Information for Learners
About our Qualifications and the QCF
By the end of 2010, the providers of Further Education and Training were required to use a new process called the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF). This framework is the new structure for recognising and approving qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The QCF is designed to make the qualification system simpler to understand and use, as well as being more inclusive, flexible and accessible for a wider range of learners. It is also intended to be more relevant and suitable to meet the needs of employers. All Qualifications in the QCF are made up of units which have credit values and levels. Because our qualifications have been designed like this it means that you may be able to build up your qualification through taking courses at more than one provider. All Open Awards qualifications are on the QCF.
Units, Credits & Levels Explained
A unit is a set of learning tasks that are matched to assessment requirements - what you have to do. As a learner, you will be assessed against these requirements. If you successfully complete all of the criteria you will be awarded the unit. A unit has a value called it’s Credit Value. This describes the amount of learning that you need to do to complete the unit. The unit will also show the level of the learning completed.
A credit is a way of measuring, recognising and valuing your learning. One credit represents ten hours of the average total learning time, including time with a tutor and private study or homework. The Credit Value represents the amount of time it should take to complete the unit.
Credits are awarded at different levels, from Entry Level to Level Eight. All units are given a credit level to indicate what is required of the learner and the complexity of the learning. All recognised Qualifications use the same credit level system so that you can see which Qualifications are at the same level. The level given on the certificate for each unit you have achieved shows the stage you have reached in your learning. For example;
Entry level – qualifications and units at Entry level provides a basis for progression to other qualifications
Level 1 – this is comparable to working at NVQ level 1, GCSEs D-G and Foundation Diploma
Level 2 – this is comparable to working at NVQ level 2, GCSE’s A-C and Higher Diploma
Level 3 – this is comparable to working at NVQ level 3, A and AS levels, Advanced Diploma.
What is the difference between Award, Certificate & Diploma?
There are three sizes of qualifications in the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF). There are three qualification types; Award, Certificate, Diploma. These represent the size of a qualification which is measured by the number of credits you need to achieve to obtain the full qualification / level;
Awards (1 to 12 credits)
Certificates (13 to 36 credits)
Diplomas (37 credits or more)
What is a Unique Learner Number (ULN)?
The ULN is designed to help you register or enrol on a course. It helps you prove all your learning and achievements from secondary school onwards. The ULN is the education equivalent of your National Insurance number.
What is a Personal Learner Record (PLR)?
The PLR is an online record which includes all your learning achievements such A/S Levels, qualifications and work-based learning.
For further information about ULNs and PLRs visit the Learning Records Service (LRS) website
As an awarding body we have a responsibility under the Data Protection Act to ensure that you are informed of how your information is processed and shared. We strongly recommend that you visit the Learning Record Service website to view the Privacy Notice which will explain how your data may be shared. See this Notice of the Learning Records Service website.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where can I study Open Awards Qualifications?
Courses using Open Awards qualifications are offered at many colleges, schools and other organisations. Centres can provide information and advice about their courses.
How will my learning be assessed?
Your tutor will tell you more about how your learning is to be completed and assessed. On most courses the tutor or trainer assesses your work as you go along and this does not involve exams. For example, the course work you produce, such as computer printouts, paintings or projects, will show you and your tutor what you have learnt.
How can I use my Qualification?
For each successful course you complete, you will be awarded a Credit Certificate showing what you have achieved. Our qualifications are nationally recognised and accepted as means of entry into employment, to move to a higher level of learning, or simply to prove that you have obtained new skills and knowledge. If you achieve a full qualification you will also receive a Qualification Certificate.
What if I am moving part way through my learning?
The units that make up qualifications are nationally recognised as part of the new Qualifications and Credit Framework. This means that if you move to another part of the country your credits can move with you and you can achieve more credits at your new location with a new Centre.
How do I get my Certificate?
The Centre where you are learning is responsible for registering you with Open Awards. The Centre notifies us of your achievements and we will then issue your Certificate to the Centre who will forward it to you.
How do I get a Replacement Certificate if I have lost or damaged the original?
If you have already achieved a Qualification through us but need a replacement certificate you should download the ‘Learner Replacement Certificate Form’ from our website and follow the guidance provided to request a replacement certificate. A copy of your completed form with ID and payment for the replacement Certificate should be returned to Open Awards at the address provided on the form. Charges for replacement Certificates can be found here.
What can I do if I don't agree with an assessment decision?
In the first instance you would discuss your assessment with your tutor who will provide you with information on how you have done. If after that you are still not happy, you need to contact the Centre and follow their procedure for making a formal appeal. If you are still not happy you can appeal to Open Awards but you will need to have evidence that you have correctly followed the Centre’s appeals process.