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QCF qualifications explained

What is the QCF?

The QCF is the Qualifications and Credit Framework. Many further education qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are based on the QCF. Similar systems apply to Scotland and across Europe. The QCF is currently being replaced by the RQF (Regulated Qualifications Framework), however the same principles apply to both QCF and RQF.

What does it mean?

All QCF qualifications consist of two descriptors - a level and a length

A qualification level relates to its difficulty / challenge / academic level. These can range from Entry Level (a very simple introduction to a subject) through to Level 8 (an exception level of difficulty, for example PhD level).

The second descriptor is the length. This is an approximation of the time required to undertake the learning and and assessment. They are measured in credits, where one unit is about ten hours of learning. These range from Award (1-12 credits, that is, up to 120 hours) through to a Diploma (over 37 credits, that is, over 370 hours).

So a qualification can be relatively simple, but very long - such as a Level 1 Diploma. This is at QCF Level 1 - for example GCSE grade D-G difficulty, but involve over 370 hours of study. Or it can be very complex, but short - such as a Level 8 Award. This would involve some very complex concepts and analytic skills, but would only take between 10 and 120 hours to complete.

Realistically, most qualifications lie between these two extremes.

QCF Chart

Where do NCRQ qualifications sit?

NCRQ qualifications are all at QCF Level 6. This means that they all require the ability to understand relatively complex concepts, to analyse and interpret data, act independently and develop solutions to novel problems.

The Level 6 Certificates require about 140 hours of study. They consist of one unit each, worth 14 credits. When these are completed, you will be eligible for the award of the relevant certificate-level qualification.

The Level 6 Diploma requires about 400 hours of study. This consists of three units, totalling 40 credits. When these are completed, you will be eligible for the award of the Level 6 Diploma.

Using this structure, you can choose to complete just the Certificate, or go on to the full Diploma. However, you will receive a formal qualifications as you complete each unit, so that you can gain instant recognition of your achievements.

How does this compare with qualifications in Scotland?

A detailed comparison of qualifications throughout the UK can be found here.