Chartered Governance Qualifying Programme (Chartered Status)



The Chartered Governance Qualifying Programme (formerly CSQS) is the benchmark qualification for governance professionals. It builds a unique breadth of technical skills that equip you for a varied career at board level and validates your knowledge with an internationally respected accreditation.

Governance Professionals and Chartered Secretaries hold a range of jobs such as Corporate Counsel, Company Secretary, or Head of Governance, Risk and Compliance. What unites them is knowledge of legal and regulatory requirements, understanding of corporate strategy and structures, and the skills to support and advise, enabling directors and the board to make the right decisions.

Qualifying with ICSA gives you technical know-how, critical skills and validation of your professional knowledge. There are many routes through the qualifying programme according to your needs and background. Discover which is for you.


The ICSA Chartered Governance Qualifying Programme

The ICSA Chartered Governance Qualifying Programme is a postgraduate-level award that qualifies professionals in company secretarial practice, governance and strategic management. It is recognised across sectors and industries and offers access to a network of like-minded individuals and ongoing development opportunities through membership of ICSA: The Governance Institute.

Whether you are a recent graduate finding your way or an established lawyer seeking to build on your experience and broaden your horizon, our qualifying programme gives you access to a fascinating and rewarding career in governance. 

Many people find themselves studying the ICSA qualifying programme when swapping to a governance role mid-career, often from a legal or accountancy background. Those already in governance roles will develop the technical skills which help them in their daily work and identify opportunities for career progression.

'I felt CSQS could provide me with the foundations for a challenging and varied career… I like the fact there is a broad range of expertise within the qualification, which gives scope for sustained career experience.'
Laura Ganderton (BSC Hons.) Company Secretary, The Schools of King Edward VI in Birmingham.

ICSA Chartered Governance Qualifying Programme




Chartered status is the benchmark for company secretaries and governance professionals. It shows that you have the knowledge, skills and experience to take on a job with significant and wide-ranging responsibilities. In larger organisations, this may be within the secretariat or governance team or as part of a professional services team. In medium and smaller organisations, this may be in the sole governance or company secretarial role.


Who is it for?

Anyone is eligible to apply, but the programme rises to Level 7 (equivalent to postgraduate degree level) in the final stages. Our students include experienced professionals on the fast track, company secretaries using their experience, and individuals from law or finance transferring to governance roles. 

The full programme can take up to five years to complete, although we offer alternative routes of entry for those with relevant education or professional experience. For example, a professional with 5+ years of relevant experience may achieve accreditation within one year via the Fast Track Professional entry.


Full programme overview

The programme is divided into two levels, Part One and Part Two.

Students with a law, finance or governance background may be able to start at Part One at
Level 6 (equivalent to final year undergraduate level). You complete your learning at Part Two at Level 7 (equivalent to postgraduate degree level), developing commercial understanding through the study of risk, strategy and board dynamics.

You can view the full syllabus here. 


Am I eligible to study?

The ICSA qualifying programme has five main routes of entry. These routes take into consideration previous study, work experience and any significant exposure to the role of a governance professional or company secretary.

Routes of entry

We offer alternative routes of entry for students based on their relevant qualifications or experience.

There are six main routes into the qualifying programme:

  • Foundation Programme entry – Students who are not eligible to start the programme at Part One will need to take the Foundation Programme to start their journey to GradCG. This is set at Level 4 (equivalent to first year undergraduate level).
  • Part One entry– Those with relevant education or experience will start at Part One of the qualifying programme.
  • Related Degree entry – Law or finance graduates start at Part One and may be eligible for exemption from the law or finance module. MBA graduates start at Part One and will be assessed for other exemptions.  
  • Professional entry – Accountants or lawyers with up to five years' professional experience start as Part one and may be eligable for exemption from two modules
  • Fast Track Professional entry – Accountants or lawyers with more than five years’ post-qualifying experience may only need to complete two modules.
  • MOU entry– Members of ICSI and ICSAN may be eligible for module exemptions under our Memorandum of Understanding agreements with these organisations. 



Modules: Part ONE 

Students can choose one of the following modules:
  • Corporate governance 
  • Health service governance 
  • Not-for-profit governance 
Compulsory modules:
  • Company compliance and administration 
  • Company law 
  • Interpreting financial and accounting information 


Modules: Part TWO 

      • Risk management
      • Development of strategy
      • Boardroom dynamics


Exam information

Each subject consists of a final three hour written exam, plus 15 minutes reading time. The pass mark for each exam is 50%. 
Exam sessionsYou must register for the sessions by the deadlines below. 
Exam Sessions Deadline
November 1 October
June 1 April
ICSA exams extend over a four-day period. The next available exam session is onTuesday 27 to Friday 30 November 2018.   
CSQS and ICSA qualifying programme exam timetable
  Morning – 9.15am start Afternoon – 1.30pm start
Tuesday Financial Reporting and Analysis Financial Decision Making
Wednesday Applied Business Law Corporate Secretarial Practice
  Foundation Programme
Thursday Corporate Governance/ Health Service Governance Strategy in Practice
Friday Corporate Law Chartered Secretaries Case Study
All subjects include 15 minutes reading time + 3 hours writing time.


How do I study?

The ICSA qualifying programme is highly technical and set at a high level, so students are advised to commit approximately 150-200 hours of study for each module. Consistent learning practices are strongly recommended and incorporating a study plan allows for comfortable student progression.

Tuition or self-study options are available to all qualifying programme students, and students who register for tuition are more successful in achieving their goals on the course.



ICSA qualifying programme students who study with a tuition provider have a higher chance of passing the exams. This is the recommended study route for the qualifying programme, providing an additional support network for students.

As well as higher pass rates, benefits include:

  • Ability to submit practice papers for continued feedback and guidance

  • Attending sessions with facilitators to help set the pace of study

  • Fast, practical answers to any queries throughout the course

  • Regular contact with an expert tutor

Be sure to also register with ICSA to confirm which modules you need to take and to enter for your exams.



Self-study is also an option, where you prepare for the exam yourself.

We offer dedicated student facilities, designed to support you while you study with us:

  • Access to past past papers and suggested answers are available via MyICSA, the secure area of our website especially for ICSA students and members

  • Access to moduule-specific webinars and recordings, presented by the examiner 

  • A comprehensive study skills eBook

  • Study support webinars in areas such as planning your study and exam techniques


Achieving Chartered status

Once you have passed all the modules required, you will become a Graduate member of ICSA and will be able to use the post-nominal GradICSA, signifying your technical and analytical knowledge. This post nominal is internationally recognised.

You can apply for chartered status once you have completed six years of appropriate professional experience or three years if you also have a degree. This experience can be gained while you are studying the qualifying programme. When you become an Associate of ICSA you are then a Chartered Secretary and can use the post-nominal ACIS.


Training certificate

Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (ICSA)



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