Comparing the UK Regulated Qualification Framework to Qualification Frameworks Around the World

The education landscape is diverse, with multiple training models and varying educational systems. Therefore, it is crucial to have a qualification framework that ensures coherence, similarities, and the equivalence of recognition across different education systems. In the United Kingdom, the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) serves as a foundational structure for recognizing and comparing qualifications, promoting uniformity, and assuring quality. This framework encompasses various qualifications across a wide range of sectors, including the Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) qualification. The TEFL qualification plays an important role in preparing individuals to teach English to non-native speakers, both in the UK and abroad. By aligning the TEFL qualification within the RQF, it enables individuals to have their TEFL qualification recognized and valued within the broader educational context, ensuring consistency, and facilitating mobility and professional development opportunities within the field of English language teaching.

All UK-based RQF courses and qualifications are registered and regulated by Ofqual (the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation), a non-ministerial government department that regulates qualifications, exams, and tests in England. Once approved, all qualifications become a part of the Ofqual register, where they are publicly available to view.


The UK’s Qualifications Frameworks: From NQF to RQF

The National Qualifications Framework (NQF) was established in 2008 and was the predecessor of the current RQF. However, the NQF had several key limitations, such as a lack of clarity and comparability, inflexibility in accommodating different qualifications, limited recognition of vocational and work-based qualifications, insufficient focus on quality assurance, and complexity for learners and employers. 

In response, the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) was developed in 2015 by Ofqual to address these issues and provide a more comprehensive and standardized framework.

The evolution from the NQF to the RQF involved significant changes in the approach to qualification recognition. The adoption of a credit-based system was one of the key advancements. Unlike the NQF’s level-only approach, the RQF assigns credit values to qualifications, reflecting their size and complexity. This credit-based system enables learners to understand the amount of learning required for each qualification, facilitating a more precise comparison and evaluation of qualifications.

TEFL Graduate sitting at his laptop - TEFL qualification


Key Features of the RQF

A Large Diversity of Qualifications

The RQF encompasses a wide range of qualifications that cater to a number of diverse educational pathways. It includes academic qualifications, such as General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE), Advanced Level (A-level) qualifications, and degrees. 

Additionally, it recognizes vocational qualifications, diplomas, certificates, and work-based qualifications (such as our Level 5 TEFL Diploma courses). This inclusivity ensures that individuals can demonstrate their skills and knowledge across various sectors, promoting flexibility and versatility in education and training.


A Credit-Based System

The RQF employs a credit-based system to measure the size and complexity of qualifications. Under this system, each qualification is assigned a credit value, reflecting the amount of learning required to achieve it. 

One “credit” is the equivalent of 10 total learning hours, so, for example, a course that was attributed a total qualification time (TQT) of 30 hours would offer three credits. Learners can accumulate credits from different qualifications to build their overall credit profile.


Level Descriptors in the RQF

The RQF utilizes a level descriptors system to indicate the difficulty and challenges associated with qualifications. It consists of nine levels, ranging from Entry Level to Level 8, representing a progression in terms of knowledge, skills, and academic demands.

    • Entry Level (1): Provides basic skills and knowledge for individuals with minimal educational experience.
  • E.g. Entry Level Certificate in Literacy.
    • Level 1: Represents the foundation level, offering fundamental knowledge and skills.
  • E.g. Level 1 Diploma in Education Studies or GCSEs (grades D-G/ 3-1)
    • Level 2: Equivalent to GCSEs at grades A*-C/9-4, providing broader knowledge and skills.
  • E.g. Level 2 Certificate in Early Years Education.
    • Level 3: Equivalent to A-levels, demonstrating advanced knowledge and skills.
  • E.g. Level 3 Diploma in Education.
    • Level 4: Higher education foundation level, equivalent to the first year of an undergraduate degree.
  • E.g. Level 4 Certificate in Education and Training.
    • Level 5: Equivalent to the second year of an undergraduate degree, representing specialized knowledge in education.
    • Level 6: Equivalent to the third year of an undergraduate degree, representing bachelor’s degree level.
  • E.g. Bachelor’s degree in Applied Linguistics.
    • Level 7: Equivalent to a master’s degree level, where advanced expertise is expected.
  • E.g. Master’s degree in Language Studies. Additionally, the DELTA (Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) is mapped to Level 7, demonstrating its recognition and alignment with this level.
    • Level 8: Equivalent to a doctoral degree level, the highest level of qualification.
  • E.g. Doctorate in Applied Linguistics.

These education-based examples highlight the progression and specialization within the RQF, offering a clear pathway for individuals pursuing a career in education, teaching, and language studies.

Teach English Premier TEFL - TEFL qualification


Classifying Qualification Types: Awards, Certificates & Diplomas

As well as a qualification’s level (its difficulty mapped against levels 1-8 in the UK’s RQF), we also measure a qualification’s length based on the total qualification time (TQT) and credits involved. Based on this, we classify qualifications into three main categories (Awards, Certificates, or Diplomas) based on the following criteria: 

  • Awards: 1-12 UK credits (10-120 hours total qualification time)
  • Certificates: 13-36 credits (130-360 hours total qualification time)
  • Diplomas:* 37 credits or more (370+ hours total qualification time)

*Recently, a fourth category has been added – Advanced Diplomas. This category has a minimum of 420 hours TQT and 42 credits. An example of this is our industry-first Level 5 TEFL Advanced Diploma (with a TQT of 540 hours and 54 credits).


Where Do Our Level 5 TEFL Qualification Courses Fit on the RQF?

Our accredited and regulated courses, including the TEFL qualification, are all the same level of difficulty – Level 5. This means that in the UK, they are the equivalent difficulty of two years of an undergraduate university course or a foundational degree.

It’s important to note that our courses are not exactly the same as two years of university because the total study time is not the same – you will undoubtedly study for more hours in 2 years in a college or university or college, however, the level of difficulty is the same – Level 5.


Here is a breakdown of all our current Level 5 courses:

      • Total qualification time (TQT) = 380 hours = 38 Credits = Diploma
      • Total qualification time (TQT) = 540 hours = 54 Credits = Advanced Diploma (threshold is 42 credits)
    • Total qualification time (TQT) per individual course = 80 hours = 8 Credits = Award


Understanding Guided Learning Hours (GLH) Versus Total Qualification Time (TQT)

How can our 180 Hour TEFL Diploma suddenly be attributed with 38 credits (380 hours total qualification time)? Well, when it comes to qualifications, there are two types of “times” to take into account:

Guided Learning Hours (GLH) – The total number of guided learning hours on the course. E.g. in class with a teacher, studying a book, completing exercises, etc.

Total Qualification Time (TQT) – The total number of guided and unguided learning hours on the course. E.g. the GLH plus any homework, self-study, research, exams, revision, etc.

While our 180 Hour Level 5 Diploma is mapped to 180 hours total “classroom study time”, we expect that once learners have revised, completed homework tasks, done exterior research, written their assessments, and so on, the total qualification time will be 380 hours (therefore, 38 credits).


Comparing the UK’s RQF to Other Frameworks Around the World

As both learners and prospective employers, it can be difficult to understand another country’s qualifications framework. If a “Level 5” in the UK isn’t the same as a Level 5 in your country, you could well under-or-overestimate the value of the qualification.

We’ve broken down the frameworks of various countries from around the world and made comparisons between the UK RQF and their qualifications framework. Understanding how your own framework matches up against the UK’s will help you to gain a full understanding of your qualifications or those of your prospective employees.


Comparing the UK’s RQF to Ireland’s National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ)

UK & Ireland Qualifications

The UK’s Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF), regulated by Ofqual in England, provides a nine-level classification system based on credits for regulated qualifications in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. 

In contrast, Ireland’s National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ), overseen by Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI), encompasses ten levels and covers all qualifications in Ireland, including academic, vocational, and professional ones. 

While both frameworks are used in higher education and facilitate qualification recognition, the RQF is more specific to the UK, while the NFQ has broader applicability and aligns with the European Qualifications Framework.

Our 180 Hour Level 5 TEFL Diploma is approximately a Level 6 or Level 7 in Ireland. However, when looking to transfer UK credits to Ireland, it’s important to contact the educational institution or governing body directly for more information.

In addition, Ireland’s governing body, QQI, provides a useful tool called NARIC Ireland Foreign Qualifications, which can be used to search a huge range of foreign qualifications to see how they compare to their Irish equivalents.


Comparing the UK’s RQF to the European Qualifications Framework (EQF)

Comparison of the UK’s RQF to the European Qualifications Framework - TEFL qualification

The European Qualifications Framework (EQF) is a framework developed by the European Union, covering qualifications across European countries. It consists of eight levels based on learning outcomes and competencies (compared to the UK’s 9 RQF levels) and aims to promote transparency, comparability, and recognition of qualifications within the EU.

While the RQF primarily focuses on recognition within the UK, the EQF facilitates the recognition and mobility of learners and workers across European countries. The EQF is governed by the European Commission in collaboration with EU member states. Despite the UK leaving the EU in January 2020, this is not likely to have any foreseeable impact on the recognition of UK qualifications in the EU.

The European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) is a widely recognized system used to measure and compare learning achievements across European countries. It allows for the transfer and accumulation of credits between educational institutions (with two UK credits equaling one EU credit), enabling students to have their academic achievements recognized when moving between institutions or countries. 

While the UK has left the European Union, ECTS credits earned in UK institutions and European institutions are still valid and recognized. However, students and educational institutions need to check the specific agreements or guidelines in place to ensure the transferability of ECTS credits.

If you would like to learn more about comparing national qualification frameworks across Europe, please click here.


Comparing the UK’s the US Qualifications Framework

In the USA, qualifications are primarily awarded by individual states, educational institutions, and professional organizations. There is no equivalent national framework like there in the UK or Europe, so it is not possible to make direct comparisons with the UK’s RQF. These institutions form the backbone of the United States educational system, which is based on a diverse range of credentials, including certificates, associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees, and advanced degrees, offered by various educational institutions.

The US has regional accrediting bodies, professional associations, and state-level authorities that provide oversight and establish standards for educational programs. Transferability of qualifications between US institutions varies depending on the policies and agreements of individual institutions. Each US institution has its own policies and procedures for credit transfer, so there is no direct calculation regarding the transfer of RQF or EQF credits, which will be decided depending on the institution’s own policies and mapping.


Comparing the UK’s RQF to the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF)

UK and Australian RQF Qualifications

The Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) comprises ten levels (versus the RQF’s nine levels) and applies to qualifications across Australia. It covers a wide range of academic, vocational, and training programs. The AQF provides a nationally recognized framework in Australia, facilitating recognition and credit transfer between institutions within the country. The AQF is governed by the Australian government and regulated by the Australian Qualifications Framework Council.

When it comes to recognition and transferability, RQF qualifications are primarily recognized within the UK, and the transferability of these qualifications to Australia would typically be assessed on an individual basis. 

In contrast, the AQF supports the movement of learners between different education and training sectors within Australia, providing a consistent framework for recognition and credit transfer among institutions. It’s essential to stay updated with the latest official documentation and guidelines from each framework to ensure accurate information on qualification classification, recognition, and transferability.

Transferring RQF credits to AQF credits involves a case-by-case evaluation process. Students or institutions seeking credit transfer should research and compare the learning outcomes, level, and content of the RQF qualification with the desired program or institution in Australia. Recognition and equivalency of RQF credits within the AQF framework depend on the individual assessment conducted by Australian institutions, taking into account factors such as level, content, and learning outcomes. 

If you would like to learn more about transferring foreign credits to the Australian qualifications framework, please click here.


Comparing the UK’s RQF to the South African National Qualifications Framework (NQF)

UK and South African RQF Qualifications

The South African NQF (whose governing body is known as the South African Qualifications Authority, SAQA) comprises ten levels and serves as the national framework for South Africa, encompassing a wide range of qualifications across different sectors, facilitating their recognition and transferability within the country.

When it comes to the recognition and transferability of RQF qualifications to South Africa, this would typically be assessed on a case-by-case basis and students or institutions seeking credit transfer should take note of the equivalent RQF and South African NQF Levels, as well as considering factors such as learning outcomes and content. The NQF provides guidelines for evaluating foreign qualifications and plays a key role in recognizing and facilitating the transfer of qualifications within South Africa.


English Teaching TEFL Qualification

Regardless of which country or governing body you gain your TEFL qualification from, there is usually a process in place to recognize their equivalence in other countries and with other regulatory bodies. 

Not to worry though! English language employers are used to working with teachers with a diverse range of qualifications from regulatory bodies from around the world. All employers will understand the degree of complexity involved in a Level 5 qualification and what a huge achievement it is.

If you are considering your Level 5 TEFL qualification credits from RQF to another national qualifications framework abroad, the best advice is always to contact the local regulating body to discuss the best way to complete this transfer successfully. They will be able to help and guide you towards making this transfer and advise you on the best organizations to contact.

Wondering which Level 5 TEFL Course is best for you? Find out here.

Also Read –

    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyBrowse Courses