Our history

Our history

In 2001, the respected organisational psychologist Professor Mike van Oudtshoorn saw an opportunity to apply his extensive expertise and research to the field of coaching.

He believed that coaching had the potential to provide much greater impact on individuals and organisations than the traditional assessment and feedback model and lunchtime training sessions he observed.

In order to realise the benefits of coaching, establishing coaching practice as a profession was absolutely crucial, and so i-coach Academy was created.

He understood that excellence in coaching could be achieved through the development of professional coaches.

He felt that it was the responsibility of those in the profession to educate organisations and individual clients to know what good coaching looked like.

In addition to this, he believed that investment in research specific to the field of coaching would lend even more credibility to a practice that he was passionate about.


“The aim of i-coach Academy is to create a recognised standard of academic and practice-based excellence to underpin the discipline of coaching so that practitioners and clients know how to assess the quality and effectiveness of the coaching they give or receive.” Mike van Oudtshoorn

i-coach Academy has since played an instrumental role in both establishing coaching as a profession and reinforcing it as a practice distinct from therapy, consulting or mentoring.

After a pioneer programme in South Africa, i-coach Academy expanded its offer to the UK and New York.

Dr Caroline Horner joined Mike to take the offer to the next level by both becoming the managing director of i-coach Academy.

After completing a doctorate in Coaching Psychology (the first person to have a doctorate in this field), Caroline evolved the Academy to build a coaching consultancy, i-coach, and developed the new iOpener programme.

Underpinning the creation of i-coach Academy and the masters’ degree programme which followed was the belief that “who you are is how you coach”.

Because there are so many approaches to coaching, coaches should be able to identify their unique approach, their signature presence and clearly articulate their approach through rigorous experiential research, practice and reflection.

The i-coach framework is central to the development of i-coach’s approach to professional coaching practice.

Since 2001, it has become the leading way for coaches and coach education programmes to develop coaching practice.

So too has the concept of recognising that the coach is the primary instrument in coaching practice. It is through this that a good coach and a great coach can be distinguished.

Great coaches possess self-awareness, an ability to be vulnerable and open to all types of learning. They must also be open to challenge and a commitment to continuous improvement through supervision and Continued Professional Development.

Academic rigor and an independent voice in the assessment of effective coaching practice was vital. From the very beginning, the programmes were academically accredited.

Through a partnership with Middlesex University, we offered postgraduate certificates, masters or doctoral qualifications with the Institute for Work Based Learning at the university.

As professional bodies evolved and new competency frameworks established i-coach embraced professional accreditation for its programmes too, with our accreditation partners.

Our faculty possesses deep specialist knowledge. Their practitioner experience has informed the creation of an outstanding curriculum which offers students contrasting and challenging perspectives against which to test, explore and develop their own work and voice.

In addition to the insight afforded by Mike and Caroline, we benefited from the guidance of Will McWhinney, Laurie Thomas and Sheila Harri-Augstein, Bob Lee and Roger Harrison, Prof David Lane, Bruce Peltier, David Megginson and David Sonnenberg and continue to enjoy the challenge and support of Prof Ernesto Spinelli, Dr Anton Obholzer, Dr Mee-Yan Chung Judge, Dr Eunice Aquilina, Dr Alison Whybrow and others in our team page.

Members of the i-coach faculty not only have experience of coaching education but they are coaches and consultants themselves who make frequent contact with major employers.

They are attuned to the latest developments in business, psychology and other related fields demonstrating their value of life-long learning and their willingness to understand the current demands of individuals and their organisations.

i-coach academy’s contribution to the field of coaching is a testament to the strength and clarity of Mike’s vision.

Since 2001, over 500 students have benefitted from i-coach Academy. Many have gone on to develop their own coaching education and consultancy businesses. Others have gone on to further develop the field through research, teaching and writing.

We are very proud of them all.

Today, i-coach forms the umbrella organisation for our services for organisations and individuals. We continue to develop professional coaches and internal coaches although currently we no longer offer open masters and doctorate level programmes. Our journey has moved on as the market and organisations evolve and change. We focus on Executive Coaching, Team and Group Coaching, Organisation Development Consulting and Internal Coach and coaching skills development.

Companies of all sizes and across all sectors have trusted the rigor and professionalism offered by both i-coach Academy, i-coach and the iOpener programme.

Notable partnerships include AstraZeneca, BP, UK Civil Service, De Beers, InfraRed Capital Partners, Mid-Cheshire NHS Foundation Trust, Ministry of Defence, Marcomm – NATO, News UK, Royal Navy, Shell, Saudi Aramco, Save the Children, Standard Bank, Tesco, Travelex, Unilever and the World Bank.

Read an extract from Caroline Horner’s doctorate which describes through a synthesis of multiple student coaches voices the learning journey to develop professional coaching practice.

Read ‘A Passionate Journey’, an interview with the late founder of the i-coach Academy, Professor Mike van Oudtshoorn, describing his coaching philosophy which was developed in his native South Africa.

In Memory of Professor Mike van Oudtshoorn.

Mike's Passionate Journey

Read more