The Fundamental Principles

(IAA Foundation MOU 2016 - Figure 3)
  • The criterion for gaining a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award is individual improvement through persistence and achievement, taking into account the participant's initial capabilities, and without any element of competition between participants
  • Participation is entirely voluntary and the individual participant has a completely free choice in the selection of locally available options within the four Sections as specified under the Operational Principles
  • Subject to age parameters, the Award is open to all

The Guiding Principles

(Handbook 7th Edition)
There are ten guiding principles that underpin the philosophy of the Award. They are designed to ensure that a young person has a meaningful and purposeful journey through their Award, as well as ensuring that the impact of achieving their Award provides a lasting personal legacy. The Award's guiding principles are as follows:
  1. Individual
    Individuals design their own programme, which can be tailored to suit their personal circumstances, choices and local provision. They start at whichever level suits them best and they can take as long as they wish (within the age limit) to achieve their Award.
  2. Non-competitive
    Doing their Award is a personal challenge and not a competition against others. Every participant's programme is tailor-made to reflect their individual starting point, abilities and interests.
  3. Achievable
    An Award is achievable by any individual who chooses to take up the challenge, regardless of ability, gender, background or location, with the right guidance and inspiration. Self-disciplined, self-management, self-motivated, focused, having a sense of purpose, persistent, self-controlled etc.
  4. Voluntary
    Whilst the Award may be offered within school, college, work time, custody or extracurricular activity, individuals choose to do a programme and must commit some of their free time to undertake their activities.
  5. Developmental
    Participating in their Award programme fosters personal and social development. Individuals gain valuable experiences and life skills, grow in confidence and become more aware of their environment and community transforming them in to responsible young adults.
  6. Balanced
    The Award provides a balanced framework to develop the individual’s mind, body and community spirit by engaging them in four activities at Bronze and Silver levels, and five activities at Gold Level.
  7. Progressive
    At each level, the Award demands progressively more time, commitment and responsibility from the participant.
  8. Inspirational
    The Award inspires individuals to exceed their expectations. They are encouraged to set their own challenges and goals before starting an activity, aim for these goals and by showing improvement will move towards achieving an Award.
  9. Persistence
    The Award requires persistence and cannot be completed with a short burst of enthusiasm. Participants are encouraged to continue with activities and to maintain their interest beyond their programme requirements.
  10. Enjoyable
    Participants and Leaders should find the Award enjoyable, fulfilling and rewarding.

The Operations Principles

(Handbook 7th Edition)
  • Participants must be between 14 and 24 years of age.
  • The basic structure of the Award consists of the four mandatory sections: Voluntary Service, Skills, Physical Recreation and Adventurous Journey.
  • There are three levels of Award: Bronze (for those aged 14 or over), Silver (for those aged 15 or over) and Gold (for those aged 16 or over).
  • The minimum period of participation for direct entrants to qualify for an Award is six months for Bronze, 12 months for Silver, and 18 months for a Gold Award.
  • At Gold level, participants must undertake a Gold Residential Project away from home

The Code of Practice

(Handbook 7th Edition)
All operators and deliverers of the Award must:
  • Maintain comparable standards of operating practice as advised by The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award.
  • Manage the Award fairly and impartially in all respects.
  • Ensure that the Award is open to all, subject to the age parameters.

Since its beginnings in 1956, the Program has developed and grown, extending to reach young people in over 130 countries and territories. A current list of organisations that use the Award can be found online at