What is a regulatory body?

A regulatory body is like a professional body but it is not a membership organisation and its primary activity is to protect the public. Unlike professional bodies, it is established on the basis of legal mandate.

Regulatory bodies exercise a regulatory function, that is: imposing requirements, restrictions and conditions, setting standards in relation to any activity, and securing compliance, or enforcement.

They cover a wide variety of professions, for example the General Medical Council registers doctors to practice medicine in the UK. Its purpose is to protect, promote and maintain the health and safety of the public by ensuring proper standards in the practice of medicine.

Not all professions are regulated. Some professions are self-regulating in that the same body both represents and regulates the profession, for example the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. However, within these professional bodies there is a clear separation between the two functions. For those that are regulated there is a restriction on your right to practice based on evidence of your qualification – physiotherapists; social workers and patent attorneys are all examples of regulated professions. With unregulated professions there is no restriction on your right to practice – these include economists and archaeologists. This does not mean you are not qualified, just that you do not need to be registered with a regulatory body in order to do your job.

Additionally some professional titles are regulated even where the profession itself is not. Examples of these are Chartered Engineer and Charted Marketer. These are awarded by professional bodies.

Individuals practicing a regulated profession need to be able to show evidence of registration with the appropriate regulatory body. Those in unregulated professions demonstrate their competence through evidence of experience or regulated education and training. Recognition is also given to those holding a ‘protected title’ in an unregulated profession; you need to demonstrate the right to use such a title.

See Access to Law for a full annotated list of regulatory bodies.

For further information UK NARIC is the National Agency responsible for providing information, advice and expert opinion on vocational, academic and professional skills and qualifications from over 180 countries worldwide is a very valuable resource.

See below for a selection of regulatory bodies in the UK: