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QCF Explained

The Qualifications Curriculum Framework became fully operational from 1st January 2011. It’s a new framework for creating and accrediting qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. All Vocational Qualifications now exist on a single framework. Units that make up full qualifications are completely transferable to other qualifications.

What is the difference between National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) and Vocationally Related Qualifications (VRQs)

The main difference at present is that NVQs relate to a learner's ability to carry out practical tasks (competence) whereas VRQs relate to the learner's theoretical understanding of a concept (knowledge). Within the QCF,  NVQs and VRQs have ceased to exist as separate types of qualifications. The units that make up a full qualification under QCF are defined as "competence units" or "knowledge units". Some qualifications consist purely of competence units, others consist purely of knowledge units. Most contain a mixture of both types of units.

Awards, Certificates and Diplomas

There are three different types of qualifications available under QCF, which relate to the amount of units (areas of study) required to achieve that qualification. For each qualification there is a list of mandatory units and optional units. Each unit has a credit value. Units can be achieved on their own or as part of a full qualification.


The Level refers to the difficulty of the qualification. There are nine levels, starting with Entry Level and then Levels 1-8. The higher the level, the more in-depth the studying. The level would also normally relate to the amount of responsibility the learner holds at work. Within a care service, a care assistant is likely to study at Level 2, a Supervisor at Level 3 and a Home Manager at Level 5.


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