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National Qualifications Framework

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Title: National Qualifications Framework  
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National Qualifications Framework

A National Qualifications Framework is a formal system describing qualifications. 47 countries participating in the Bologna Process are committed to producing a national qualifications framework. Other countries not part of this process also have national qualifications frameworks.


  • Australia 1
  • Barbados 2
  • Caribbean Region 3
  • England, Wales and Northern Ireland 4
    • Framework 4.1
    • History 4.2
    • See also 4.3
    • External links 4.4
  • Ireland 5
  • Kenya 6
  • New Zealand 7
  • Scotland 8
  • References 9


The Australian Qualifications Framework is the national qualifications framework in Australia.[1]


National/Caribbean Vocational Qualifications (N/CVQ) are awarded by the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Council (TVET).[2] N/CVQs are work-related and competency-based. Training for the qualifications can be earned from the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic, the Barbados Vocational Training Board, or the National Initiative for Service Excellence. Standards for the qualifications are drawn up by industry experts and qualifications are only awarded where the trainee can demonstrate the ability to meet these standards to certified assessors. There are five levels - level 1 (entry level occupations, level 2 (skilled occupations), level 3 (technical, skilled, and supervisory occupations), level 4 (technical specialist and middle management occupations, and level 5 (chartered, professional, and senior management occupations).

Caribbean Region

Regional accreditation bodies are planned to assess qualifications for equivalency, complementary to the free movement of persons. To this end, the Member States have concluded the Agreement on Accreditation for Education in Medical and other Health Professions. By this agreement, an Authority (the Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Education in Medical and Other Health Professions) is established which will be responsible for accrediting doctors and other health care personnel throughout the CSME. The Authority will be headquartered in Jamaica, which is one of among six states (Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Jamaica, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago) in which agreement is already in force. The Bahamas has also signed on to the Agreement.

Region-wide accreditation has also been planned for vocational skills. Currently local training agencies award National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ)[3] or national Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) certification,[4] which are not valid across Member States. However, in 2003, the Caribbean Association of National Agencies (CANTA) was formed as an umbrella organization of the various local training agencies including Trinidad and Tobago's National Training Agency, the Barbados TVET Council and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States TVET agency and the HEART Trust/NTA of Jamaica. Since 2005, the member organizations of CANTA have been working together to ensure a uniformed level of certified skilled labour under the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) and CANTA itself has established a regional certification scheme that awards the Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ),[4] which is to replace NVQs and national TVET certifications.[3] The CVQ will be school-based and although based on the certification scheme of CANTA, will be awarded by the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) which will be collaborating with CANTA on the CVQ programme.[5] At the February 9–10, 2007 meeting of the Regional Coordinating Mechanism for Technical and Vocational Education and Training, officials discussed arrangements for the award of the CVQ which was approved by the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) in October 2006.[6] It was expected that the CVQ programme may be in place by mid-2007, if all the requirements are met[7][8] and that provisions were being made for the holders of current NVQs to have them converted into the regionally accepted type (although no clear mandate is yet in place).[8] This deadline was met and in October 2007, the CVQ programme was officially launched. The CVQ now facilitates the movement of artisans and other skilled persons in the CSME. This qualification will be accessible to persons already in the workforce as well as students in secondary schools across the Caribbean region. Those already in the work force will be required to attend designated centres for assessment.[9]

The CVQ is based on a competency-based approach to training, assessment and certification. Candidates are expected to demonstrate competence in attaining occupational standards developed by practitioners, industry experts and employers. Those standards when approved by CARICOM allow for portability across the Region. Currently, CVQs are planned to reflect a Qualification framework of five levels. These are:

  • Level 1: Directly Supervised/Entry –Level Worker
  • Level 2: Supervised Skilled Worker
  • Level 3: Independent or Autonomous Skilled Worker
  • Level 4: Specialized or Supervisory Worker
  • Level 5: Managerial and/or Professional Worker[10]

CVQ’s are awarded to those candidates who would have met the required standards in all of the prescribed units of study. Statements are issued in cases where candidates did not complete all the requirements for the award of CVQ. Schools that are suitably equipped currently offer Levels 1 & 2.[10]

By March 2012 up to 2,263 CVQs had been awarded in the workforce across the region and 2,872 had been awarded in schools for a total of 5,135 CVQs awarded up to that time. The breakdown of the agency awarding the over 5,000 CVQs by March 2012 stood at 1,680 having been awarded by the CXC and 3,455 being awarded by the various National Training Agencies (with some being awarded in the workplace and some being awarded in secondary schools).[11]

(Main Sources; JIS website on the CSME and Google Cache of SICE - Establishment of the CSME at[12] - see references)

England, Wales and Northern Ireland

The National Qualifications Framework (NQF) is a former credit transfer system developed for qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It was replaced in 2010 with the Qualifications and Credit Framework.

The Framework had nine levels covering all levels of learning in secondary education, further education, vocational, and higher education. Though academic higher education courses (such as academic degrees) are not covered in the NQF, it was broadly aligned with the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (FHEQ), allowing levels of achievement to be compared.

Only when a course has been accredited and become part of the NQF was it then eligible for state funding. As such, some courses which are popular internationally and offered by British-based organisations are not available to state schools in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The NQF had the joint responsibility of England's QCA, Wales's DCELLS and Northern Ireland's CCEA.


The National Qualifications Framework is split into nine levels.[13]

NQF level Level criteria Example qualifications Equivalent FHEQ level Equivalent FHEQ qualifications
Level 8 Level 8 qualifications recognise leading experts or practitioners in a particular field or profession. Learning at this level involves the development of new and creative approaches that extend or redefine existing knowledge or professional practice and will often contribute at least locally, although more likely regionally or nationally to the area or sector of the doctor's thesis.
  • Level 8 Advanced Professional Diploma
  • Level 8 Advanced Professional Certificate
  • Level 8 Advanced Professional Award
  • Level 8 City and Guilds Institute Fellowship
D (Doctoral)
Level 7 Level 7 qualifications recognise highly developed, advanced and complex levels of knowledge which enable the development of in-depth and original responses to complicated and unpredictable problems and situations. Learning at this level involves the demonstration of high level specialist professional knowledge and is appropriate for senior professionals and senior managers. Level 7 qualifications are at a level equivalent to master's degrees, postgraduate certificates and postgraduate diplomas.
  • Level 7 Advanced Professional Diploma
  • Level 7 Advanced Professional Certificate
  • Level 7 Advanced Professional Award
  • Level 7 City and Guilds Institute Membership
  • Cambridge ESOL Delta
M (Masters)
Level 6 Level 6 qualifications recognise a specialist high level knowledge of an area of work or study to enable the use of an individual’s own ideas and research in response to complex problems and situations. Learning at this level involves the achievement of a high level of professional knowledge and is appropriate for people working as knowledge-based professionals or in professional management positions. Often, registered professionals such as nurses, pharmacists, social workers, teachers and doctors enter their profession with a Level 6 qualification. Level 6 qualifications are at a level equivalent to bachelor's degrees with honours, graduate certificates and graduate diplomas.
  • Level 6 Professional Diploma
  • Level 6 Professional Certificate
  • Level 6 Professional Award
  • Level 6 City and Guilds Institute Graduateship
  • NEBOSH National Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety
  • British Safety Council Diploma in Occupational Safety and Health
H (Honours)
Level 5 Level 5 qualifications recognise the ability to increase the depth of knowledge and understanding of an area of work or study to enable the formulation of solutions and responses to complex problems and situations. Learning at this level involves the demonstration of high levels of knowledge, a high level of work expertise in job roles and competence in managing and training others. Qualifications at this level are appropriate for people working as higher grade technicians, professionals or managers. Level 5 qualifications are at a level equivalent to intermediate Higher Education qualifications such as Diplomas of Higher Education, Foundation and other degrees that do not typically provide access to postgraduate programmes.
  • HND
  • BTEC Level 5 Higher National Diploma
  • Level 5 Professional Diploma
  • Level 5 Professional Certificate
  • Level 5 Professional Award
  • Level 5 City and Guilds Institute Affiliateship
  • International Advanced Diploma in Computer Studies (IADCS) NCC Education UK.
  • City and Guilds Full Technological Certificate / Diploma
I (Intermediate)
Level 4 Level 4 qualifications recognise specialist learning and involve detailed analysis of a high level of information and knowledge in an area of work or study. Learning at this level is appropriate for people working in technical and professional jobs, and/or managing and developing others. Level 4 qualifications are at a level equivalent to Certificates of Higher Education.
  • HNC
  • BTEC Level 4 Higher National Certificate
  • Level 4 Professional Diploma
  • Level 4 Professional Certificate
  • Level 4 Professional Award
  • Level 4 City and Guilds Institute Licentiateship
  • International Diploma in Business Management, NCUK
  • International Diploma in Computer Studies (IDCS) NCC Education UK.
C (Certificate)
Level 3 Level 3 qualifications recognise the ability to gain, and where relevant apply a range of knowledge, skills and understanding. Learning at this level involves obtaining detailed knowledge and skills. It is appropriate for people wishing to go to university, people working independently, or in some areas supervising and training others in their field of work.
  • A Level
  • AS Level
  • Cambridge Technical L3 Certificate
  • Cambridge Technical L3 Introductory Diploma
  • Cambridge Technical L3 Subsidiary Diploma
  • Cambridge Technical L3 Diploma
  • Cambridge Technical L3 Extended Diploma
  • BTEC Level 3 Certificate
  • BTEC Level 3 Subsidiary Diploma
  • BTEC Level 3 90-Credit Diploma
  • BTEC Level 3 Diploma
  • BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma
  • Level 3 International Certificate in Computer Studies(ICCS) NCC Education UK.
  • Level 3 NVQ
  • NEBOSH National General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety.
  • Access to Higher Education Diploma
Level 2 Level 2 qualifications recognise the ability to gain a good knowledge and understanding of a subject area of work or study, and to perform varied tasks with some guidance or supervision. Learning at this level involves building knowledge and/or skills in relation to an area of work or a subject area and is appropriate for many job roles.
  • GCSE at grades A*–C
  • Cambridge Technical L2 Certificate
  • Cambridge Technical L2 Extended Certificate
  • Cambridge Technical L2 Diploma
  • Cambridge National L2 Award
  • Cambridge National L2 Certificate
  • Cambridge National L2 Diploma
  • BTEC Level 2 Award
  • BTEC Level 2 Certificate
  • BTEC Level 2 Extended Certificate
  • BTEC Level 2 Diploma
  • Level 2 DiDA
  • Level 2 CiDA
  • Level 2 NVQ
Level 1 Level 1 qualifications recognise basic knowledge and skills and the ability to apply learning with guidance or supervision. Learning at this level is about activities which mostly relate to everyday situations and may be linked to job competence.
  • GCSE at grades D–G
  • Foundation Diploma
  • Introductory Diploma
  • Introductory Certificate
  • Level 1 DiDA
  • Level 1 CIDA+
  • Level 1 CiDA
  • Level 1 AiDA
  • Level 1 NVQ.
Entry Level Entry-Level qualifications recognise basic knowledge and skills and the ability to apply learning in everyday situations under direct guidance or supervision. Learning at this level involves building basic knowledge and skills and is not geared towards specific occupations.    

In general usage, qualifications are often compared to the best-known qualification at that level. For example, the Level 2 DiDA is often said to be equal to four GCSEs at grades A*–C.

While the NQF says what each qualification is officially worth, UCAS, the university entrance system, has its own tariff, which sometimes differs from the NQF. Furthermore, colleges and employers often have their own differing ideas as to what a qualification is worth.

BTECs and Cambridge courses are vocational equivalent to 1, 2 or 3 GCSEs or A Levels, at Grade A*-C. OCR Nationals were discontinued in 2012.

Currently, qualification titles such as 'certificate' and 'diploma' are not indicators of the level of a qualification.


The NQF was introduced to help employers compare the many hundreds of qualifications available in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Originally, the framework only went up to Level 5, but in 2004 the old Level 4 was subdivided into Levels 4, 5 and 6 and the old Level 5 was subdivided into Level 7 and Level 8.[14] This allowed the NQF to better align with its university equivalent, the FHEQ.

The NQF was replaced with the QCF, Qualifications and Credit Framework, which indicates the size of qualifications (measured in learning hours), as well as their level.

See also

External links

  • QCA: The National Qualifications Framework
  • Ofqual: Explaining the National Qualifications Framework


The National Framework of Qualifications is the framework used in the Republic of Ireland.


In December 2014 the Parliament of Kenya passed the Kenya National Qualifications Framework Act to establish a "national system for the articulation, classification, registration, quality assurance, and the monitoring and evaluation of national qualifications".[15]

New Zealand

The New Zealand Qualifications Framework, administered by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, covers qualifications in secondary and tertiary education[16] in New Zealand.


Although part of the United Kingdom, Scotland has its own education system and its own twelve level system, the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework.


  1. ^ "What is the AQF?". AQF. Retrieved 2015-07-19. 
  2. ^ "Qualifications Framework". Training and Vocational Education and Training Council Barbados. Retrieved 25 July 2015. 
  3. ^ a b Jamaica Gleaner News - Potential and preparation - Sunday | December 18, 2005
  4. ^ a b CANTA helping to synchronise Caribbean training standards - JAMAICAOBSERVER.COM
  5. ^ New CXC programme in 2007 - JAMAICAOBSERVER.COM
  6. ^ Jamaica Gleaner News - Officials to discuss vocational training - Friday | February 9, 2007
  7. ^ "Full free movement of Caribbean nationals by the year 2009". Retrieved 25 July 2015. 
  8. ^ a b Caricom discusses vocational standards for free movement of skills - JAMAICAOBSERVER.COM
  9. ^ Launch of the Caribbean Vocational Qualification
  10. ^ a b Caribbean Examinations Council: Caribbean Vocational Qualification
  11. ^ Caribbean Vocational Qualifications Framework
  12. ^ Google Cache of SICE - CARICOM - Establishment of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy: Status of Key Elements
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Kenya Gazette Supplement No. 171" (PDF). National Council for Law Reporting Library. Retrieved 2015-07-19. 
  16. ^ "New Zealand Qualifications Framework - Te Taura Here Tohu Mātauranga o Aotearoa". New Zealand Qualifications Authority. Retrieved 2015-07-19. 
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