Qualifications in Northern Ireland are often part of the National Qualifications Framework that has 8 levels. GCSEs are located at levels 1 and 2 and A Levels at level 3. An NVQ 2 is located at level 2 in the NQF. If qualifications share the same level this means that they are broadly similar in terms of the demand they place on the learner. However, qualifications at the same level can still be very different in terms of content and duration. For a full list of all accredited qualifications in the NQF, see NDAQ.
The National Qualifications Framework (NQF) sets out the levels at which qualifications are recognised. It helps learners make informed decisions on the qualifications they want to pursue, by comparing the levels of different qualifications and identifying clear progression routes to their chosen career. It aims to:
- promote access, motivation and achievement in education and training, strengthening international competitiveness
- promote lifelong learning by helping people to understand clear progression routes
- avoid duplication and overlap of qualifications while making sure all learning needs are covered
- promote public and professional confidence in the integrity and relevance of national awards.
Only qualifications that have been accredited by the regulatory authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (QCA, DELLS and CCEA) are included in the NQF. Each accredited qualification has an NQF level. If qualifications share the same level this means that they are broadly similar in terms of the demand they place on the learner. However, qualifications at the same level can still be very different in terms of content and duration.
There have been recent changes to the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The NQF has been revised. The number of levels has increased from 6 to 9 (entry level to level 8). Entry level and levels 1 to 3 have not changed. Higher level qualifications, at levels 4 and 5 in the previous NQF, have been assigned more precise levels, from levels 4 to 8, in the current NQF. However, revised levels are not currently being implemented for higher level NVQs, which remain at levels 4 and 5.
Additionally, there is an England, Wales and Northern Ireland framework for higher education qualifications (FHEQ). The framework for higher education qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland applies to degrees, diplomas, certificates and other academic awards (other than honorary degrees and higher doctorates) granted by a university or college in the exercise of its degree awarding powers. The framework is a qualifications framework, based upon the outcomes represented by the main qualification titles. It is not a credit framework, nor is it dependent on the use of credit.