ADSO offer two qualifications for those working in Democratic Services: Certificate in Democratic Services Knowledge and a Diploma in Local Democracy.

These were launched by ADSO in 2009  / 11 to fill the gap in the sector for a professional qualification. Since their introduction the ADSO Centres have kept a close eye on the content, refreshing the qualifications as required by the introduction of new legislation. Both qualifications have now been reviewed and updated in order to:

  • update the its structure, content and currency to make it more relevant and more sustainable in the future
  • improve completion rates
  • attempt to address the issue of shortage of advisors to support learners,
  • improve access to learning materials – e learning for example
  • rationalise administration and related processes

The management of the new qualifications has been outsourced by ADSO to South West Councils.

Please contact Sue Keogh, ADSO Director of Development on if you require any further information.


NEW ADSO Diploma in Local Democracy


Target Audience

There are no formal entry requirements for undertaking the Diploma but a learner would ideally possess an in depth knowledge of the main democratic functions and have a number of year’s experience of working in the sector.


Structure of the qualification

To achieve the Diploma, learners must work through the three stages below:

Foundation Stage – this part is mandatory and comprises of the following 3 modules from the Certificate in Democratic Knowledge:

Structures and Functions of Local Government, Role of Council and its Governance Arrangements, Members and Officers in Local Government

Learners who have already completed the new Certificate will be exempt from these modules. The fourth module is Development and impact of Local Democracy legislation

Pathway Stage – at this stage the learner selects a desired specialist pathway from the following options:

Governance arrangements, Overview and scrutiny, Regulatory framework, Ethical framework, Member development, Member support and Civic support.

They initially complete a Research module to enable them to plan effectively for their specialist project.

Reflection Stage – this module enables the learner to reflect on their learning outcomes from the project and assess and evaluate their recommendations and conclusions.


Gaining the Diploma

Each learner will be assigned an Assessor who will support them through their qualification. Learners will undertake a written assignment for each of the four modules which will be marked by their Assessor who will may carry out a professional discussion to test the understanding of the knowledge gained. On successful completion of the Foundation stage, the learner will then need to plan and carry out the necessary research to write a 12000 – 14000 word dissertation on their chosen specialist area.


The pilot cohort of learners started in October 2017 and are working to a set timescale for completion by October 2019.  There is no formal training required to achieve the qualification but learners will be required to take part in the induction session and may wish to attend any relevant courses or conferences.  It is not possible to achieve the qualification without being prepared to spend time working on it in the learners own time.


ADSO Members: £1335 + VAT
Non ADSO Members: £1635 + VAT


Expressions of interest

It is likely that the next cohort of Diploma learners will start in October 2018 but If you would like to register your interest in the qualification, please email Sue Crosland at SW Councils: with the following information:

  • Name
  • Job title and Authority
  • Contact telephone number and email address
  • Reasons for wanting to undertake the qualification
  • CV providing an overview of experience in Democratic Services