About the Qualification and Credit Framework (QCF)

QCF is the framework for creating and accrediting qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

It will give a wider range of learners the opportunity to get the qualifications they need, in a way that suits them. QCF qualifications are designed with the help of employers so learners can be assured that they’re gaining skills that employers are looking for.

The QCF:

  • Recognises smaller steps of learning and enables learners to build up qualifications bit by bit
  • Helps learners achieve skills and qualifications that meet industry needs
  • Enables work-based training to be nationally recognised

Qualification Structure & Sizes

All qualifications in the QCF are built up from smaller units of learning, with each unit having a credit value.

QCF Qualification Structure

Figure 1 – QCF Structure

Credit Values represent how long a unit is expected to take – Each credit value equates to approximately 10 hours of learning

Units in the QCF are assessed individually but allow cross-referencing of evidence so work can be assessed for more than one unit at the same time

Qualification Size (How long it takes)

There are three sizes of qualification

  • Award – 1 to 12 Credits (10 to 120 hours of learning)
  • Certificate – 13 to 36 Credits (130 – 360 hours of learning)
  • Diploma – 37 Credits or More (370 or more hours of learning)


  • The hours are approximate learning hours and may be less
  • Work based training may count towards the learning hours

Qualification Level (How difficult it is)

There are 9 levels with the QCF which indicate the difficulty of the qualification these range from Entry level through to level 8.

QCF Qualification Levels

Qualification Titles

The title of a qualification should indicate its difficulty, how long it will take the average learner to complete, and its general content, using the following information:

  • Qualification level (from lowest, entry level to level 8 at the top)
  • Qualification size (award/certificate/diploma)
  • Content of the qualification

For example

  • Level 2 Diploma in Bulk Liquid Operations
    • Level 2 – Qualification – (Equivalent to GCSE A* – C)
    • Size Diploma – So it is at least 37 credits or more indicating a notinal learning time of 370 hours
    • Content – Bulk Liquid Operations – (Indicates the area of work the qualification is directed at)

QCF Regulatory Body

The QCF is a regulated framework. Ofqual is responsible for regulating the framework, together with its partner regulators in Wales (the Department for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills or DCELLS) and Northern Ireland (the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment or CCEA).

The Qualification and Credit Framework (QCF) will eventually replace the National Qualifications Framework (NQF).

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