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Succeeding in postgraduate study
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6 Qualification Frameworks and Levels in the UK and in Europe

Our discussion and the examples so far in this session have focused on characteristics outlined by the QAA in the UK Quality Code for Higher Education. Table 1 shows how the various qualification frameworks and levels relate to each other in Europe, the UK and its constituent nations, and in the Republic of Ireland. Table 2 provides further context with reference to the European Qualifications Framework.

Table 1 Comparison of Higher Education Qualification Frameworks and Levels
Master’s degree771177119
Postgradute diplomas771177119
Postgradute certificates771177119
Bachelor’s degree with Honours661066108*
Ordinary Bachelor’s degrees6696697
Graduate diplomas6696696
Graduate certificate6696696
Source: based on QAA (2015b)


Abbreviations: EQF: European Qualifications Framework; FHEQ: Framework for Higher Education in England, Wales and Northern Ireland; FQHEIS: Framework for Qualifications and Higher Education in Scotland; QCF: Qualifications and Credit Framework for England and Northern Ireland; CQFW: Credit and Qualifications Framework for Wales; SCQF: Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework; NFQ IE: National Framework of Qualifications for the Republic of Ireland. (*) includes Irish Higher Diploma.

Table 2 Descriptors defining Levels 6 and 7 in the European Qualifications Framework
Level Knowledge (Theoretical and Factual)Skills (Cognitive* and Practical**)Competence (Responsibility and Autonomy)
7Highly specialised knowledge, some of which is at the forefront of knowledge in a field of work or study, as the basis for original thinking and/or research. Critical awareness of knowledge issues in a field and at the interface between different fields.Specialised problem-solving skills required in research and/or innovation in order to develop new knowledge and procedures and to integrate knowledge from different fields.Manage and transform work or study contexts that are complex, unpredictable and require new strategic approaches; take responsibility for contributing to professional knowledge and practice and/or for reviewing the strategic performance of teams.
6Advanced knowledge of a field of work or study, involving a critical understanding of theories and principles.Advanced skills, demonstrating mastery and innovation, required to solve complex and unpredictable problems in a specialised field of work or study.Manage complex technical or professional activities or projects, taking responsibility for decision-making in unpredictable work or study contexts; take responsibility for managing professional development or individuals and groups.
Source: adapted from EQF (2014)


(*) defined as ‘involving the use of logical, intuitive and creative thinking’


(**) defined as ‘involving manual dexterity and the use of methods, materials, tools and instruments’


Full listing of descriptors available at: ploteus/ en/ content/ descriptors-page


For more on the European Qualifications Framework and further useful information see: ploteus/ en