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What is RQF – the new QCF?

Are you confused by qualifications and what they all mean? Learn about the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF).


As of October 2015, RQF (Regulated Qualifications Framework) replaced QCF (Qualifications and Credit Framework) – to allow for a simpler comparison and way of understanding what all the different qualifications mean.

RQFs are in place because they serve as a model in which you can compare different qualifications in terms of size and level. Ofqual explain that the qualifications can be indexed like a bookcase:

Size of qualification

The size of the qualification is determined by its Total Qualification Time (TQT), which is how long it takes to study for the qualification. RQFs allow students to finish their qualifications at their own pace; previous qualifications had set deadlines, however the RQF doesn’t have a set deadline for completing the qualifications.

The TQT takes into consideration:

  1. The number of Guided Learning Hours (i.e. the number of hours being taught by a teacher)
  2. The number of hours a typical learner will spend studying during the qualification. (This is of course an estimated time, because everybody learns at different paces.)

Level of qualification

There are 8 levels, which are supported by 3 different entry levels. The levels show how advanced the qualification is. The higher the level number is the more difficult and higher the qualification is.

This can be compared to existing qualifications:

Level 1

GCSEs (grades 3-1, which were previously D-G)

Level 2

GCSEs (grades 9-4, which were previously A*-C)

Level 3

A Levels (grade A to E) and/or AS Level

Level 4

Vocational Qualification Level 4, CertHE, HNC

Level 5

Vocational Qualification Level 5, Foundation Degree, DipHE, HND

Level 6

Bachelor Degree (with or without Honours)

Level 7

Master Degree, Postgraduate Certificate and Diploma, PGCE

Level 8

Doctoral Degree (Doctor of Philosophy, also known as a PhD)

Each level has a qualification descriptor, which outline the knowledge and understanding of the subject matter and also the skills associated with the qualification. For more information, check out Qualifications and Components level guide.

It should also be noted that the RQF doesn’t have set qualification rules; there aren’t required units or credits like there were for QCFs or NVQs. Individual awarding organisations are responsible for developing their qualifications so that they are valid and in alignment with labour market needs.

For more information on qualifications you can contact our friendly team. Alternatively, if you want some support and advice for choosing a course that is right for you, find out how we can help you get back into education.