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Qualifications Developments in Wales

Credit and Qualifications Framework for Wales (CQFW)


The Credit and Qualifications Framework for Wales (CQFW) embraces all post-16 and higher education in Wales and is being established jointly by the Welsh Assembly Government - Department for Children, Education, Lifelong learning and Skills and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW)


From 2003 onwards all accredited learning, including mainstream qualifications offered in Wales, will gradually be brought into a single unifying structure - the Credit and Qualifications Framework for Wales. The framework merges the concepts of volume of learning achievements (credit) and the demands made by that learning on the learner (level) to create a system that is able to embrace all types and styles of learning, and all qualifications.

Credit is:

  • a currency for learning achievement that provides a measure of learning outcomes achievable in learning time at a given level; and
  • an award made to a learner in recognition of the verified achievement of designated learning outcomes at a specified level.
One credit (within the Credit and Qualifications Framework for Wales) equates to learning outcomes achievable in 10 hours of learning time.

The level of learning has usually been determined by the qualification being studied or the year of study within a particular programme of learning. Now, credit level descriptors have been developed to promote a more generic understanding of level as an indicator of the demand, complexity, depth of study and the autonomy expected of the learner. These descriptors of credit and credit levels, widely accepted across Wales, Northern Ireland and England, ensure that any unit can be located at the correct level. They span the full spectrum of post-compulsory learning from Entry level to postgraduate and professional learning at Level 8.

Credit levels are:

  • indicators of relative demand, complexity, depth of study and learner autonomy; and used to locate units or modules
  • units or modules of learning that can only be assigned to one credit level.

The existing national qualifications frameworks are not being replaced and will be maintained through all the mainstream qualifications. However, recognition of partial achievement within those qualifications will be available, once credit value has been assigned to units for individuals who otherwise might be considered to have failed if they were unable to continue their studies or fell at the final exam hurdle.

By unitising or modularising qualifications with designated credit, it is possible to recognise partial achievement for individuals who are for one reason or another are unable to complete the whole qualification.


The credit and qualifications framework enables all with potential to climb onto the learning ladder and will:

  • support the development of an inclusive society where everyone has the opportunity to fulfil his or her potential;
  • assist in removing barriers to progression;
  • promote recognition of the skills required to support economic growth in Wales and elsewhere;
  • offer parity in the recognition of achievement for learners of all ages, whether they are learning in the workplace, community, at school, college or university;
  • recognise learning wherever, whenever and however it is achieved;
  • enable the accumulation of credits towards a qualification or achieved for their own value; and
  • allow the accumulation of credits to meet the specific needs of individuals.

The framework will assist learners to:

  • explain to others the relative value of their award;
  • provide an employer with a much clearer picture of what they know and can do; and
  • transfer their knowledge and skills between career paths and providers and potentially throughout Europe and internationally.
The framework provides a flexible structure that allows key players to:
  • respond to change;
  • promote transfer and progression; and
  • create relevant and tailor-made learning opportunities.
Employers will benefit from:
  • encouraging a greater number of people in Wales to develop the skills needed to meet employers’ requirements and to overcome skill shortages;
  • the opportunities for their staff to develop those skills needed for their work without necessarily needing to take full qualifications or have time off work; and
  • being able to see easily the amount and level of learning already achieved by potential employees, especially those without standard full qualifications.
Although some of these benefits could be derived from unitising qualifications, it is only by assigning credit to units, qualifications and learning achievements outside the National Qualifications Framework that the full benefits can be achieved. The Awarding Bodies customised short course programmes are a good example of programmes satisfying localised needs outside the framework. The credit framework provides the essential means of measuring and recording all learning wherever and however it is achieved. More broadly, Wales will benefit as the culture of being the learning country develops through the adoption of the credit and qualifications framework.


The National Qualifications Framework (NQF) and the Frameworks for Higher Education Qualifications (FHEQ) apply to Wales as well as England and Northern Ireland but their provisions have been incorporated within the CQFW. Also within the CQFW space provision is made to incorporate the development of the Welsh Baccalaureate, which was piloted between 2002 - 2006, and is now increasingly available to post-16 students in a staged roll-out across Wales from 2007 onwards.

The Credit and Qualifications Framework for Wales: Learning and Progression Routes gives a representation of how the various levels and qualifications relate to each other.