Review of Academic Programme Validation of certain Complementary Therapies

The report of the Review of the academic programme validation of certain complementary therapies, commissioned by the Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC) and the Department of Health, has been published today (Wednesday, 5th September 2012) on HETAC’s website (

The review was commissioned in 2011 and conducted by SMCI Associates of East Lothian, Scotland, who were the successful bidders in a competitive tendering process. It focuses on the academic validation of five specific complementary therapies: Osteopathy, Chiropractic, Acupuncture, Herbal Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine.

The terms of reference of the research/review were:

  1. An identification of all academically accredited/validated programmes of higher education provided by higher education institutions (HEIs) in Ireland; in the UK; in comparable HEIs in countries that have established national frameworks verified as compatible with the Bologna qualifications framework; in Australia; and in New Zealand, in the areas of complementary therapies at the time the research commences. This research should take as its primary focus five fields; the three specific complementary therapies identified by the Department of Health and Children Working Group Report – acupuncture, herbal medicine and traditional Chinese medicine and two additional fields osteopathy and chiropractic.
  2. To identify all academically accredited/validated programmes of higher education in the same jurisdictions, where, since 2005 validation has been withdrawn or refused or where validated provision has ceased over the last five years, and an analysis of the reasons for this, whether these be driven by academic, market, political, reputational or scientific concerns.
  3. Drawing on the information and analysis in 1 and 2 above, to suggest criteria for the identification of fields which have the academic and professional maturity to warrant the academic validation of programmes by HETAC.

HETAC and the Department of Health held a seminar in May 2012 to present stakeholders with the preliminary draft research findings and interested parties can make known their views on the final report by email to: on or before 30 September 2012.

The report, along with any views submitted by stakeholders, will be considered by HETAC and the Department of Health in the context of their wider responsibilities and work programmes.




HETAC (the Higher Education and Training Awards Council) is the qualifications awarding body for third-level education and training institutions outside the university sector. It exists to benefit learners and potential learners by:

  • Setting standards, accrediting programmes and awarding qualifications at all levels of higher education and training;
  • Providing assurance to the public that programmes of higher education and training are above an acceptable threshold level of quality and that objective quality assurance processes are in place to meet the expectations of Irish Society and the International Community;
  • Delivering a quality improvement service to registered educational providers so as to contribute to raising standards to increasingly higher levels.
  • Its validation and standards determination functions will shortly become the responsibility of a new body, the Qualifications and Quality Assurance Authority of Ireland, which is to be established under the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Act 2012.

Regulatory position of complementary therapy and alternative medicine

There is no statutory register of approved complementary practitioners in Ireland. General policy on complementary therapy is informed by the Report of the National Working Group on the Regulation of Complementary Therapists (December 2005). It made recommendations on strengthening the regulatory environment for complementary therapists. To support the development of robust voluntary self-regulation, the Report outlined guidance for professional associations and provided examples of codes of ethics and good practice, including grievance and disciplinary procedures.

Having carefully considered the Report of the National Working Group the Minister for Health’s primary concern is the most effective way to regulate this sector which still allows people freedom of choice but protects their safety. Therefore, the Department of Health supports greater voluntary self-regulation for all such therapies

The Department makes available an information leaflet on complementary therapy to assist consumers in making an informed health choice.

While complementary therapists are not subject to statutory professional regulation, they are subject to legislation, similar to other practitioners, including consumer protection, health and safety, competition, contract and criminal law.