IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


International Professional Certificate in School Leadership

Delivered world-wide, International Professional Certificate in School Leadership (IPCSL) provides international recognition for leadership development and professional achievement.

UCL Students doing research

This programme has grown from the successful National Professional Qualifications for School Leadership in England and is contextualised to ensure it is relevant for different education systems.

The IPCSL programme is usually delivered in partnership with host organisations such as Ministries of Education, NGOs, School Trusts and other groups of schools.


Who is the programme for?

The international school leadership programmes at IOE are designed to give organisations a flexible approach to developing school leadership.

IPCSL requires a host organisation who will work with IOE to customise the programme to ensure that it is relevant to national education policy and contributes to the strategic priorities of the host organisation.

IPCSL will support school leaders to develop the skills, knowledge, understanding and confidence they will need in order to be a highly effective senior leader within the context of a specific ministry of education, NGO, school group or trust.

IPCSL is most suitable for senior school leaders with cross-school responsibilities, for example:

  • a newly appointed school principal
  • a vice-principal
  • a curriculum head, or
  • other senior staff.

It is also suitable for staff identified as having the potential to become senior leaders in the near future.

What is the structure of the programme?

The programme will be different in each place of delivery as it will be customised to meet different contexts. However, there is a core structure.

Core programme

The core programme includes: 

  • completion of four modules
  • an in-school, research-based project
  • attendance at online sessions and
  • final assessment.


Delivery includes two intensive workshops of five days duration, separated by around four to six months. Each day includes 6 hours of module delivery using a variety of approaches including lectures and activity based adult learning.

Each workshop will be facilitated by two highly experienced members of IOE faculty and supported by local experts.

The programme also requires attendance at online activities including monthly web-based seminars.

Programme delivery is normally in English. However, it may be possible to deliver the programme through translation and for materials to be provided in other languages.

Breakdown by month 

Each programme will last for between 9 and 12 months and contain the key elements below.

Month 1

  • Pre-course development with the host organisation

Month 3

  • Pre-course reading and preparatory activities for participants

Month 4

  • Face-to-face delivery of modules one and two

Month 5-11 

  • School-based research project
  • Ongoing support from IOE tutors
  • Online seminars

Month 12

  • Face-to-face delivery of modules three and four
  • Assessment of individual participants
  • Presentation of certificate of completion
How is IPCSL customised to meet different contexts across the world?

IOE will work with the host organisation to review their strategic priorities for school leadership development and will discuss a number of ways in which the programme will be developed to meet unique needs. This will include:

  • an assessment of existing school leadership standards and competencies in the country or organisation which will be compared to the latest international research
  • choice of language of delivery
  • choice of target group of participants
  • programme design including tailoring of modules to meet contextual needs and agreeing the content of the web based seminars
  • the exact number of participants (usually between 30-60)
  • logistical arrangements.
What are the modules?

The IPCSL has a modular structure. Each module has a core based on best practice and international research but will be tailored to meet local needs and linked to existing school leadership standards or frameworks where they are available.

All participants will be required to study the same four modules.


  • Succeeding in Senior Leadership
  • Improving the Quality of Teaching
  • Leading and managing people, resources, change and improvement
  • Improving the school through evaluation and staff development.

Blended learning 

Each module provides opportunities to access up to 50 hours of blended learning. This consists of:

  • essential reading
  • analysis of individual leadership style and objectives providing the foundations for targeted leadership development in individual schools
  • facilitated face-to-face learning involving lecture, activity, role play, problem-solving, case study and discussion
  • online learning including access to online networks, research publications, practical resources and activities
  • workplace learning including projects and action research.
How will participants be assessed?

This is a non-credit bearing programme; successful participants receive an IOE certificate of programme completion.

The final assessment will be based on a strategic leadership project undertaken within the participant’s own school. The project should be based on the learning from the programme and will require a brief report to be submitted, as well as a presentation during the final part of the programme.

During the final assessment participants need to demonstrate that they are able to deliver successful and sustainable school improvement within their school and demonstrate how the programme has contributed to improvement of their own leadership skills.

The assessment is in English or, where agreed, in other languages.

What is the workload?

Those committing to the programme will have additions to their workload. However, this will be within reasonable limits.

Participants will need to attend all modules to be successful and also undertake the leadership school-based project and participate in any online discussions. They will also be required to complete some additional reading.

The school-based project should not be about additional work but about development of leadership through required school improvement work which will be of immediate benefit to the school. Planning and reflection is central to the success of leaders.

What are the costs?

Typical programme fees for 2019-20 are approximately £3,000 per participant based on a cohort size of 30 and including final assessment. Actual fees depend on the delivery model and world-wide location.

What are the entry criteria?

It is expected that applicants will provide recent examples from their leadership roles, explain how they demonstrate success as a leader, what they feel are the key areas for development, and what they hope to achieve by completing the programme.

Individual application will be assessed against the following criteria:

  • the suitability of their existing role
  • evidence of leadership experience at an appropriate level
  • support of the sponsor i.e. school principal or member of the school board.
Where can IPCSL be delivered?

IPCSL can be delivered in most locations world-wide. The host organisation is responsible for providing the venue and training facilities.

What is UCL’s commitment to quality?

UCL has a proven successful track record in school leadership research and delivery of accredited programmes to all levels in the UK and internationally. It provides quality assurance for all of its work.

Within the IPCSL, feedback from the host organisation is actively sought at all stages.

Tutors are chosen for their particular experience and skills relevant to each programme and their work is monitored regularly by UCL.