UK’s Credit Transfer Systems
The UK’s credit transfer systems can be generally divided into two types:
- national credit transfer system for accredited qualification in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and
- credit transfer system in Scotland
Both credit transfer systems foresee awarding qualifications on the basis of accumulated credit points but there are a few differences between the credit transfer system in Scotland and the rest of the country.
The credit transfer system in England, Wales and Northern Ireland comprises all 8 levels (9 together with the Entry Level) from secondary education to vocational and higher education qualifications with every level consisting of qualifications of similar difficulty. However, different qualifications within a particular level can cover very different subjects and can take different amount of time to complete. Also, qualifications are not necessarily accredited at every level.
In 2011, the National Qualification Framework (NQF) was replaced by the Qualification and Credit Framework (QCF). Just like its predecessor, the new national credit transfer system consists of 8 levels and includes only qualifications which have been accredited by England’s Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual), Wales’ Department for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills (DCELLS) and Northern Ireland’s Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA). But unlike the NQF, the QCF does not exclude vocational learning.
Under the QCF, the learner is awarded credits for completing units and depending on the total amount of accumulated credits, the learner can gain three kinds of qualifications – award (1-12 credits), certificate (13-36 credits) and diploma (37 credits or more). The QCF is organised in a way to be flexible and give the learner the ability to study units at own pace. Just like the NQF levels, the QCF levels vary in difficulty with each subsequent level increasing in difficulty.
Higher education qualifications that are granted by universities and other higher education institutions – such as Bachelor’s Degree, Master’s Degree and Doctorates are covered by the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (FHEQ).
Scotland has its own credit transfer system which is known as the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). It covers all qualification levels in Scotland including the Scottish Qualifications Certificate, Higher National Certificate, Scottish Vocational Qualification, Higher National Diploma and all academic awards that are awarded by Scottish higher education institutions. It is regulated by the Scottish Qualifications Authority, Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, Association of Scotland’s Colleges, Universities of Scotland and Scotland’s Government. In contrary to the credit transfer system in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the SCQF has 12 levels.
After the formal adoption of the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) by the European Parliament in 2008, the UK has “translated” the mentioned frameworks to the EQF with an aim to make it easier for the learners, employers and the public to compare the UK’s frameworks with credit transfer systems in other countries of the European Union. The EQF was designed to encourage workforce mobility and flexibility, however, the UK is only one of 6 members of the EU that have completed cross reference of the national qualification frameworks with the EQF.