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APM Chartered status is go: PMI’s objections are dismissed

This is going to be long, so here’s the summary:

  • APM is applying for a Royal Charter
  • PMI objected at the time
  • The Privy Council decided that they were going to recommend a Royal Charter for APM
  • PMI raised legal challenges
  • The High Court has conducted a judicial review into the objections
  • PMI’s objections have been dismissed.

Now, if you want the full story, read on.

How did we get here?

In 2007 APM announced its intention to achieve Chartered status for the project management profession. APM explains why as follows:

As a UK charity dedicated to acting for the public good, it is committed to gaining Chartered status on behalf of the project management profession in the UK.  That will secure recognition, status and enhanced standards for the profession at a time when the UK’s need for effective and efficient project sponsorship and delivery is greater than ever.

PMI made an application to object to APM receiving Chartered status and that kicked off a long process of judicial review, the results of which were announced on Thursday.

Why did PMI object?

I have searched all over for an explanation of why online, but I can only find the original email sent out to members by the PMI UK on 9 June 2012 which sets out these reasons:

  1. In order for APM to be granted Chartered status, it needs to have been judged by the Privy Council to represent most of the project management profession. APM’s acquisition of Chartered status would be an acceptance that it exclusively represents the vast majority of project managers in the UK. With over 6000 members and many more credential holders, PMI also represents a very substantial number of project managers in the UK. The Chapter’s management team expressed concern that the Privy Council has not taken into account that due to PMI’s large UK membership, APM cannot claim to represent most of the profession.
  2. It is in the public interest and the interests of the profession that there is diversity in the marketplace for project management qualifications and tools.
  3. The project management profession in the UK benefits from the plurality of approaches on offer. With a million members in 185 countries, PMI brings a unique global perspective to project management to its UK members, something that APM, as a UK-only organisation, cannot replicate.
  4. The Charter application process has not taken into account the views of all project managers, particularly those that utilise the global approach championed by PMI.

The first point on the list is particularly important. In 2009 the Minister of State at the Department for Business Innovation and Skills notified the Privy Council Office that his department did not recommend granting Chartered status to APM because of this reason – APM should have as members most of the eligible field for membership and he didn’t feel this criteria was met.

You need a unanimous decision in order for a Charter to be granted. Without the support of the Department of Business Innovation and Skills there was not going to be a unanimous decision and APM put its application on hold.

So what happened?

Well, APM did some lobbying. The government changed, new people got put in charge, the departments involved were reorganised and someone new looked at the evidence again. In 2011 the Department for Business Innovation and Skills withdrew its objection.

PMI’s concern that the Royal Charter will result in an anti-competitive advantage for APM’s members was rejected. While PMI and APM compete for membership and membership fees, the representative from the Office of Government Commerce said that it would be in the public interest for the APM to be granted Chartered status because:

  • It is possible to belong to both organisations
  • APM is by a considerable margin the largest project management professional body in the UK
  • The title of Chartered Project Professional would not be limited to members of APM.

With a unanimous approval now on the cards, APM asked for its application to be taken off hold and to be considered by the Privy Council.

What did the Privy Council decide?

The Privy Council considered the application and the objections and came to a decision. On 4 July last year the Treasury Solicitor (who works on behalf of the Privy Council and the Cabinet Office) notified PMI that they would be recommending to the Queen that APM are granted a Royal Charter. This recommendation was due to go on the agenda for a meeting in October 2013.

PMI challenged that decision – three of their challenges were rejected out of hand and two were maintained. This meant that those two claims had to be fully assessed, so the Chartered status application went before a judicial review earlier this month.

So PMI challenged again? What did the judge decide?

Mr Justice Mitting said that he believed this was the first time that the grant or refusal of a Royal Charter has been the subject of litigation, which makes this case pretty ground-breaking!

PMI challenged on two grounds.

The first challenge: decision was biased and pre-determined

First, they alleged apparent bias (because the government might make more money from their PRINCE2 qualification as this can count towards APMP) and actual pre-determination (because there is a long history of government interactions with APM).

The judgement concluded:

No reasonable person could reasonably believe that Government support for the grant of a Royal Charter to APM could possibly be motivated by the desire to profit financially from the promotion of its own PRINCE 2 qualification. Further, even if such a motive could be inferred, it would not vitiate the decision.

I had to look up ‘vitiate’. If it’s new to you too, it means ‘weaken the effectiveness of’. So basically the government has the right to make decisions in its financial interest if it wants.

The objection that as APM and the government have worked closely together the decision was practically a given was also rejected. Mr Justice Mitting said that decisions are not made in a vacuum and that prior involvement with the APM would have influenced the decision, but that the review process conducted by government officials was robust.

The second challenge: decision was contrary to policy

The basis for PMI’s second challenge was that the recommendation to grant a Royal Charter was contrary to the Privy Council’s published policy.

Mr Justice Mitting explained a bit about the history of judicial reviews and concluded: “I cannot see how PMI’s challenge can be brought within the established framework of judicial review and I would be prepared to dismiss its claim on that ground alone.”

But he went ahead and reviewed the challenge anyway.

There are five points in the policy for bodies who are applying for Chartered status, and PMI claimed that APM failed to meet three of them. However, Mr Justice Mitting said that the policy makes it clear that these are guidelines and that each case will be decided on merit. Therefore an application that looks like it doesn’t meet the published policy won’t automatically fail.

Mr Justice Mitting dismissed the claims.

What happens now?

And what does that mean? The recommendation that APM is granted Chartered status can go before the Queen’s representatives. While there might be some other steps in the application process, I think it will be ratified which means Chartered status is go.

I haven’t seen a public announcement yet from APM about the next steps for them but we await that announcement with bated breath. Watch this space…!

You can read APM’s statement online and read the whole judgement on the BAILII website.

About Elizabeth Harrin

Elizabeth HarrinElizabeth Harrin is a Fellow of the Association for Project Management in the UK and the award-winning blogger behind A Girl's Guide To Project Management. She's passionate about demystifying project management and making tools and techniques work in the real world. She's also the author of several books including the PMI bestseller, Collaboration Tools for Project Managers.

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