What is the Qualifications and Credit Framework?

The Qualifications and Credit Framework is one of two frameworks used by Ofqual and the Government to show the relationship between different sorts of qualifications, the other being the National Qualifications Framework.

The main difference between the two frameworks is that the Qualifications and Credit Framework has specific rules about how qualifications should be developed in terms of format, groupings of units and titling. The basis of the Qualifications and Credit Framework is individual units, which are all written against a standard template showing learning outcomes (what a learner should know, understand or be able to do) and assessment criteria (how they demonstrate that knowledge, understanding or practice). These units are then are grouped together to form qualifications.

What is credit?

The concept of the Qualifications and Credit Framework works around a currency of “credit” which is based on 1 credit for every 10 hours of learning (both taught and private study). Units in the QCF all have a credit value which indicates the amount of learning needing to be undertaken to achieve the unit.

How is it worked out?

Credit values are developed by looking at the content of the unit and making a judgment about how long the average learner will take to achieve it. There is no fixed formula or calculation that is used. Awarding Organisations use a range of experts who have knowledge of the sector area and delivering similar content to come up with credit values that reflect the level of difficulty and amount of content.

What are Guided Learning Hours?

Guided Learning Hours are sometimes called “taught time” in that they are the number of hours of contact time between a teacher/tutor and the learner. Guided Learning Hours are a useful indicator of how much time is needed to teach a learner the content of a unit so that providers can put together appropriate timetables and timescales for the delivery of qualifications.

Guided Learning Hours are usually added to any private study time to work out the credit value of a unit.

How does credit relate to other measures?


Credit is not an indicator of level. Credit is simply a measure of the time taken to achieve the unit or qualification. The level is indicated separately. In England, there are 9 levels in the National Qualifications Framework and Qualifications and Credit Framework ranging from Entry level to level 8.


Credit is not an indicator of how well someone has achieved a unit or qualification. So you don’t get more credit for getting a merit or distinction.

Size of qualification (Award, Certificate or Diploma)

Credit is a measure of the size of a qualification as it shows the time needed to complete it. In the Qualifications and Credit Framework, there are requirements for titling qualifications according to their credit value:

Award Certificate Diploma
1-12 credits 13-36 credits 37 credits and above

UCAS tariff points

Credit is used by Awarding Organisations applying for UCAS tariff points to show the size of a qualification (ie how much time it takes to complete). However, it is only one of several areas considered by UCAS when making judgments about how many tariff points a qualification merits. They also look at the level of demand (difficulty) and the range of skills, knowledge and understanding in a qualification.

What are Unique Learner Numbers?

The Unique Learner Number (ULN) is a 10-digit reference number used to identify an individual learner, and is used to access the Personal Learning Record (PLR) of anyone over the age of 14 involved in UK education or training. Learners retain the number throughout their lives, whatever their level of learning and wherever they participate in education, training and learning.

All school leavers are automatically provided with a ULN (except for private school leavers). It can be found on their results slips or exam certificates.

How are Unique Learner Numbers different from other numbers issued to candidates?

The ULN is the only number that is issued on a national basis. Any other numbers (for example PIN numbers, UCI – Unique Candidate Identifier etc) are issued either by an individual awarding body or by a centre (school or college). They can only be used to transfer data in certain situations – for example the UCI is used across GCSE and A level awarding bodies to transfer achievement between those qualifications.

What is the Personal Learning Record?

The Personal Learning Record (PLR) is a database which shows records of the achievements of individual learners from when they were at school, college or a recognised further education training provider from 14+ years.

The PLR allows individual learners access to their past and current achievement records. It can share records with the school, college, further education training provider, university or employer.

Schools, colleges, further education training providers and universities staff can use the PLR to directly access records for individuals making applications or studying at their organisations. They will typically use the PLR to verify learners’ qualifications because it’s quicker and easier than reviewing and checking certificates, so speeds up the application process. They can quickly build up a picture of an individual’s achievement to give the best next-step education or careers advice and/or ensure the individual receives all the public funding to which they are entitled.