SCQF

What is the SCQF and what does it do?

SCQF stands for Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework. The SCQF shows how all qualifications in Scotland, such as those awarded by SQA and universities, compare with each other. There's more information on the SCQF website www.sqa.org.uk/scqf.

It supports progression or movement between different qualifications — for example:

  • how Highers (SCQF level 6) help prepare learners for HNC/HND (SCQF level 7/8) or university degree courses (beginning at SCQF level 7 and awarding at SCQF levels 9 or 10)
  • how learners who have achieved an HND (SCQF level 8) can often get direct entry into the third year (SCQF level 9) of a related undergraduate degree course in some universities

What does SCQF level mean?

The level of the qualification shows how demanding it is. There are 12 SCQF levels, with level 1 being the least demanding (the introductory level of qualification) and level 12 the most demanding (for example, PhDs).

SCQF level 7 is the starting point of the higher education levels on the framework.

How do SCQF credit points work? What do they mean?

SCQF credit points are based on the amount of time the average learner would take to complete the qualification. As well as including the time spent learning in school, college, university or training, it also includes self-directed learning — study at home or the library.

One SCQF credit point represents a notional 10 hours of learning. So, for example, if you achieve a Higher course (SCQF level 6) with 24 SCQF credits, you will have done about 240 hours of learning.

Why is SCQF information shown on the certificate?

The SCQF has been used in Scotland's schools, colleges and universities for over 16 years, and employers are increasingly aware of it. With more and more qualifications being placed on the framework, we feel that it is right to include SCQF information on your certificate.

Knowing your SCQF information can help you make decisions about what to do next. It also helps colleges and universities make decisions about entry or progression and helps employers understand how your qualifications compare to other qualifications.

SCQF information also helps people outside of Scotland to compare Scottish qualifications to qualifications on their own frameworks.

Are SCQF credit points the same as UCAS tariff points?

No, SCQF credit points do not relate to UCAS tariff points. UCAS tariff points are designed solely for deciding how useful a qualification is for progression into higher education. They take account of the type of qualification and the grade achieved.

By contrast, SCQF credit points measure how much learning needs to be done at a certain level to achieve a qualification, regardless of the grade achieved.

Why does Scotland need a Framework of levels and credits?

The Framework shows that qualifications are broadly comparable (though this does not mean that they are equivalent) by describing them using a common language of level and credit.

The SCQF supports the Scottish Government's lifelong learning strategy and - now that there's more mobility of learners and workers across the UK, Europe and internationally - qualification Frameworks are the method by which learning will be understood globally. SCQF information will be useful to holders of the Scottish Qualifications Certificate (SQC) so they can explain to employers and training providers how their qualifications compare to other qualifications.

Who will benefit from the SCQF?

The SCQF is beneficial to a wide range of people and organisations such as:

  • people of all ages and circumstances who access education and training over their lifetime to fulfil their personal, social and economic potential
  • employers, learners and the public who will be able to understand the full range of Scottish qualifications, how they relate to each other and how they can contribute to improving skills
  • qualification providers, who will be able to describe programmes of learning that lead to qualifications and make the relationship between qualifications clearer

Other benefits will be to:

  • clarify entry and exit points and support the development of routes to progress from qualification to qualification
  • maximise the opportunities to transfer credit between qualifications
  • assist learners to plan their progress and learning

Who developed the SCQF?

The SCQF is managed by a partnership of SQA, the higher education sector (working through the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), Colleges Scotland and Universities Scotland), and the Scottish Government. An industry representative also sits on the SCQF Board. However, a much wider range of stakeholders have overseen the SCQF's development, including Skills Development Scotland, learndirect scotland, the Confederation of British Industry, Confederation of Scotland's Local Authorities (COSLA), Federation of Small Businesses, Education Scotland and Communities Scotland.

Are qualifications that have the same level equal?

No. The SCQF level shows that qualifications at the same level involve the same complexity of learning, but each qualification may differ in terms of the subject, purpose and size. For example; qualifications on the same level may have a different number of credit points, which will show that more time is needed to achieve the qualification. For example, an Advanced Higher is at SCQF level 7 and has 32 credit points, while a Higher National Certificate is also at SCQF level 7and has 96 credit points. Not only are the qualifications different sizes, but they are also different types and serve different purposes.

Are all credit points worth the same?

Yes. (And no.) SCQF credit points are all allocated on the basis of one SCQF credit point to 10 learning hours. This means that the six SCQF credit points for a Higher Unit and the six credit points for an Intermediate 2 Unit each represent 60 hours of learning. However, the credits for Higher have been gained at level 6, while the credits for Intermediate 2 have been gained at level 5. This means that the learning at level 6 is more complex than level 5.

Do I aim to get as many credits as possible, or as many qualifications at the highest level?

You should aim for the programmes of learning that are best for you at different times of your life. For example, at school you might try for Highers (level 6). Later on, you might want to learn a new skill as a hobby, and that qualification could be at SCQF level 5; or during your working life you might take an SVQ at SCQF level 7.

Do credits entitle me to study for another qualification or job?

Individual universities and colleges set entry requirements for their courses, so it is up to them to determine how relevant your learning is compared to their requirements. However, the SCQF level and credit points of your qualifications help them to make this decision.

Employers are normally more likely to be interested in the SCQF level of your qualifications than the number of points achieved. However, credit points indicate the amount of learning you have achieved at an SCQF level, and will tell the employer how big the qualification is.

The SCQF:

  • helps qualification-providers describe programmes of learning that lead to qualifications and makes the relationship between qualifications clearer
  • clarifies entry and exit points, and supports the development of routes to progress from qualification to qualification
  • maximises opportunities to transfer credit between qualifications
  • helps learners plan their learning and progress

Where will I see the SCQF?

Information about the SCQF appears on your Scottish Qualifications Certificate. Many colleges and universities mention the SCQF in their prospectus or on their website. Local authorities have been using SCQF since 2001 to report on school attainment.

Who uses the SCQF?

SQA, colleges and universities have been working with the SCQF for some years. In Scotland, universities use the SCQF to describe their qualifications and all degrees offered by universities have been placed on the Framework. This helps learners to move and progress between programmes and institutions.

What other qualifications are in the SCQF?

The Framework already includes some non-mainstream qualifications. For example, Midlothian Council has had its Crèche Worker training course placed on the Framework, and qualifications offered by the Chartered Institute of Bankers in Scotland and the Scottish Police College have been included in the SCQF Framework too.

Will SCQF replace qualifications like doctorates, degrees and HNC/Ds?

No. You will still be awarded a degree or a Diploma. The Framework doesn't replace qualifications - it simply shows how one qualification broadly compares with another.

Does the SCQF award qualifications?

No. Awarding and accrediting qualifications is done by SQA and other organisations like universities, colleges, statutory and professional bodies. Additionally, colleges can credit rate their own or other organisations provisions.

Does the SCQF measure the quality of teaching?

No. That is not part of the SCQF's purpose. The Framework is a new way of comparing and understanding Scottish qualifications. Education Scotland reviews the quality of learning and teaching in Scotland.

Does the funding that schools, colleges and universities get depend on the SCQF level of the courses they teach?

No. This is not part of the SCQF's purpose. Funding is reviewed by other organisations such as the Scottish Funding Council, local authorities and Scottish Enterprise.

What SCQF information is shown on the Scottish Qualifications Certificate SQC?

The certificate has three sections:

  • The summary of attainment, which lists all of the Group Awards, Courses and stand-alone Units that you have achieved and shows SCQF levels of the qualifications which have been credit-rated
  • The detailed record of attainment gives more detail about the qualifications you've achieved since the last certificate was issued, and will include SCQF levels and credits
  • The profiles section shows your current achievements in Core Skills and SCQF credits

Why do I need to know about the SCQF?

The SCQF can help learners to negotiate their way through the lifelong learning journey. They need to know that they can use their SCQF credit points towards new qualifications, and that there are different paths they can take. For example, many learners who have achieved an HND have used this credit towards a degree - instead of entering a university in year 1 they enter into year 2 or 3. This will become even more important as more and more qualifications are included in the Framework.

How do I work out the total SCQF credits I have?

On your Scottish Qualifications Certificate there's a profile page that gives you a breakdown of all the credit points you have gained and their SCQF levels.

How were grades 1 - 6 in Standard Grades shown in the SCQF?

The grades 1 - 6 showed how well the learning had been achieved within one of three levels:

  • grades 1 or 2 were awarded at Credit Standard Grade - SCQF level 5
  • grades 3 or 4 were awarded at General Standard Grade - SCQF level 4
  • grades 5 or 6 were awarded at Foundation Standard Grade - SCQF level 3

Why do grades  A, B, C and D get the same number of credit points in National 5, Higher, Advanced Higher and Intermediate 1 and 2 ?

The SCQF level is a guide to the general level of knowledge and skill needed to achieve that award. The number of SCQF credit points gained doesn't change depending on your grade - the SCQF credit points reflect how much learning you've achieved, not how well you've learned it. Your grades show how well you have done.

Does the SCQF make a difference to my exam results?

No, the SCQF has no effect on exam results. Level and credit are gained when you achieve individual Units and external assessments. The grading you get in an exam does not affect the SCQF level. Please see the above question above 'Why do grades A, B, C and D get the same number of credit points in National 5, Higher, Advanced Higher and Intermediate 1 and 2?'.

What if I sit a number of qualifications at the same level?

It makes no difference. Each individual qualification is allocated an SCQF level and you will be awarded each qualification, even if these are at the same level. For example, National 5 and Intermediate 2 are both at level 5. If you achieve these you will be awarded both qualifications and gain SCQF credit points for each. These examples have 24 credit points each, giving you 48 SCQF credit points at SCQF level 5. It's the same if you achieve two National 5s - you get 48 points at level 5.

What support will candidates have to help them understand all of this?

All candidates receive the flyer 'About Your SQC' with their certificate. As well as explaining your results, this tells you what the SCQF is, how it works, and what it means for you.

All SQA centres (schools and colleges for example) have received a short guide to the SCQF called 'Achievement Counts', which is designed to help learners understand the SCQF. It is available to download on the SCQF website, www.scqf.org.uk. All SQA centres also have supplies of 'Your Exams' and 'About your SQC'. 

Copies are also available from the SCQF office, by e-mail: s.houtenfeeley@scqf.org.uk or telephone: 0141 225 2927.

All SQA Centre Co-ordinators have a Resource Pack containing copies of presentations, guides and leaflets to help explain the SQC and the SCQF to colleagues, parents and learners.

If you have any questions on the new SQC, please contact SQA's Business Development & Customer Support Team on: 0303 333 0330 or e-mail: mycentre@sqa.org.uk

Is there an easy way to see SQA qualifications in the SCQF?

Please download our Ready Reckoner (94 KB) of SQA qualifications in the SCQF.

Will the SCQF help candidates get a college or university place?

Not directly. Entrance into college or university is at the discretion of the institution, and normally relies on learners' grades and subjects. However, the SCQF will help colleges and universities understand what learners have achieved. As more qualifications are allocated an SCQF level and credit points, the SCQF information will become important to the institutions to help make entry and credit transfer decisions.

Will the SCQF help candidates get a job?

Not directly, but the Framework diagram is a useful way to show potential employers what level of learning has been achieved. Work is continually being done to help employers understand how the SCQF can help them recruit the employees they need.

I have heard the terms 'general credit' and 'specific credit' being used. What does this mean?

The SCQF credit points given to a qualification are 'general' credit points. They don't relate to any subject or any particular purpose - they just help people understand how qualifications relate to one another.

If the holder of an award decided to apply for a different type of qualification, he or she might be able to use some or all of the credits achieved towards the new qualification, but this would depend on the subject match. For example, an HND in Business might provide a large number of credits toward a degree in Business, but only a small number of credits towards a professional qualification in Accounting. Specific credit means credit that would count for a specific purpose - it is usually given at the discretion of the institution you're applying to.

What if I have enough general credit points but not sufficient specific credit points for progression?

An institution may ask for a number of credits in a specific subject area at a particular SCQF level, and may ask you to supplement your learning to gain these credits. This may be at a level below or above the general credit points you already have.

Will the SCQF replace recognition for prior learning/experience?

No, but the 'SCQF Handbook' contains guidance on recognition of prior learning that may help to quantify it. This can be found on the SCQF website (www.scqf.org.uk).

Individual institutions will also have their own policies on recognition of prior learning and experience.

Do other countries have their own Frameworks?

The current Frameworks for England and Nothern Ireland are the National Qualifications Framework (NQF). The HE sector has the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (FHEQ). In Wales, the Credit and Qualifications framework Wales (CQFW) incorporates the NQF, QCF and HE Frameworks.

The Republic of Ireland has its own Framework, the National Framework of Qualifications for Ireland which, like the SCQF, includes general qualifications normally taken at school, vocational education and higher education.

The Qualifications can cross boundaries (886 KB) leaflet shows the Frameworks of the UK and how the qualifications within them roughly compare.

Additionally there is a European Qualifications Framework (EQF). The idea behind this Framework is that each European member nation will reference their Framework to the EQF. This may act as a translation device and provide a common currency by which learners and workers will be able to have their learning compared across Europe.

Do stand-alone Units have an SCQF level and credit points?

SQA Units have an SCQF level and credit points. However, not all SVQs have SCQF credit points, as they are owned by the Sector Skills Councils, which are responsible for these qualifications.

The Scottish Qualification Certificate (SQC) issued by SQA reports the level and credit points of each Unit a candidate achieves, in addition to the level of the overall qualification, to which they may contribute.

Will all SQA Group Awards be positioned on the SCQF?

Group Awards are positioned on the SCQF. However, a small number of legacy qualifications do not. These will either lapse or be replaced by SCQF credit rated qualifications.

Are SVQs given level and credit points in the SCQF?

The ready reckoner that shows the mainstream Scottish qualifications in the SCQF shows SVQs notionally positioned. The Scottish Government had previously funded a project to credit rate (the process of allocating SCQF level and SCQF credit points to be placed in the Framework) individual SVQs. This work was led by SQA and involves Sector Skills Councils (who develop the standards that SVQs are based on), and awarding bodies approved to deliver SVQs in Scotland have contributed to this work. 

SVQs are made up of different Units, and because of this, the amount of credit they are awarded varies. SVQs are also made up of mandatory and optional Units, and so some people will have the same SVQ at the same level but will have a slightly different number of SCQF credit points, depending on which optional Units they completed. 

Many SVQs have been credit-rated, with other SVQs being available for credit-rating as appropriate, such as when they come up for review or revision.