It’s great that we have such a variety of qualifications in the UK but if you are selecting materials to support training programmes it can sometime be difficult to decide what is appropriate.
Materials provided by SkillsWheel are not mapped to specific qualifications but a guide to the most suitable level is shown for each product. This guide may help to understand the regulations.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, there are eight different levels of education – as well as an entry level. These are set out by something known as the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF). This provides a formal way of structuring the different levels of education.
In Scotland, there are 12 different levels of education. These are set out by something known as the SCQF.
Entry Level, as its name suggests, is the most basic form of qualification, and usually provides an introduction into education. This type of qualification is not usually mandatory as part of a qualification.
Entry level qualifications are available three different sub-categories, which progressively get more difficult: entry levels 1, 2 and 3.
Examples of entry level qualifications include:
- Entry level functional or essential skills
- Entry level awards and diplomas
- Entry level certificates (ELCs)
- Entry level English for foreign language speakers (ESOL)
- Skills for Life
Those looking to learn a new subject or language, as well as those looking to enter formal education.
Level 1 qualifications are often achieved in Years 10 and 11 of secondary school, Level 1 qualifications are the first formal rung on the numbered system of qualifications.
Examples of Level 1 qualifications include:
- GCSE (grades D, E, F or G)
- Level 1 functional or essential skills
- Level 1 awards and diplomas
- Level 1 certificates
- Level 1 National Vocational Qualification (NVQ)
- Music grades 1, 2 and 3
- Level 1 ESOL
Those aged 15-6, or anyone looking to further their education. It is not always necessary for learners to have completed an entry level qualification to move onto Level 1.
Level 2 qualifications often build on the structure of Level 1 but may require more learning hours. Can also often achieved in Years 10 and 11.
Examples of Level 2 qualifications include:
- GCSE (grades A*, A, B or C)
- O level (grades A, B or C)
- Grade 1 at CSE level
- Level 2 functional or essential skills
- Level 2 awards and diplomas
- Level 2 certificates
- Level 2 NVQ
- Music grades 4 and 5
- Intermediate apprenticeships
- Level 2 ESOL
Those aged 15-16, or adults looking to further their education. Many Level 2 learners will progress to Level 3 qualifications.
Level 3 qualifications generally contain a greater depth of knowledge in a subject. They are often achieved in Years 12 and 13, or in centres for further education.
Examples of Level 3 qualifications include:
- A level (grades A, B, C, D or E)
- Advanced subsidiary (AS) level
- Tech level
- Applied general
- Level 3 awards, diplomas and certificates
- Level 3 NVQ
- Music grades 6, 7 and 8
- Advanced apprenticeships
- Access to higher education diploma
- International Baccalaureate diploma
- Level 3 ESOL
Those who are looking to continue their education after the minimum school leaving age, or who want to specialise in a particular subject.
Level 4 is indicative of a greater understanding and a higher level of learning than that gained through core modules at secondary education level.
Examples of Level 4 qualifications include:
- Higher national certificate (HNC)
- Certificate of higher education (CertHE)
- Level 4 awards
- Level 4 diplomas
- Level 4 certificates
- Level 4 NVQ
- Higher apprenticeships
Level 4 qualification can act as a bridge between level 3 and 5, and can help people progress to the next stage of education when they might not have been able to with their previous qualifications.
Level 5 demonstrates knowledge of a subject which goes beyond what was taught during secondary education.
Examples of Level 5 qualifications include:
- Foundation degree
- Higher national diploma (HND)
- Diploma of higher education (DipHE)
- Level 5 awards, diplomas and certificates
- Level 5 NVQ
Anyone looking to move on to university, or other forms of higher education.
Level 6 refers to qualifications gained at degree level, often indicating the learner has graduated from a centre for further education.
Examples of Level 6 qualifications include:
- Bachelor’s degree (with or without honours)
- Graduate diploma
- Graduate certificate
- Level 6 awards, diplomas and certificates
- Level 6 NVQ
- Degree apprenticeship
Anyone who wants to take their knowledge of a subject past secondary education level – whether that’s to gain a degree of a higher level NVQ or certificate. Also the first step for those looking to pursue a Master’s degree.
Level 7 refers to a level of education equivalent to a Master’s degree, and is generally attained in a centre for further education.
Examples of Level 7 qualifications include:
- Master’s degree
- Integrated master’s degree
- Postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE)
- Postgraduate diplomas and certificates
- Level 7 awards, diplomas and certificates
- Level 7 NVQ
Anyone looking for a qualification which validates knowledge beyond degree level. After Level 7, there’s only one more level – a doctorate (PhD) or its equivalent.
Level 8 refers to a doctorate level of education, often known as a PhD.
Examples of Level 8 qualifications include:
- Doctorate or PhD
- Level 8 awards, diplomas and certificates
Anyone looking to achieve the highest formal level of education possible in England, Wales and Northern Ireland – and/or become a fully qualified Doctor.
The Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework is the name for the structuring of qualifications used in Scotland.
Although it shares some similarities (and recognises some of the same qualifications), the SCQF operates independently from the RQF, and is made up of 12 distinct levels.
Levels and qualifications range in difficulty but levels are given to demonstrate as a guideline to see how qualifications can progress.