UK Qualifications and Credit Framework

and the (pdf) Regulatory arrangements for the Qualifications and Credit Framework (also attached for ease of reference)


Qualifications under the QCF are categorised in two dimensions:

  • the level reflects the challenge or difficulty of the qualification, and has a scale of Entry and 1 to 8, the same as the UK National Qualifications Framework
  • the size reflects the time and effort required, and is given as a number of credits.

Each QCF qualification is made out of QCF Units. In the tables below, a Unit means a QCF Unit defined according to the design specifications set out in the regulations.

General information

(see Example source guidance)

information to be gathered details
Name / title of source/model and version if applicable Qualifications and Credit Framework
Stakeholder Ofqual
URL of source or stakeholder
Orientation (work, education, etc.) vocational education and training
Explicit model or implicit model? explicit, as in the regulatory arrangements
Can organisations have competence? no
Number of people currently affected very large numbers (all vocational learners) in UK
Sectors covered all
Groups of actual users  
Significant use cases government mandate
Significant business cases  
Sample materials many available through
Key features influencing their uptake of InLOC outputs  


(see the Features page or the separate pages for each feature)

N Features ? notes
00 More than one model 1 distinct models of qualification, unit and learning outcome
01 Identifiers 1 each unit has a Unit Reference Number; accredited qualifications have a qualification number, or QAN (qualification accreditation number) — number is used at URL within

02 Hierarchy (internal) 1 qualification > unit > learning outcome > assessment criterion
03 Internal relationships 1 rules of combination (see below and in the documentation)
04 External relationships 1 "equivalent" units must have same or greater level and size, but equivalence is not represented explicitly
05 Conditionality / optionality 1 qualifications may have optional as well as mandatory units; there may also be variant pathways to the same qualification — see rules of combination below
06 Text syntax 1 qualification title must contain level, size and content area
07 Structured identifiers 1 unit and qualification numbers have a three part structure which is not yet entirely clear
08 Classification 1 numerical credit value determines "Award", "Certificate" or "Diploma"
09 Level attribution 1 each qualification has exactly one QCF level
10 Level definition 1 just the QCF levels themselves
11 Context 0  
12 Evidence and assessment 1 Units must contain assessment criteria independent of method or instrument; learning outcomes are separate but used in conjunction
13 Extensions 0  
14 Profiles 0  
15 Adaptation 0  
16 Definition by example 0  
17 Learning resources 0  
18 Learner records 0  
19 Multilinguality 1 as appropriate, separate Welsh and English (or Irish – Gaeilge – and English) versions may be provided — they are not explicitly translations, but awarding organisations must ensure that they are "comparable"

Further information

QCF levels and the EQF

QCF level descriptors are defined for Entry level and levels 1 to 8 in a table. Entry level is further subdivided into three sub-levels: Entry 1, Entry 2 and Entry 3. The levels are the rows of the table, and there are 4 columns: Summary; Knowledge and understanding; Application and action; Autonomy and accountability. The last three appear to correspond roughly with the EQF knowledge, skill and competence.

This comparison table is taken from the relevant UK national report (pdf).

8 8 8 12 3rd Cycle
7 7 7 11 2nd Cycle
6 6 6 10/9 1st Cycle
5 5/4 5/4 8/7 Short Cycle
4 3 3 6  
3 2 2 5  
2 1 1 4  
1 E3 E3 3  
  E2 E2 2  
  E1 E1 1  

Size of qualifications

The size of a QCF qualification is given in terms of the number of credits:

  • an Award has between 1 and 12 credits
  • a Certificate has between 13 and 36 credits
  • a Diploma has 37 credits or more

All units must identify a credit value for the unit which specifies the number of credits that will be awarded to a learner who has achieved the learning outcomes of the unit. This must be based on:

  1. one credit for those learning outcomes achievable in 10 hours of learning
  2. learning time being defined as the time taken by learners at the level of the unit, on average, to complete the learning outcomes of the unit to the standard determined by the assessment criteria
  3. the credit value of the unit remaining constant regardless of the method of assessment used or the qualification(s) to which it contributes.

Thus, 3 QCF credits approximate to 1 ECTS credit. Full time study might bring in 60 ECTS credits per year, or approximately 180 QCF credits.

Rules of combination

It is up to the awarding body to specify mandatory and optional units within a qualification, and how many credits may be obtained from different kinds of unit. Optional units are those

that a learner may choose from to complete in order to achieve a required number of units or credits towards the award of the qualification; optional units may be clustered into groups and particular combinations of units required or barred in order to structure the choice of units available to learners

There is also provision to define

a pathway that results in an endorsement to the qualification title


All pathways do not have to be of an identical size, but must require learners to achieve a number of credits within the size ranges for Award, Certificate and Diploma ...

Thus the QCF provides two related mechanisms for optionality or conditionality.

Guidelines requirements

Explain very clearly how the well-defined relevant QCF structures would be represented in InLOC format.

InLOC consultation with UK QCF stakeholders is through Simon Grant and Geoff Carroll.