RQF - Regulated Qualifications Framework

This page covers:

  • What is the RQF?
  • The previous Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF)
  • Levels 
  • Size
  • Teaching qualifications

What is the RQF?

It stands for the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) and relates to all qualifications regulated by Ofqual in England. Other frameworks may exist in different countries. When a qualification is due for renewal, or a new qualification is written by an awarding organisation, it can go onto the RQF provided it meets their requirements.   

This RQF model allows awarding organisations to have much more freedom to design their own qualifications, and to give them an appropriate title other than Award, Certificate or Diploma.

All qualifications on the RQF must be underpinned by a validity strategy that will show how they provide value for learners and employers. 

You can find out more about the RQF by clicking here and viewing the video further down this page. 

The 2014 Ofqual General Conditions of Recognition were updated in September 2015. These conditions are used by awarding organisations for designing qualifications, and quality assuring the centres who deliver and assess them. 

Guidance regarding the General Conditions can be accessed by clicking here.

The previous Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF)

The teaching qualifications were developed based upon the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) model. The RQF replaced the QCF in October 2015.This had mandatory and optional units at different levels and with different credit values. The units and credits could be built up over time to form relevant qualifications. All qualifications began with the title Award, Certificate or Diploma depending upon their size and could be offered by any awarding organisation. 


The levels in the RQF indicate the difficulty and complexity of the knowledge and skills associated with a qualification which is regulated by Ofqual. 

The RQF has three entry levels: 1,2,3 plus levels 1 to 8.

A rough comparison of levels 1 to 8 to existing qualifications in England is:

1 – GCSEs (grades 3-1: previously D-G)
2 – GCSEs (grades 9-4: previously A*-C), CSE grade 1, O level grade A,B or C
3 – Advanced level (A level) grade A-E, AS level
4 – Vocational Qualification level 4, CertHE, HNC 
5 – Vocational Qualification level 5, Foundation Degree, DipHE, HND
6 – Bachelor’s Degree (with or without honours)
7 – Master’s Degree, Postgraduate Certificate and Diploma, PGCE
8 – Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil or PhD).

See this link for further information: https://www.gov.uk/what-different-qualification-le...

Qualifications can be at different levels, but require similar amounts of study and assessment time. Similarly, qualifications at the same level can take different amounts of study and assessment time. 

You can download Ofqual's (2015) qualification and component level descriptors by clicking here.


All qualifications on the RQF have a 'size' which is expressed in terms of total qualification time (TQT). 

TQT can be thought of as credits i.e. one credit equals 10 hours of learning. This learning time can be contact time with a tutor or assessor, and non-contact time for assignments and studies. 

For example, if a qualification has a TQT of 12, it would take approximately 120 hours to achieve.

You can find out more about TQT by clicking here

Guided learning hours (GLH) can also be used to determine how much time is guided by the tutor/assessor when with their learners.

Teaching qualifications

The Award, Certificate and Diploma in Education and Training which were originally approved onto the QCF were extended until July 2018 and may be re-extended until July 2020. The ETF will provide updated information via this link.

The book Principles and Practices of Teaching and Training should give trainee teachers all they need to start their role and work towards a relevant teaching qualification which is on the RQF.