ADSO offer two qualifications programmes  for those working in Democratic Services:

  • Certificate in Democratic Services Knowledge
  • Diploma in Local Democracy

It is important to note that these are both distance learning programmes and all assignments are written.

Whilst there are no mandatory training events for learners to attend as part of this programme, ADSO offer a range of training courses and webinars that might be of interest.

 ADSO Diploma in Local Democracy

Target Audience
There are no formal entry requirements for undertaking the Diploma, but a learner must possess an in depth knowledge of the main democratic functions and have a number of years’ experience working in the sector. Whilst it depends on the nature of the experience gained, the expectation is that applicants will have a minimum of 5 years’ experience in a senior DS role. ADSO also recommend that leaners consider completing the Certificate in Democratic Services Knowledge prior to applying for the Diploma.

Please note: the Diploma is a significant programme. The assignments require learners to make their own judgements about the assignment questions, providing researched evidence as well as own opinion and argument. Learners must therefore have a deep understanding of their area of work so that they can engage with their research rather than accepting what is says without questioning. The assignments also expect detailed examination and evaluation of other people’s ideas, theories, and studies to be included. If you are unsure if the Diploma is right for you do consider if the Certificate programme or any of the ADSO training courses would be more appropriate.

Structure of the Diploma
To achieve the Diploma, learners must work through the four stages below:

Foundation Stage – this part is mandatory and comprises the following 4 modules:

  1. Structures and Functions of Local Government
  2. Role of Council and its Governance Arrangements,
  3. Members and Officers in Local Government
  4. The Development and Impact of Local Democracy Legislation

Learners who have already completed the Certificate programme will be exempt from the first three modules.

Research Planning Stage
Before commencing their specialist dissertation pathway, learners will initially complete a Research Planning module to enable them to plan effectively for their specialist project.

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

  1. Governance arrangements
  2. Overview and scrutiny
  3. Regulatory framework
  4. Ethical framework
  5. Member development
  6. Member support
  7. Civic support
  8. Partnership Working and Community Engagement.

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

Guide to the Diploma in Local Democracy Oct 2024

extension: pdf

Gaining the Diploma
Each learner will be assigned an Assessor who will support them through their programme. Learners will undertake a written assignment for each of the four modules which will be marked by their Assessor who 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. Please note that, currently, the assessment criteria are based on English legislation which may make it harder for learners from Wales or Scotland to gain the required knowledge.

It is anticipated that the Diploma programme  will take two years to complete.  There is no formal training required to achieve the programme, 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 complete the programme without being prepared to spend time working on it in the learners own time.

Current cost

There are two pricing structures:

1. For Learners who have previously achieved the ADSO Certificate in Democratic Knowledge and are exempt from the first three modules of the Diploma:

ADSO Members: £1295 + VAT
Non ADSO Members: £1625 + VAT

2. For Learners who have not previously achieved the ADSO Certificate in Democratic Knowledge and will be completing all modules:

ADSO Members: £1550 + VAT
Non ADSO Members: £1880 + VAT

A limited number of bursaries are available for ADSO members – please go the Bursaries web page for information. Submission deadlines apply.

The next cohort of Diploma learners will start in October 2024 and potential learners are asked to submit a formal application form, supported by their line manager, by Monday 1 July 2024 to be considered – an email simply asking to be placed on programme is not sufficient. Application forms are logged on a strictly first come, first served basis. Please note, however, that the submission of a formal application doesn’t guarantee a place on programme as this is dependent on assessor availability. When we know how many places we can offer we will be in touch to confirm if a place can be allocated or give you the opportunity of being carried forward to the next cohort. This is usually in August/September for the Diploma progrrame.

If you would like to apply for a place on the Diploma programme, please do so by completing the application form below and emailing it to Sue Crosland at South West Councils: along with an up to date CV and Bursary application if applicable.

ADSO Qualifications Application Form

extension: docx

Preparing for the Diploma
ADSO strongly recommends that you book on to as many  relevant training courses or webinars as you can as they will help you prepare for your assignments.  To view the ADSO course dates please click here. You may also wish to consider attending one of upcoming the ADSO Webinars or  reviewing past webinar recordings from the 2022 programme and 2021 programme.

Extensions Policy

ADSO understands that sometimes extension requests may be necessary in certain circumstances. If learners become aware that they may require additional time to complete any of the modules they must complete an extensions request form:

ADSO Qualifications – Extensions request form

extension: docx

Before completing this form please familiarise yourself with the extension request process below:

  • Up to 6 weeks – email your completed form to your assessor as soon as possible requesting an extension. The assessor will confirm giving a specific submission date and inform South West Councils.
  • More than 6 weeks – your line manager must email your completed form to SW Councils who will refer to ADSO.

Please note:  Whilst ADSO acknowledge there may be some slippage in meeting submission deadlines, learners who fall more than 4 months behind programme may be withdrawn from programme unless there is a formal and robust request for an extension submitted by your line manager, and which is subsequently approved by ADSO.