What is a Qualification

A qualification can be defined as a planned combination of learning out- comes with a defined purpose or purposes, intended to provide qualifying learners with applied competence and a basis for further learning.
Two types of qualification are provided for in the NSB regulations. One is based on exit-level outcomes and associated assessment criteria, while the
other is a qualification based on unit standards. Both are equally valuable;
the onus is on the designers of the qualification – in consultation with rele- vant stakeholders – to decide which type of qualification best fits the pur- pose for which it is being designed.
Another key to defining a qualification – as opposed to a unit standard
– is credit size:

‘A total of 120 or more credits shall be required for registration of a qualification at levels 1 to 8, with a minimum of 72 credits being obtained at or above the level at which the qualification is registered (RSA, 1998)2’.

What information should a qualification contain?
A Qualification Title
The title should provide a brief indication of the contents of the qualifica- tion and has to be unique – that is, different from any other title registered on the NQF.
Qualification type
Three aspects should be specified:
• Name, band, and level: for example, Further Education and Training Certificate, Level 3; or First Degree (by definition Higher Education and Training [HET] band), Level 6.
A National First Degree carries a credit weighting of 360 or more credits, with at least 72 credits at or above level 6. It should also satisfy both the requirements for the registration of qualifications outlined above and the criteria delineated in the level descriptors for the level at which the Degree is registered.
• Area of practice: for example, HET Certificate, Level 5, Nursing; or, First Degree, Level 6, Human & Social Sciences.
• Specific purpose: for example, HET Certificate, Level 5, Nursing, Midwifery; or, Masters Degree, Level 7, Mechanical Engineering, Structures.
Relevant field/s and sub-field/s
The plural use of the terms above should make it clear that any qualifica- tions may be relevant in more than one field or sub-field.
Credits required
Two issues need to be addressed here:
• Total credits required for the award of the qualification and the mini- mum and maximum number of credits at various levels.
• Credit specifications in the categories fundamental, core and elective – which the NSB Regulations define as follows:
“Fundamental learning” means that learning which forms the ground- ing or basis needed to undertake the education, training or further learning required in the obtaining of a qualification;
“Core learning” means that compulsory learning required in situa- tions contextually relevant to the particular qualification; and
“Elective learning” means a selection of additional credits at the level of the National Qualifications Framework specified, from which a choice may be made to ensure that the purpose of the quali- fication is achieved.
This is a concise statement of the purpose of the qualification. It should address the following questions:
• What value has been added to the qualifying learner in terms of enrichment of the person through the provision of status, recognition, creden- tials and licensing; enhancement of marketability and employ ability; and opening up of access routes to additional education and training?
• What benefits are provided to society through enhancing citizenship, increasing social and economic productivity, producing specifically skilled and/or professional people, and transforming and redressing legacies of inequity?
• In what way does the qualification address the objectives of the NQF?
Exit level outcomes
This category must capture the planned combination of learning outcomesboth specific and critical – that are required for competence at the particular level of qualification. Specific outcomes are those that are specific to the qualification’s purpose.
A qualification should ideally provide learners with manifestations of all the critical cross-field outcomes. How this is achieved within the qualifica- tion needs to be explained (in other words, it is insufficient to merely tick off the outcomes). Should it be inappropriate for the qualification to cover
certain critical outcomes, a motivation to this effect should be provided.
A qualification should ideally provide learners with manifestations of all the critical cross- field outcomes. How this is achieved within the qualification needs to be explained (in other words, it is insufficient to merely tick off the outcomes). Should it be inappropriate for the qualification to cover certain critical
outcomes, a motivation to this effect should be provided.
Learning assumed to be in place
This is a statement that captures the learning base required for learning or achievement within the parameters of the particular qualification being reg- istered.
Often confused with prerequisites, ‘learning assumed to be in place’ is not meant to fulfil a ‘gate-keeping’ function with regard to programs. Rather it is a mechanism for transparency – allowing learners to know what knowl- edge, skills and attitudes are reasonably assumed to be in place prior to their embarking on learning programs against particular qualifications. Nothing in this category precludes the recognition of prior learning.
Integrated assessment
At qualification level, integrated assessment criteria relate to the demon- stration of achievement of the qualification.
This is a set of statements that provide the guidelines for developing particular assessment tasks, at learning, programme or services level. The guidelines must allow assessors to develop formative and summative meth- ods related to credentialling purposes appropriate to contextual and situa- tional readings of candidates presenting themselves for the recognition of learning achievements. In addition, the criteria should allow for a range of assessment methods being used in assessing achievement in the learning programs.
• The criteria must capture the requirements for fair, valid and reliableassessment procedures that make use of tools and methods appropriate to the organising field, sub-field, level, and qualification being registered.
• The assessment criteria should allow the candidate to reflect achievement through the use of integrative assessment methods and criteria which ensure that both the purpose and the achievement of the qualifi- cation are able to be met across a range of contexts and circumstances, reflectively and repetitively.
• Specific and particular statements of the assessment criteria should be
transparent and ensure ease of understanding across a range of learning providers, learning services and learners.
Criteria for the registration of assessors
This category will additionally contain criteria for the registration of inter- nal and external assessors in the sub-field.
Moderation options
These will include the recommendation of moderation mechanisms, as well as of a moderating body or bodies. Such mechanisms and bodies must meet
the requirements for transparency, affordability and development of the field, sub-field and framework. NSBs and SAQA will have to ensure coher- ence and the avoidance of duplication across moderation criteria, bodies and mechanisms.
Articulation possibilities
Two types of articulation may be specified:
• Specific: where agreements or accords are in place that grant recogni- tion of credit from one qualification to another, or part of another, these should be noted.
• Generic: where the achievement of this qualification opens up possibilities for further learning or credit recognition, these possibilities should be noted.
The differences in format between qualifications based on unit standards and qualifications based on exit-level outcomes in the submission for regis- tration should be noted. Formatting of qualifications based on unit standards requires the addition of a twelfth category to the eleven outlined above.
Rules of Combination
The category entitled Rules of Combination either specifies or is a function of the titles of the unit standards according to the appropriate categories (fundamental, core and elective) for which credit is required before attain- ment of the qualification. Rules of Combination will be drawn from SGB and NSB recommendations according to the level and band of learning within which the qualification falls.
It should be noted that a qualification submitted for registration would not have to specify all the unit standards which would eventually ensure achievement of the qualification. Only those standards that are prescribed would be specified – others may be left up to the discretion of the provider or the learner.