Between 1920 and 1987 Joint Committees, with representatives of technical colleges, professional bodies, the Board of Education and its successors, and teachers' organizations, were formed to oversee curricula and examinations lending to the award of National Certificates and Diplomas in vocational subjects such as banking, printing, and branches of engineering. In 1973 this responsibility passed to the Technician Education and Business Education Councils (was the Business and Technician Education Council) and the Joint Committees gradually disbanded.
Most Joint Committees were serviced by the professional body involved; some were serviced by the education departments and, from 1973, the City and Guilds of London Institute.
In the period following the First World War, a need was felt for a new system of technical courses and examinations. The National Certificate system was designed to provide qualifications of national standing which allowed teachers a greater degree of flexibility than that possible with wholly external examinations, and in which course work, both written and practical, would count. It was hoped that the system would fill the growing need of industry for well educated technicians and for more men at professional level than the universities were then providing. To meet these aims, the active participation of the professional bodies was sought and the concept (at that time revolutionary) was introduced of colleges initiating syllabuses, and setting and marking examinations with a minimum acceptable standard being assured by external assessment conducted under arrangements made by the professional institutions.
The first Joint Committee was formed in 1920 when the Board of Education and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers combined to consider courses set up by certain technical colleges. The first National Certificate and Diploma examinations, set and marked by the colleges with the papers and scripts assessed by specialists appointed by the Institution, were taken in 1922. Other schemes followed in the early 1920s.
In 1927 a Committee under the Chairmanship of the Duchess of Atholl was appointed to investigate and report on the whole structure of the examination system in the field of technical education for part-time students, including the National Certificate system, on which it reported favourably. More certificate and diploma schemes were introduced in the succeeding years, especially in the period during and after the Second World War. All had the same characteristics: each was separately negotiated and each had its own Joint Committee which was an association of the technical colleges, central government and one or more professional institutions.
The Committees operated without any formal constitution. They were simply groups representing various interested bodies, established in order to oversee the National Certificates and Diplomas (with, in a few cases, additional responsibility for craft level courses) and able to act only by mutual consent of all members. Each committee had at least one HM Inspector representing Department of Education and Science (DES) and teacher members normally proposed by the Association of Colleges of Further Education, the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education and the Association of Principals of Colleges. The DES had 'founder member' status (normally anybody mentioned in the preamble to the rules) and by withdrawing from any committee would thereby dissolve it.
In 1967 the Haslegrave Committee on Technician Courses and Examinations was set up by the National Advisory Council on Education for Industry and Commerce, to review technical education provided by the Joint Committees and by the City and Guilds of London Institute. Its report led to the establishment of the Technician Education Council and the Business Education Council in 1973.
Their brief was to plan and develop new national systems of courses and awards for technicians in industry and and those at craft and technician levels in business and commerce. Initially these councils were administered by the City and Guilds of London Institute, which also took over responsibility for the joint committees. In 1983 the councils, by now independent, merged to form the Business and Technician Education Council (BTEC). Its provision of courses has led to the dissolution of the joint committees.
The dissolution of the last Joint Committee took place in the autumn of 1987.