We recognise that the development of a formal sensory qualification greatly enhances the credibility and professional status of those working in this field. As a starting point, we felt that consistent standards and proper guidance about the quality and content of courses would be valuable. Our examination structure and certificate of achievement provides individuals with tangible benefits from attending these courses.
Foundation, Intermediate and Advanced Levels
IFST's Sensory Science Group's accreditation scheme for those working in sensory science was launched in 2004 with the provision of the Foundation and Intermediate syllabi and these have become acknowledged professional qualifications that signify the status of individuals in sensory science. The addition in 2014 of the Register of Professional Sensory Scientists (RSensSci) as a third higher tier into the scheme provides a level of professional recognition previously unavailable in the sensory science field.
Our accreditation scheme is currently available for foundation and intermediate level courses, with the ultimate goal of implementing the scheme to advanced level. Basic guidelines are also available for Acceptance Testing and Quality Assurance training.
What is ‘Foundation Level’?
Courses deemed to be appropriate for accreditation at foundation level are likely to be offered for the following purpose:
- A starting point for people wishing to pursue a career in sensory science
- A refresher for technicians currently working in sensory science
- An overview for food managers wishing to become more involved with sensory departments.
What is ‘Intermediate Level’?
Courses, or combinations of courses, deemed to be appropriate for accreditation at Intermediate level are likely to be offered for the following purposes:
- Professional development for those attaining foundation level
- Training for technicians and newly qualified graduates attaining positions in sensory or related departments.
Who can apply for accreditation?
Any organisation (consortium) providing sensory training/education e.g. academic institutions, research associations, commercial operations can apply to have their courses accredited by the IFST. The accreditation is awarded to a named organisation for a specified sensory training course or combination of training courses. It will also be linked to the named course co-ordinator, providing evidence of their continuing professional development (CPD).
What are the accreditation criteria?
Accreditation is to a specified standard that has been set out in a syllabus format. The syllabus has been developed with collaboration from many sensory scientists representing academic, research and manufacturing environments. It embodies a wealth of practical experience and specialised knowledge. The syllabi are divided into sections that represent the key fundamental areas of study required at Foundation and Intermediate level:
Additional criteria include:
- Quality of teaching and range of practical activities
- Qualifications and experience of course co-ordinator and trainers.
- Competence in the risk assessment of health and safety issues and awareness of ethical issues in the sensory assessment of food and non-food products.
When should I submit my course for accreditation?
Organisations should submit their course/s for accreditation when they are happy that it satisfies all the learning outcomes specified in the syllabus.
How do I submit my course for accreditation?
When ready to submit, organisations should complete and return the course documentation submission form (CDSF), included in the accreditation pack, together with a syllabus coverage form, an outline of the course/courses examples of course notes and practical activities, a personal profile/CV for course co-ordinator and additional trainers, and any other additional information it is felt will support the application.
When completing the CDSF, organisations will be asked to select three appropriate sensory committee members to assess their course material.
All documentation should be sent by email to JoinUs@ifst.org
What happens after I have submitted my application?
The course material will be distributed (with agreement) to two of the selected committee members. One of these people will act as the main contact for the remainder of the accreditation process. It will be their responsibility to keep the organisation appraised of progress and to provide additional support and information.
Following examination of the submitted material, a preliminary report will be sent to the organisation highlighting any strengths and weaknesses and any areas that require amendment prior to accreditation.
Will anyone need to visit me?
Following the preliminary report, the IFST representative will contact the organisation to arrange a date for an accreditation visit. The purpose of the visit is to see the course being delivered; this may encompass all or part of the course but will include both lectured and practical elements. The visit can be organised to tie in with existing timetables or, if no suitable date exists, the course can be run using internal staff as delegates.
During the visit the IFST representative will confirm that:
- The necessary material is being delivered to the delegates/students/staff as determined by the syllabus.
- The course contains a suitable practical element.
- Trainers/lecturers are appropriately qualified and delivering the necessary material effectively i.e. using a variety of teaching methods and audio-visual aids.
What happens after the visit?
Information gained during the visit will be used, together with the course submission documentation, to complete a course evaluation form. The form constitutes a record of the accreditation process and will be used to determine whether or not the organisation has been successful.
When will I hear about the final outcome?
IFST will forward a copy of the course evaluation form and notify the organisation of their accreditation status normally within 10 working days.
Successful organisations will be issued with an electronic IFST Certificate of Accreditation, valid for three years. This will state the name of the organisation, the level of accreditation, the specific course title/s. An accompanying letter will list recognised trainers. Unsuccessful organisations will be invited to reapply for accreditation subject to the standard conditions set out above.
Is there a review?
The accreditation will be reviewed on a tri-annual basis to ensure that the training standards continue to be met. This provides an opportunity to scrutinise any candidate feedback forms collected by the training providers and to discuss examination pass rates for the previous years.
Typically, the IFST representative involved in the original accreditation will carry out the review. If this is not possible then the responsibility will pass to another member of the PFSG, subject to prior approval by the relevant organisation.
The IFST representative will contact the organisation to request a short report, reviewing courses run during the past years. The report should include:
- Feedback from trainers and delegates/students
- Details of amendments to course material and practical sessions
- Details of changes to course co-ordinator and associated trainers/lecturers
The IFST representative will use the report to complete a course review document, which will be used to determine accreditation status for the coming years.
NOTE: At the discretion of the IFST representative, a review visit may be arranged for the following reasons:
- A significant change to the course material
- A new course co-ordinator
- Continued failure to meet examination pass marks
IFST will notify the organisation of their accreditation status and, where appropriate forward an updated certificate of accreditation for the forthcoming years. Organisations that have had their accreditation rescinded will be invited to reapply for review, subject to the standard review conditions set out above.
It will be the course providers duty to discuss with the IFST if they are unable to run a course in a certain year. If the course provider does not communicate with the IFST, they will get in touch with the course provider to discuss. In exceptional circumstances, course providers will be allowed to miss a year but must run a course within 2 years.
How much does it cost?
Examination at Foundation level will be a mixture of multiple choice and short answer questions. It is envisaged that the paper will take 45 minutes to complete.
Examination at Intermediate level will also be a mixture of multiple choice and short answer questions. taking 1 hour to complete.
Who sets the exam paper?
The Professional Food Sensory Group Training & Examination sub-committee will set papers that can be used in random rotation throughout the year.
How do I apply for exam papers?
An examination pack will be forwarded to accredited organisations upon request and notification of examination date (papers will not be issued to organisations unless they are in possession of a current Letter of Accreditation). This pack will include:
- The number of papers requested
- Model answers/marking scheme
Who can sit the exam?
Candidates attending accredited training courses can opt to sit the examination and gain the IFST ‘Foundation or Intermediate Certificate in Sensory Science’. Examinations can only be hosted by organisations in possession of a current Letter of Accreditation. The decision to allow delegates from previous years access to sit the examination will be at the discretion of the accredited organisation. The cost of sitting the examination, and subsequent certification, will be £15 per person.
How will the papers be marked?
Completed papers will be marked by the course co-ordinator and returned to IFST, together with the fee for all papers requiring certification. The Sensory Assessment Panel will check all returned papers for the 1st year of accreditation to ensure that the marking scheme has been used correctly. After this time, a minimum of 3 or 25% (whichever is the larger) of the returned papers will be checked. Similarly, any responses that the trainer(s) find difficult to mark can be highlighted for the committee’s attention. Successful candidates will be awarded a pass (min 50%) or a credit (70%). Unsuccessful candidates can arrange with the training provider to retake the examination, however, a new examination pack will need to be issued. IFST will issue an electronic certificate for each successful candidate.
These organisations offer accredited sensory training courses:
MMR Research Worldwide
University of Lincoln, Risholme College
University of Reading
University of Nottingham
University of Reading
University of Nottingham
What happens if I make changes to the course?
It is the responsibility of the organisation to notify IFST of any substantial changes to the course material. Minor changes will be dealt with at the time of the review whereas major changes/re-write may trigger an early review.
What happens if I change my course co-ordinator?
It is the responsibility of the organisation to notify the IFST of any changes in course co-ordinator for an accredited training course. Subsequent changes to the paperwork will be dealt with at the next review.
Will the Syllabus change?
The syllabus content will be evaluated on a tri-annual basis to ensure that the information is current and of continued relevance. Organisations will be encouraged to give feedback relating to the syllabus and any potential changes will be discussed with accredited course co-ordinators. Six months notice will be given before changes to the syllabus will need to be implemented.
Are my documents confidential?
All documentation pertaining to a training course will be stored with IFST and confidentiality will be preserved at all times.
IFST will keep a record of accredited organisations, named trainers/lecturers, date of accreditation and due date of review.
IFST will store the following documentation:
- Course Documentation - Submission Form and associated course documents
- Course audit form (A2) (if required) Letter(s) of accreditation (past and present)
- Course Review document
IFST will keep a record of:
- Organisation and individual requesting an examination pack
- Date of examination pack issued
- Identity of examination paper issued
- Number of papers issued
- Number of completed papers returned
- Number of fail/pass/credit marks
- Number of certificates issued
We will store the completed examination papers for a minimum of six years.