National Qualifications Framework/Credits and Qualification Framework

National vocational levels descriptors

The new Credits and Qualifications framework  (QCF) is scheduled to replace the current National Qualifications Framework (NQF) later on this year.  The nine levels will remain and it will become clearer how “academic” style qualifications and “vocational” style qualifications and experiences in workplaces can be compared, and credited .  Academic routes and vocational routes to qualifications will be increasingly promoted  as “progression routes of equal value” (Skills for Growth White Paper” Nov ’09): below is an attempt to describe the type and quality of activity performed in workplaces to the levels on the QCF.

To obtain further information on the new qualifications and credits ratings, the Qualifications and Credits Development Agency (QCDA) website offers further explanation and help.


Vocational qualifications and experience

Academic qualifications

Types of equivalent/commensurate activity in workplaces and professional settings

Scope and range of workplace activity and influence


Specialist awards,  and accolades


leader, director, governor
make significant contribution to a specialised field of enquiry and innovation; respond to abstract  and complex problems that expand and define existing procedural knowledge and activity; shape significant changes and direct its processes; demonstrate command of critical and methodological issues: develop new skills, tools, practices and lead communities of practice

Accept accountability in major decision making ; lead and originate complex social processes with sometimes wide ranging economic spinoffs; sponsor substantial structural development


Charterships, CiPD professional, Professional diplomas, old NVQ 5

Masters degrees/post graduate certs and diplomas

professionals, strategics
display mastery of a complex area of knowledge and skills, demonstrate expertise in highly specialised/advanced technical, professional and or research role; research or conduct technical or professional activity, using and modifying advanced skills and tools, and developing emergent and novel techniques; design and apply methodologies and communicate to wide ranging peer and user groups

Act in wide range of unpredictable and advanced professional contexts; accept accountability in decision making including use of supervision ; take significant responsibility for the work of other professional staff; lead and initiate structurally significant activity


National diplomas, BTEC Advanced Professional Diploma

Year 3 of degree

mid track professional, specialists, professional manager
critically review, consolidate and extend a systematic body of knowledge; utilise specialised technical or scholastic skills in a field, with inclusion of research activity; critically evaluating flow of information, concepts and evidence from work-related and written sources; apply and transfer diagnostic skills; engage in complex planning, design, technical or management functions related to products, services, operations or processes including resourcing

Accept accountability for determining and achieving personal, group and project outcomes; begin to lead multiple, complex and heterogeneous groups


Vocational Certs and Diplomas, HNC, HND,
Old NVQ 4,
Foundation degree

Year 2 of degree

early track professional, middle manager, technicians
command wide-ranging technical, creative and/ or conceptual skills, utilise diagnostic and creative skills in a growing range of technical, professional and management functions; exercise growing level of judgement in planning and design in area of operation; analyse, reformat and evaluate a wide range of information

Accept responsibility and accountability within broad parameters for determination and achievement of personal and group outcomes; make judgements and decisions with implications relating to widening and deepening areas of expertise


NVQ 4, BTEC professional Diploma,
Higher apprenticeship

Year 1 of degree

technicals, early manager, craftsperson
employ a range of skills, determining solutions to a variety of unpredictable problems; generate a range of responses, a limited number of which are innovative, to well defined but unpredictable problems; develop a rigorous approach to the acquisition of a broad knowledge base, involve the self in varied contexts doing creative and non-routine activities, exercise judgement in planning, selecting or presenting information, methods or resources

Undertake self-directed and limited amount of directive activity, often reaching out to other teams and departments; take responsibility for the nature and quality of outputs; operate within broad , general guidelines or functions; meet specified quality standards


NVQ 3,
Advanced apprenticeship

A level. International Baccalaureate, Key Skills 3, GCSE in applied subjects

early technicals, advanced generalists, skilled manual
apply knowledge and skills in range of complex activities, demonstrating comprehension of relevant theories; access and evaluate information independently; analyse information and make judgements, select from a considerable choice of procedures, present to an audience; employ a range of responses to often unpredictable problems within a team setting

Engage in self directed activity with guidance /evaluation, accept responsibility for quality and quantity of outputs of self and widening out to  others, sometimes reporting, fact-finding and networking beyond immediate team, using range of technical or learning skills


NVQ 2,
Standard apprenticeship

GCSE C and above, Key Skills 2, BTEC First Certs and diplomas, OCR Nationals

seasoned frontliner, generalists, proficient's
demonstrate fluency in a range of skills, interpret information, make comparisons, choose from a range of procedures some of which may be non-routine, co-ordinate with others, time outcomes to deadlines, take responsibility in maintaining status quo

Undertake directed activity reliably, and with a degree of autonomy; accept some responsibility for local resources, quality and quantity of outputs, and in limited ways for people (recording activity, basic time planning etc)



Key Skills 1, Skills for Life, BTEC Introductory Diplomas and Certs, GCSE grades D-G

“essential” and frontline roles
apply known solutions to familiar problems, co-operate with others in limited range of structured and predictable contexts, use range of routine responses, present and record information from readily available sources

Operate under direct supervision, exercise a very limited degree of discretion and judgement about possible actions, carry restricted responsibility for quality and quantity of output


ESOLSkills for Life entry level

Entry certs, Functional Skills at entry level (English, maths, ICT)

“essential” and frontline roles
receive and pass on information in closely defined and highly structured contexts, carry out processes that are repetitive and predictable

Limited range of roles and under direct and close supervision