Giving you the confidence to choose the right qualification

An overview of the different qualification frameworks in the UK

National Framework Scope More information Examples of qualifications in the frameworks
Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF)
National Qualifications Framework (NQF)
England, Wales and Northern Ireland These two frameworks cover all those accredited qualifications outside of higher education offered in England, Northern Ireland and Wales. The QCF contains credit based vocational qualifications while the NQF contains 14-19 qualifications and other types of vocational qualifications.To find out more visit www.ofqual.gov.uk and www.ccea.org.uk.
Please note while these two frameworks include accredited qualifications offered in Wales, the CQFW should be referred to for a complete overview of provision in Wales.
National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ), Higher National Diplomas (HND)Higher National Certificates (HNC), A levels, Essential skills qualifications NI, GCSEs, English for Speakers of other languages (ESOL)
National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ), Higher National Diplomas (HND)Higher National Certificates (HNC), A levels, Essential skills qualifications NI, GCSEs, English for Speakers of other languages (ESOL)   A non-regulated qualifications framework which encompasses many types of qualifications offered in Wales including higher education qualifications, 14-19 qualifications and many vocational qualifications. To find out more visit www.cqfw.net. Doctoral Degrees, Bachelor's Degrees, Foundation Degrees, Essential Skills Wales, Welsh Baccalaureate

The significance of the different qualification levels

The table below highlights the significance of the different qualification levels, in terms of the skills they develop and what they lead to. There are three qualification frameworks in England. The levels of these frameworks are broadly equivalent in terms of difficulty.

How this table works

The levels of the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) and National Qualifications Framework (NQF) have been integrated together in the left hand column. The centre left column displays the levels of the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (FHEQ). The centre right column provides examples of the types of skills you might gain at each level. The right hand column makes general statements about what each level allows you to do. Examples of the types of qualifications you can gain are highlighted at each level. Please note that the skills highlighted in the middle column are indicative and are not designed to accurately reflect the level descriptions in any one of the major frameworks in England.

The levels of the National Qualification Framework (NQF)and Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) The Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (FHEQ) The skills you develop What this level enables you to do
Level 8
Qualification consumerLevel 8 Vocational Qualifications
Level 8 - Doctoral level
Doctoral Degrees
You are a leader in your field of study. Your expertise and original thinking contribute to extending the boundaries of knowledge or professional practice in your specialist area. You can critically analyse, interpret and evaluate complex information to produce new concepts and theories. Qualifications at this level are appropriate for leading experts or practitioners in a particular field.
Level 7
Qualification consumerDiploma in Translation
Qualification consumerBTEC Advanced Professional Diplomas, Certificates and Awards
Qualification consumerNVQ Level 5
Level 7 - Masters level
Qualification consumerMaster's Degrees
Qualification consumerIntegrated Master's Degrees
Qualification consumer Postgraduate Certificates
Qualification consumerPostgraduate Diplomas
You have highly developed knowledge of your specialist area, enabling you to develop original solutions to complicated problems. You have a strong understanding of the different methodologies and perspectives informing your subject area. You can design and undertake detailed levels of research, you can critically evaluate the short and long terms implications of your actions and can lead complex tasks and processes. Qualifications at this level are appropriate for senior professionals and managers or graduates looking to develop specialist subject knowledge
Level 6
Qualification consumer National Diploma in Professional Production Skills
Qualification consumerBTEC Advanced Professional Diplomas, Certificates and Awards
Level 6 - Honours level
Qualification consumerBachelors Degrees with Honours
Qualification consumerBachelors Degrees
Qualification consumerGraduate Certificates and Diplomas
You have a specialist, high-level knowledge of an area of work or study.You can use your own ideas in response to complex problems and are able to analyse complex information. You are aware of the current developments in your subject area. You can design your own research and conduct detailed evaluations of your own work. You can initiate and lead tasks and processes. This level is appropriate for learners looking to develop advanced skills in a particular vocational area or area of professional management/practice.It is suitable for learners wanting to gain entry into graduate employment.
Level 5
Qualification consumerHigher National Certificates and Higher National Diplomas
Qualification consumerNVQ Level 4
Qualification consumerBTEC Professional Diplomas, Certificates and Awards
Level 5 - Intermediate level
Qualification consumer Diplomas of Higher Education
Qualification consumer Foundation Degrees
Qualification consumer Higher National Diplomas
You have a strong depth of knowledge and skills in an area of work or study and respond effectively to complex problems and situations. You have a high level of work expertise and competence in managing and training others. You can use relevant research to inform actions and have an understanding of different perspectives in your subject area. You are able to work with a strong level of independence and can take responsibility for courses of action and the work of others. This level is appropriate for learners wanting to develop specialist skills in a particular professional, vocational or academic area.
Level 4
Qualification consumer Higher National Certificates
Qualification consumerBTEC Professional Diplomas, Certificates and Awards
Level 4 - Certificate level
Qualification consumerCertificates of higher education
Qualification consumerHigher National Certificates
You have strong knowledge and skills in a particular area which can be used to solve reasonably complex problems. You can analyse, evaluate and interpret relevant information and ideas. You have an informed perspective of the different approaches within your subject area. You review the effectiveness of your work and work with a strong level of independence. You can take responsibility, where appropriate, for the work of others. This level is appropriate for learners working in technical and professional jobs, and/or looking to develop skills in managing and developing others.
Level 3
Qualification consumer A levels
Qualification consumer International Baccalaureate
Qualification consumer NVQs Level 3
Qualification consumer BTEC Diplomas, Certificates and Awards
Qualification consumer BTEC Nationals
Qualification consumer OCR Nationals
There is no corresponding level in higher education You have the ability to apply a range of knowledge and skills at a detailed level. You can deal with quite complex problems and conduct investigations into your subject. You can use a range of methods in your learning and have an awareness of the different perspectives and approaches within your subject. You can make independent judgements within certain boundaries. This level is appropriate for a qualified or skilled worker or a learner looking to gain entry into university.
Level 2
Qualification consumer GCSEs grades A*-C
Qualification consumer BTEC Awards and Certificates
Qualification consumer Functional Skills Level 2
Qualification consumer OCR Nationals
Qualification consumer NVQs Level 2
Qualification consumer English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Level 2
There is no corresponding level in higher education You have a good knowledge and understanding of a subject. You use this knowledge to complete well defined tasks and deal with straightforward problems. You can interpret and gather relevant information related to a task. You can work independently with some overall guidance. This level is appropriate if you are looking to progress into skilled employment or continue into further education.
Level 1
Qualification consumer GCSEs grades D-G
Qualification consumer Functional Skills at Level 1
Qualification consumer BTEC Introductory Diplomas and Certificates
Qualification consumer OCR Nationals
Qualification consumer English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Level 1
There is no corresponding level in higher education You can use knowledge skills and procedures to complete well defined routine tasks. You can select and use relevant information and identify whether actions have been effective. With appropriate guidance you can take responsibility for your actions. This level is appropriate if learners are looking to progress in secondary education or to start developing the skills required in a particular vocational area.
Entry Level
Qualification consumer Entry level certificates
Qualification consumerEnglish for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)(E1-E3)
Qualification consumerFunctional Skills at entry level (English, maths and ICT)
There is no corresponding level in Higher Education You can use your knowledge or understanding to carry out simple familiar activities with appropriate guidance. This level is divided into three sublevels. As learners progress to Entry 3 they are able to carry out structured tasks and demonstrate an awareness of the consequences of their actions This level is appropriate for learners who want to develop core skills enabling them to continue or return to education or training.


Please note that the skills highlighted in the middle column are indicative and are not designed to accurately reflect the level descriptions in any one of the major frameworks in England.

What to remember about national levels!

If qualifications are the same level this means they are similar in terms of their difficulty, however they might be different in terms of size and content