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Qualifications explained

Many people are confused by the terminology used in qualifications, and in particular, qualification titles.

Regulated Qualifications

In the UK, nationally recognised qualifications (i.e. those that are looked upon favourably by employers, schools, colleges and learning providers) are given individual recognition numbers when they are added to the Regulated Qualification Framework (RQF)

The RQF is a national framework, regulated by Ofqual on behalf of the government.

What this means in practice, is that it has been developed and produced by subject matter experts to a National Occupational Standard (NOS) that meets the explicit needs of the end users mentioned above; employers, schools, colleges and learning providers. Successful completion of the qualification tells the end user that the person achieving it has been assessed to have the knowledge, ability and capability to undertake the employment, study or progression the qualification is designed to fulfil.

The regulator, Ofqual, has approved Focus Awards to offer qualifications to the general public in a range of business sectors.

Levels and Titles

All qualifications registered on the RQF are aimed at specific levels of achievement, and carry credit values that can be used towards other and higher levels or different qualifications (there are combination restrictions).

The qualifications result in formal certification that indicates the size or number of credit values. These are as follows:

• Awards. These carry credit values of 1 to 12
• Certificates. These carry values of between 13 and 36 credits
• Diplomas, which comprise 37 credits or more

Each of these certifications will also have a difficulty indicator from 1 to 8, that equate to a “Level”; for example a Level 1 Award, Level 6 Certificate, Level 3 Diploma and so on. Level 1 is an Entry-Level qualification, while a Level 8 is equivalent to a Doctorate. The number of credits attached to a qualification gives an indication of the length of time the qualification might take to complete. As a rough guide, a credit will take an average student or trainee around 10 hours of study to complete.

Clearly, a fairly basic or rudimentary amount of knowledge is required to start and complete a Level 1 Award, and it could potentially be completed in a relatively short time (days or weeks).

Conversely, somebody studying for a Level 8 Diploma will have a very high level of knowledge and/or professional competence in the subject matter area before they start. They will then be required to demonstrate that (and its increase) over a prolonged assessment and evidence submission process that may take several years.

A qualification title also indicates the subject matter area for study. So a RQF qualification title typically appears like this:

“Focus Awards Level 3 Diploma in Health and Social Care (Adults) for England (RQF)”

The Qualification Recognition Number (QRN), such as 601/6319/7 should also be present and identifies that unique qualification. Another awarding organisation may have exactly the same qualification title, but the QRN will be different.

The Qualification Specification (downloadable from the website) gives full details on the number and combination of credits and units required, the total qualification time (TQT), and the method of assessment. It also gives detail on the required learning outcomes.