Employers 1 Higher Education 2
Youth Council for NI 2 National Youth Council of Ireland 1
Higher Education 1 Youth Work Employers 2
Education Authority 2 Youth Work Practitioners 2
Youth Work Training Board 1 Education and Training Boards 1
Union Representation 1 Ireland Association

The work of NSETS is supported by both Departments, DCYA and DENI, through the provision of funding to employ  a part time Development Officer, who is currently contracted by the National Youth Council of Ireland to carry out this role.

It is important to distinguish between professional endorsement, as dealt with in this context, and academic validation. “Endorsement” in this context signifies that specific education programmes have met the minimum standards and prescribed criteria as set out by the youth work sector through NSETS.This is not the same as academic validation which is carried out by the appropriate higher education institutions and authorities.

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Partnership Working

The ETS committees from across the UK and Ireland come together as the Joint ETS (JETS). This is a forum to share information, discuss issues relating to professional endorsement and to agree protocols for working practices.

A protocol for the mutual recognition of qualifications has been agreed in which each ETS Committee recognises endorsements conferred on programmes of professional formation by the other ETS Committees across the UK and Ireland. See Section on Mutual Recognition Protocol.

The North/South Education and Training Standards Committee for Youth Work (NSETS) is responsible for the professional endorsement of youth work programmes on the island of Ireland. Wales and England have their own education and training standards committees (commonly referred to as ETS Committees) and their own, separate, criteria for professional endorsement/validation. Scotland has a separate but similar process for the approval of higher education programmes which is carried out by the Community learning and Development (CLD) Standards Council.

Unlike other ETS Committees across the UK, the NSETS is unique in that its remit spans two political jurisdictions -Northern Ireland and Ireland.

To ensure that UK and Ireland developments have parity, the respective endorsing bodies work collaboratively and meet twice a year as the UK & Ireland Joint ETS Forum.

Membership of JETS is reserved to:

  • National Youth Agency (England)
  • North South ETS (Ireland and Northern Ireland)
  • CLD Standards Council Scotland
  • ETS Wales

Terms of Reference

The Mutual Recognition protocol allows qualifications endorsed by one ETS Committee to be recognised in all jurisdictions.

Similarly, the Joint Individual Recognition protocol provides a process of recognition for individuals obtaining a youth work qualification outside the UK and Ireland.

Graduates who hold a professional youth work qualification endorsed by one of the members of Joint ETS will automatically have their qualification recognized throughout the UK and Ireland via a Mutual Recognition Protocol agreed by Joint ETS

A programme that operates across more than one country within the UK and Republic of Ireland will submit for professional validation/endorsement through the ETS committee in which the main administrative site of the institution is located.

The Irish, English and Welsh ETS Committees are licenced to confer professional endorsement on youth work programmes by the Joint Negotiating Committee for Youth and Community Work (JNC).

The JNC* originated from recommendations in the Albemarle Committee review of the English Youth Service in 1960. It developed into its current form and structure following a major review in 1987 when it was renamed the JNC for Youth and Community Workers. The formation of the JNC represented a landmark in the emergence of youth and community work as a profession. It combined a commitment to securing high quality provision of training and qualifications with a responsibility for negotiating salaries and terms and conditions of service related to those qualifications.

The JNC’s first report in 1961 set out the various qualifications recognised as leading to the award of professionally qualified status and it is the JNC that still holds the ultimate responsibility for professional endorsement of programmes. From 1961 to 1982 the JNC both agreed the categories of qualification for recognition, and scrutinised the programmes offered bythe various higher education institutions and other bodiesproviding awards. After 1982 the detailed scrutiny ofawards on behalf of the JNC passed to the Council forEducation and Training in Youth and Community Work (CETYCW) and, in 1991, to the National Youth Agency (NYA).

The JNC entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the NSETS in 2005 and the NSETS was formally launched in 2006 by Angela Smith MP, Minister for Education for Northern Ireland and Síle de Valera TD, Minister of State for Youth Affairs in Ireland.

*The JNC has no status in Ireland except for its relationship with theNSETS. JNC terms and conditions of employment are not implementedby employers and jobs are not advertised with the requirement of a JNCrecognised qualification.

Representatives of the youth work sectors across Britain and Northern Ireland collaborated to agree a suite of updated National occupational Standards for Youth Work (NoS) in 2018/2019. While NoS have no official status in Ireland they are compatible with current youth work policy and practice throughout the island and have been taken into account in the preparation of the NSETS criteria and procedures.

NoS seek to capture and define the skills, knowledge and competences used within a work sector and form an agreed set of aspects, units and elements that are used to describe the quintessential characteristics of youth work.

NSETS Resources

NSETS Professional Focus Guidance Note

The purpose of this Guidance Note is to provide specific additional/supplementary information on ‘Professional Focus, Coherence and Structure’. This guidance should provide those educational institutions who […]

NSETS Practice Placement Guidance Note

The purpose of this Guidance Note is to provide specific additional/supplementary information on the ‘Length and Nature of Practice Placements’. This guidance provides those educational institutions […]

North South Education and Training Standards Committee for Youth Work Progress Report

This report sets out to capture the progress made on the key objectives of the North South Education and Training Standards Committee (NSETS) throughout the period […]

Contacting our team

Olive Ring

Development Officer
Administrative and Development Support to NSETS

National Youth Council of Ireland

T: 086 7807955
E: nsets@nyci.ie