The Association of University Administrators is to become an accrediting body that will award different grades of membership in a move it hopes will offer members an advantage in the job market.
At its annual general meeting on 2 April, held during the association's annual conference in Manchester, members agreed to plans that will make the body more like the Chartered Management Institute and other professional organisations.
The association is currently made up of ordinary members and fellows, but from 1 August members will be able to become "accredited" by working for at least 25 hours on improving at least three of the AUA's "professional behaviours" including "working with people", "embracing change" and "providing direction".
Alison Robinson Canham, the AUA's executive director, said members wanted "more opportunities to engage in professional development, and recognition for it".
Given that some universities saw membership in the AUA as a desirable attribute for job applicants, she said, so it was hoped that accredited membership would give job applicants an advantage.
Accreditation will be earned through attending training days and AUA events, and seeking out new challenges at work.
"It becomes a very useful way of demonstrating...commitment to your professionalism," she said.
Under the new system, to become fully fledged fellows of the AUA, members must show they have improved in all nine professional behaviours and helped to develop the skills of others. At present, fellows are appointed in recognition of their contribution to the AUA or the administrative profession.
Ms Robinson Canham said the AUA would create a pool of people, possibly existing fellows, who would approve bids for accredited membership and advise unsuccessful applicants on strengthening their bids.
There would be a charge for accreditation, but it would cover only the associated costs and not generate any income for the AUA, she said.
She acknowledged that there was a risk that some administrators could be irked if it becomes important or necessary to join the AUA to advance their careers.
But more generally, the new system was designed to give administrators a "parity of esteem and status" to academics and other professionals, such as managers and engineers, who already have professional bodies accrediting their skills, said Ms Robinson Canham.
She said the AUA was working to make university administration a "career of choice, a respected career", adding that "not enough is made of the common purpose" shared by administrators and academics.
Calling for "mutual respect" between the two groups, she said administrators had been "historically described as what you are not, rather than what you are".
The AUA has some 4,000 members, representing around 10 per cent of administrative staff in the UK whose roles are unique to higher education, such as student registrars, academic quality assurance staff, and learning and teaching administrators.
The association is seeking to expand its membership and Ms Robinson Canham acknowledged that there was still "a way to go".