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Qualification levels

Comparison of qualification levels between the NQF and QCF frameworks

 

Level NQF Qualifications
examples
QCF Qualifications
examples
Framework for Higher Education
examples
Entry
  • Entry level certificates
  • Skills for Life at Entry level
Entry level VQs:

  • Entry level awards, certificates and diplomas
  • Foundation Learning Tier pathways
  • Functional Skills at Entry level
 
1
  • GCSEs graded D-G
  • NVQs at level 1
  • Key Skills level 1
  • Skills for Life
  • Foundation Diploma
Level 1 VQs:

  • BTEC awards, certificates and diplomas at level 1
  • Functional Skills level 1
  • OCR Nationals
  • Foundation Learning Tier pathways
 
2
  • GCSEs graded A*-C
  • NVQs at level 2
  • Level 2 VQs
  • Key Skills level 2
  • Skills for Life
  • Higher Diploma
Level 2 VQs:

  • BTEC awards, certificates and diplomas at level 2
  • Functional Skills level 2
 
3
  • AS/A levels
  • Advanced Extension Awards
  • International Baccalaureate
  • Key Skills level 3
  • NVQs at level 3
  • Cambridge International Awards
  • Advanced and Progression Diploma
Level 3 VQs:

  • BTEC awards, certificates and diplomas at level 3
  • BTEC Nationals
  • OCR Nationals
 
4
  • Key Skills level 4
  • Certificates of higher education
  • NVQs at level 4 *
Original NQF level 4 * Level 4 VQs:

  • BTEC Professional Diplomas, Certificates and Awards
  • Certificates of higher education
5
  • Higher national diplomas
  • Other higher diplomas
  • NVQs at level 4 *
Level 5 VQs:

  • HNCs and HNDs
  • BTEC Professional Diplomas, Certificates and Awards
  • Diplomas of higher education and further education, foundation degrees and higher national diplomas
6
  • National Diploma in Professional Production Skills
  • NVQs at level 4 *
Level 6 VQs:

    -

  • BTEC Advanced Professional Diplomas, Certificates and Awards
  • Bachelor degrees, graduate certificates and diplomas
7
  • Postgraduate certificates and diplomas
  • BTEC advanced professional awards, certificates and diplomas
  • Fellowships and fellowship diplomas
  • Diploma in Translation
  • NVQs at level 5 *
Original NQF level 5 * Level 7 VQs:

  • Advanced professional awards, certificates and diplomas
  • Masters degrees, postgraduate certificates and diplomas
8
  • NVQs at level 5 *
Level 8 VQs:

  • Award, certificate and diploma in strategic direction
  • Doctorates

* The NQF has existed in it’s current form, of 9 levels, since September 2004. Before this the NQF only had 6 levels (entry level to level 5).

The original NQF levels 4 and 5 were described as being broadly similar to ‘higher education qualifications’. But at the time it wasn’t possible to say which higher education qualifications they were comparable to. The NQF was revised to allow it to show more clearly which levels matched up with higher education qualifications.

Most qualifications were updated to show the new levels, but revised levels were not given to NVQs at levels 4 and 5. This was so they could still be compared with Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs). It is only possible to give a broad indication of how NVQs at levels 4 and 5 compare to current NQF levels and higher education qualifications. An NVQ at level 4 is therefore broadly comparable to levels 4 to 6 on the NQF, and a level 5 NVQ is broadly comparable to levels 7 and 8.

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