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. The Certificate has now been reviewed and updated and we are currently reviewing the Diploma 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.

We will publish details of and timescales for the new Diploma once they have been agreed. Those learners undertaking the Diploma will carry on as normal and will be supported to complete their qualification as soon as possible.

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


Professional 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.

To download a copy of the Diploma Brochure please click here:

Diploma Brochure

extension: pdf


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 Services Practice: the Structure and functions of local government, the Law and practice of decision-making and Understanding your own working environment (learners who have already completed the Certificate will be exempt from these modules). The fourth module is Applying legislation in a democratic environment.

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

Reflection Stage – this stage 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 (Regional Adviser) who will support them through the Foundation stage of their qualification. Learners will undertake a written assignment for each of the four modules which will be marked by their Regional Adviser who will then carry out a professional discussion to test the understanding of the knowledge gained. On successful completion of this stage, the learner will then be assigned a Specialist Regional Adviser to support them in the pathway and reflection stages. Learners will need to plan and carry out the necessary research to write a 14000 – 16000 word assignment on their chosen specialist area. This will be assessed by their Specialist Regional Adviser and quality assured by the relevant Regional Co-ordinator.


It is anticipated that on average a learner, with the necessary support, will be able to complete the Diploma in approximately 2 years. There is no formal training required to achieve the qualification but learners will be required to attend an induction session and periodic meetings with their Regional and Specialist Advisers. They will also be invited to attend 3 training / networking days in the first year. It is not possible to achieve the qualification without being prepared to spend time working on it in the learners own time.


ADSO Members: £975 per year for 2 years or £1,825 for a one off payment.
Non ADSO Members: £1,050 per year for 2 years, or £2,000 for a one off payment.