National Qualifications Framework
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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.
- 1 Australia
- 2 Barbados
- 3 Caribbean Region
- 4 England, Wales and Northern Ireland
- 5 India
- 6 Ireland
- 7 Kenya
- 8 New Zealand
- 9 Scotland
- 10 References
National/Caribbean Vocational Qualifications (N/CVQ) are awarded by the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Council (TVET). 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).
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) or national Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) certification, 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), which is to replace NVQs and national TVET certifications. 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. 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. It was expected that the CVQ programme may be in place by mid-2007, if all the requirements are met 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). 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.
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
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.
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).
(Main Sources; JIS website on the CSME and Google Cache of SICE - Establishment of the CSME at - see references)
England, Wales and Northern Ireland
The currentt national qualification frameworks in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are: the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) for general and vocational qualifications regulated by Ofqual in England and the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) in Northern Ireland; the Credit and Qualifications Framework for Wales (CQFW) for all qualifications in Wales; and the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (FHEQ) for qualifications awarded by bodies with degree-awarding powers.
The RQF is split into eleven levels: entry levels one to three and levels one to eight. The FHEQ has five levels, numbered four to eight to match the RQF levels. The CQFW has the same eleven levels as the RQF and has adopted the same level descriptors for regulated (non-degree) qualifications.
The descriptors for the RQF are as follows:
|RQF level||Level criteria||Example qualifications||Equivalent FHEQ level||Equivalent FHEQ qualifications|
|Level 8||Holder develops original practical, conceptual or technological understanding to create ways forward in contexts that lack definition and where there are many complex, interacting factors. Holder critically analyses, interprets and evaluates complex information, concepts and theories to produce new knowledge and theories. Holder understands and reconceptualises the wider contexts in which the field of knowledge or work is located. Holder extends a field of knowledge or work by contributing original knowledge and thinking. Holder exercises critical understanding of different theoretical and methodological perspectives and how they affect the field of knowledge or work.
AND/OR Holder can use advanced and specialised skills and techniques to conceptualise and address problematic situations that involve many complex, interacting factors. Holder can formulate and use appropriate methodologies and approaches. Holder can initiate, design and undertake research, development or strategic activities that extend or produce significant change in the field of work or study. Holder can critically evaluate actions, methods and results and their short- and long-term implications for the field of work or knowledge and its wider context.
|Level 7||Holder reformulates and uses practical, conceptual or technological knowledge and understanding of a subject or field of work to create ways forward in contexts where there are many interacting factors. Holder critically analyses, interprets and evaluates complex information, concepts and theories to produce modified conceptions. Holder understands the wider contexts in which the area of study or work is located. Holder understands current developments in the area of study or work. Holder understands different theoretical and methodological perspectives and how they affect the area of study or work.
AND/OR Holder can use specialised skills to conceptualise and address problematic situations that involve many interacting factors. Holder can determine and use appropriate methodologies and approaches. Holder can design and undertake research, development or strategic activities to inform or produce change in the area of work or study. Holder can critically evaluate actions, methods and results and their short- and long-term implications.
|Level 6||Holder has advanced practical, conceptual or technological knowledge and understanding of a subject or field of work to create ways forward in contexts where there are many interacting factors. Holder understands different perspectives, approaches or schools of thought and the theories that underpin them. Holder can critically analyse, interpret and evaluate complex information, concepts and ideas.
AND/OR Holder can determine, refine, adapt and use appropriate methods and advanced cognitive and practical skills to address problems that have limited definition and involve many interacting factors. Holder can use and, where appropriate, design relevant research and development to inform actions. Holder can evaluate actions, methods and results and their implications.
|Level 5||Holder has practical, theoretical or technological knowledge and understanding of a subject or field of work to find ways forward in broadly defined, complex contexts. Holder can analyse, interpret and evaluate relevant information, concepts and ideas. Holder is aware of the nature and scope of the area of study or work. Holder understands different perspectives, approaches or schools of thought and the reasoning behind them.
AND/OR Holder can determine, adapt and use appropriate methods, cognitive and practical skills to address broadly defined, complex problems. Holder can use relevant research or development to inform actions. Holder can evaluate actions, methods and results.
|Level 4||Holder has practical, theoretical or technical knowledge and understanding of a subject or field of work to address problems that are well defined but complex and non-routine. Holder can analyse, interpret and evaluate relevant information and ideas. Holder is aware of the nature of approximate scope of the area of study or work. Holder has an informed awareness of different perspectives or approaches within the area of study or work.
AND/OR Holder can identify, adapt and use appropriate cognitive and practical skills to inform actions and address problems that are complex and non-routine while normally fairly well-defined. Holder can review the effectiveness and appropriateness of methods, actions and results.
|Level 3||Holder has factual, procedural and theoretical knowledge and understanding of a subject or field of work to complete tasks and address problems that while well-defined, may be complex and non-routine. Holder can interpret and evaluate relevant information and ideas. Holder is aware of the nature of the area of study or work. Holder is aware of different perspectives or approaches within the area of study or work.
AND/OR Holder can identify, select and use appropriate cognitive and practical skills, methods and procedures to address problems that while well-defined, may be complex and non-routine. Holder can use appropriate investigation to inform actions. Holder can review how effective methods and actions have been.
|Level 2||Has knowledge and understanding of facts, procedures and ideas in an area of study or field of work to complete well-defined tasks and address straightforward problems. Holder can interpret relevant information and ideas. Holder is aware of a range of information that is relevant to the area of study or work.
AND/OR Holder can select and use relevant cognitive and practical skills to complete well-defined, generally routine tasks and address straightforward problems. Holder can identify how effective actions have been. Holder can identify, gather and use relevant information to inform actions.
Holder has basic factual knowledge of a subject and/or knowledge of facts, procedures and ideas to complete well-defined routine tasks and address simple problems; and is aware of aspects of information relevant to the area of study or work. AND/OR Holder can use basic cognitive and practical skills to complete well-defined routine tasks and procedures. Holder can identify whether actions have been effective. Holder can select and use relevant information.
|Entry Level 3||Holder has basic knowledge and understanding to carry out structured tasks and activities in familiar contexts; and knows and understands the steps needed to complete structured tasks and activities in familiar contexts.
AND/OR Holder can carry out structured tasks and activities in familiar contexts. Holder can be aware of the consequences of actions for self and others.
|Entry Level 2||Holder has basic knowledge or understanding of a subject and/or can carry out simple, familiar tasks; and knows the steps needed to complete simple activities.
AND/OR Holder can carry out simple, familiar tasks and activities. Follow instructions or use rehearsed steps to complete tasks and activities.
|Entry Level 1||The holder progresses along a continuum that ranges from the most elementary of achievements to beginning to make use of knowledge and/or understanding that relate to the subject or immediate environment.|
Normally (different rules apply for specifically-named qualifications such as GCSEs), the name of a qualification offered under the RQF will contain the name of the awarding organisation and the level of the qualification. It may also include "NVQ" to indicate that it meets certain criteria to be considered a vocational qualification: "the qualification is based on recognised occupational standards, confers occupational competence and requires work-based assessment and/or assessment in an environment that simulates the work place". The size of the qualification may be indicated by it being called an "Award" (less that 120 hours total qualification time/1–12 credits), "Certificate" (121 to 369 hours/13–36 credits) or "Diploma" (370 or more hours/37+ credits).
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 equivalent to four GCSEs at grades A*–C.
While the frameworks say how qualifications compare in terms of size and level, they do not (except for the split of GCSEs across level 1 and 2) take grades into account, e.g. a first class honours degree and a pass degree are both 360 credit qualifications at level 6. For university entrance, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) produces its own tariff for level 3 qualifications and international equivalents, based on grades achieved and the size of the qualification (in four size bands). Universities, colleges and employers are also free to make their own decisions on how they treat qualifications, and are not bound to follow the frameworks.
With respect to the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), only qualifications on the FHEQ (and only those with the full number of credits for that level) are certified as being equivalently to Bologna Process cycles, thus:
|FHEQ level||Qualifications||Equivalent EHEA cycle|
Development of the frameworks for higher education qualifications
The idea of a national framework for higher education qualifications (FHEQ) was proposed by the Dearing and Garrick Reports in 1997. Dearing's proposed FHEQ had 8 levels, not all of which were subsequently adopted:
|H5||Higher honours/postgraduate conversion courses|
Note "postgraduate conversion courses" were what are now called graduate certificates and diplomas but were, at the time of the report, often awarded as master's degrees, "Higher honours" referred to integrated master's degrees.
The first editions of the FHEQ were published by the Quality Assurance Agency in January 2001 as two documents: one covering England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the other Scotland. As currently, the 2001 England, Wales and Northern Ireland FHEQ had five levels, the 2001 Scotland FHEQ had six levels. The Scottish FHEQ was tied to the SCQF, but the England, Wales and Northern Ireland FHEQ was not tied to the NQF until 2004, when the latter was reorganised (as described below). The levels were:
|EWNI 2001||Scotland 2001||Example qualifications||SCQF 2001||NQF 2004|
|5 – "D level" (Doctoral)||SHE D||Doctoral degree||12||8|
|4 – "M level" (Master's)||SHE M||Master's degree||11||7|
|3 - "H level" (Honours)||SHE H||Bachelor's degree with honours||10||6|
|2 - "I level" (Intermediate)||SHE 3||Non-honours bachelor's degree||9||5|
|SHE 2||Foundation degree, Diploma of Higher Education||8|
|1 - "C level" (Certificate)||SHE 1||Certificate of Higher Education||7||4|
Note that while the framework for England, Wales and Northern Ireland did have numbered levels, the letter designations were often used to avoid confusion with the different numbering on the NQF.
The major difference between the 2001 framework and the current framework was the position of Ordinary (non-honours) bachelor's degrees. These were, at the time, considered to be at the same level as foundation degrees and diplomas of higher education in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, rather than being at the same level as honours degrees but with a lower credit value.
The Scottish FHEQ was certified as aligned with the framework of the European Higher Education Area (EHEQ) in 2007. The second edition of the FHEQ for England, Wales and Northern Ireland was issued in August 2008, and was also then certified as aligned with the EHEA framework. The major changes were the shifting of the non-honours bachelor's degree to its current position, allowing it to be considered a first cycle (end of cycle) qualification in the EHEA framework and the adoption of the NQF/QCF level numbers in place of the separate labelling of higher education levels; it also made explicit that primary qualifications in medicine, dentistry and veterinary science were at master's level. A second edition of the Scottish FHEQ was issued in June 2014, doing away with the separate labelling of levels in higher education and simply adopting the SCQF numbering, and a third edition of both, united into one document as The Frameworks for Higher Education Qualifications of UK Degree-Awarding Bodies, was published in November 2014. This gave unified level descriptors for master's degrees and doctoral degrees, while maintaining separate descriptors for lower level qualifications.
The Qualifications and Credit Framework
The Qualifications and Credit Framework was used from 2008 until 2015 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It replaced the National Qualifications Framework (NQF; see below) and was replaced in turn by the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF). It used the same levels as the (post 2004) NQF and the current RQF, but differed from the NQF in that in addition to qualifications being assigned a level they were assigned a credit value, indicating their size. The QCF had prescriptive rules on qualification design and assessment; a review in 2014 found that "the rules placed too much focus on structure, and not enough on validity, and that they were not flexible enough to meet the variety of needs covered by vocational qualifications". This led to the establishment of the RQF, which does not contain specific rules for qualifications in the manner of the QCF.
The National Qualifications Framework
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. This allowed the NQF to better align with its equivalent for higher education, the FHEQ.
The Framework, after 2004, had nine levels (with entry level qualifications offered at Entry 1, Entry 2 and Entry 3) covering all levels of learning in secondary education, further education, vocational, and higher education. Though academic higher education courses (such as academic degrees) were not covered in the NQF, it was broadly aligned with the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (FHEQ), allowing levels of achievement to be compared.
|NQF level||Level criteria|
|Level 8||Level 8 qualifications recognise leading experts or practitioners in a particular field. Learning at this level involves the development of new and creative approaches that extend or redefine existing knowledge or professional practice.|
|Level 7||Level 7 qualifications recognise highly developed and complex levels of knowledge that 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 managers. Level 7 qualifications are at a level equivalent to masters degrees, postgraduate certificates and postgraduate diplomas.|
|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. Level 6 qualifications are at a level equivalent to bachelor degrees with honours, graduate certificates and graduate diplomas.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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 that mostly relate to everyday situations and may be linked to job competence.|
|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.|
Only when a course had been accredited and became part of the NQF was it then eligible for state funding. As such, some courses which were popular internationally and offered by British-based organisations were not available to state schools in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
BTECs and Cambridge courses are vocational equivalent, which under the QCF were equivalent to 1, 2 or 3 GCSEs or A Levels, at Grade A*-C. OCR Nationals were discontinued in 2012.
The NQF was replaced with the QCF, Qualifications and Credit Framework in 2010, which was a credit transfer system which indicated the size of qualifications (measured in learning hours), as well as their level. The QCF was, in turn, replaced by the Regulated Qualifications Framework in October 2015.
|Case I||Case II|
|10||NCC 8||Degree||Doctorate||University and SSC|
|9||NCC 7||PG Diploma||Master's degree||University and SSC|
|8||NCC 6||PG Diploma||Master's degree||University and SSC|
|7||NCC 5||Advanced Diploma||Bachelor's degree||Board of Technical Education and SSC, University and SSC|
|6||NCC 4||Advanced Diploma||Bachelor's degree||Board of Technical Education and SSC, University and SSC|
|5||NCC 3||Diploma||Bachelor's degree||Board of Technical Education and SSC, School Board and SSC|
|4||NCC 2||Diploma||Grade XII||Board of Technical Education and SSC, School Board and SSC|
|3||NCC 1||Diploma||Grade XI||Board of Technical Education and SSC, School Board and SSC|
|2||NCWP 2||Grade X||Grade X||School Board and SSC|
|1||NCWP 1||Grade IX||Grade IX||School Board and SSC|
|RPL||RPL 2||Grade VIII||Grade VIII||NIOS /State Open Schools and SSC|
|RPL||RPL 1||Grade V||Grade V||NIOS /State Open Schools and SSC|
RPL: Recognition of Prior Learning, NCWP: National Certificate for Work Preparation, NCC: National Competency Certificate
The National Framework of Qualifications is the framework used in 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".
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