During the last decade several professional standards describing competencies for teaching staff in secondary and higher education have been developed. Not all these standards are considered fruitful by the relevant professional communities of teachers and teacher educators. In this article we analyse the experiences with the Dutch standard for teacher educators and an accompanying procedure for self-assessment, professional development and registration (SPR). Our questions are: what are the issues about professional complexity and ownership which arise? How is the standard used by the Dutch teacher educators? Does the standard stimulate professional development or is it a quality assurance device for teacher educators? To answer these questions we analysed interviews, questionnaires and portfolios from teacher educators who participated in the procedure for SPR. We found that in the Dutch standard for teacher educators, complexity is brought into the SPR processes by, for example, teacher educators sharing the content in a professional dialogue with peer assessors or by asking teacher educators to write about authentic situations in which different competencies are integrated and related to one another. The development of the Dutch standard by the teacher educators themselves contributed to powerful feelings of ownership. We conclude that the Dutch standard, plus the accompanying procedure for SPR, is not only helpful for individual professional accountability, but is used and esteemed as well as a strong instrument for individual professional development. © 2008 Association for Teacher Education in Europe.