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QCF, NQF and EQF

Qualifications and Credit Framework

We regulate qualifications that use the rules of the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF).

Qualifications that use the QCF rules are made up of units. This provides flexible ways to get a qualification. Each unit has a credit value which tells you how many credits are awarded when a unit is completed. The credit value also gives an indication of how long it will normally take you to prepare for a unit or qualification.  One credit will usually take you 10 hours of learning.

Units build up to qualifications. There are three different types of qualification in the QCF: Award, Certificate and Diploma. You can achieve an Award with 1 to 12 credits; for a Certificate you will need 13 – 36 credits and for a Diploma you will need at least 37 credits. Units and qualifications are each given a level according to their difficulty, from entry level to level 8. The title of a qualification will tell you its size and  level.

If a qualification includes a unit that you have already been awarded, you can use the unit you have already taken towards that qualification. Units awarded by different awarding organisations can be combined to build up qualifications.  

The National Qualifications Framework

Qualifications that do not meet the rules of the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) are developed to fit the National Qualifications Framework (NQF). The NQF provides an indication of the relative demand of different qualifications.

Qualifications in the NQF are grouped together according to their difficulty. They are given a level from entry level to level 8. The levels are based on the standards of knowledge, skill and competence needed for each qualification. Qualifications at the same level can be very different in terms of content and the length of time they take to complete. The levels of the NQF and QCF can be seen on our comparing qualifications page.

European Qualifications Framework

The European Qualifications Framework (EQF) compares the level of qualifications across Europe making it easier to understand their value.  This is useful if you need to explain your qualifications to others, or to understand qualifications awarded in other European countries. If you want to find out more about what your qualification is worth in other European countries, please visit our European Qualifications page.

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