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Ll credit guide
Ll credit guide
Ll credit guide
Ll credit guide
Ll credit guide
Ll credit guide
Ll credit guide
Ll credit guide
Ll credit guide
Ll credit guide
Ll credit guide
Ll credit guide
Ll credit guide
Ll credit guide
Ll credit guide
Ll credit guide
Ll credit guide
Ll credit guide
Ll credit guide
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Ll credit guide

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  • 1. A Guide to Understanding and Using Credit Mick Betts for Linking London
  • 2. Linking London is a membership organisation of universities, colleges, professional and awarding bodies in Central, East and North London which aims to improve the progression of learners into and through Higher Education. www.linkinglondon.ac.uk CONTENTS 01 Frequently asked questions (FAQs) 03 Section 1. Introduction – context and background 05 Section 2. Understanding credit and credit based modular systems (CBMS) 07 Section 3. Credit and qualifications frameworks 13 Section 4. Features, advantages and benefits of credit based systems – with special interest in working across frameworks 14 Section 5. APL, APEL, RPL and Accreditation 17 Section 6. Suggestions for consolidation and further development 19 Section 7. Glossary 23 APPENDICES
  • 3. 0201 Q Q1 What is credit? Q2 Do credit systems have any common principles? Q3 What are the key features of credit systems? Q4 How do modules, units, learning outcomes, assessment and learning activities relate to each other? Q5 Do credit based modular systems require different approaches to teaching and learning? Q6 What are levels? Why do we need them? Q7 What does credit rating mean? Q8 What is module mapping or matching? Q9 Aren’t all the frameworks different? How can they work side by side? Q10 How does credit accumulation work? Q11 What is the difference between general and specific credit? Q12 What are negotiated or bespoke awards? Q13 What are “rules of combination” and “pathway rules”? Q14 What can a qualification include? Q15 Don’t words like “award”, “certificate” and “diploma” mean different things in the QCF and the FHEQ? Q16 What are the main benefits of credit based systems? Q17 There seem to be lots of different words to describe recognising existing learning. What do they all mean and how do they differ? Q18 APL, APCL, RPL, APEL, AEL, AP(E)L etc… are there any restrictions on what can and can’t be used? Q19 What are the benefits of APL, APCL, RPL, APEL, AEL, AP(E)L etc? Q20 What does “accreditation mean? Who does it? Q21 What are the benefits of accreditation? Q22 What next for CATS?
  • 4. 0403 Section 1. Introduction – context and background Higher education has developed and refined credit based modular systems (CBMS) over the past 25 years or so and most HEIs are now credit based. The emergence of the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF), which, critically, adopted the same metric, the ten hour credit, as used in the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (FHEQ) has created the practical context for genuine HE /FE cross sector collaboration and development in the interests of progression for all learners from levels 1 to 8, particularly those following vocational routes. The CATS project is one such initiative. In order to satisfactorily understand the use of credit in education we must consider three basic questions. What is credit? How do we make it work? Why do we need it? It is essential that these questions are considered together if implementation is to be successful. The absence of clear, consistent and committed support from government for the development of credit, particularly across sectors has tended to stall development around debate on definition and process and, perhaps, resulted in insufficient attention being given to the real educational issues contained in the “why” question. This is about the benefits of “credit” to learners, providers, employers and, ultimately, society. Q1. What is credit? Credit in the educational sense is about establishing value and equivalence. It is, therefore, a tool and not an end it itself. The intrinsic value of a piece of learning or qualification is the learning or qualification itself and not the credit ascribed to it per se. Credit enables it to be quantified in relation to other learning and qualifications to which the same criteria of measurement – the metric – have been applied. A non credit rated piece of learning does not become intrinsically more valuable when it is credit rated but its utility, transparency, transferability and demonstrable equivalence are greatly enhanced. These things crystallise the value that credit based modular systems add to learning and to qualifications. Q2. Do credit systems have any common principles? Similarly, the major debates about credit and credit based modular systems should not now be about “credit” or “frameworks” but about the curriculum, curriculum development, teaching and learning and learner progression that they enable. Of course, the basic principles of credit and frameworks need to be understood but ultimately the systems must become a given and not a mystery. Crucially, it is the adoption and use of common principles for credit, such as provided in the Joint Forum for Higher Levels (JFHL) “Overarching Criteria and Operating Principles for a Common Approach to Credit” (see appendix 1) that is essential. It is inevitable that some institutions, particularly in HE, may apply these principles in different ways in some aspects of practice but this is of no particular consequence as long as good information about application of the principles is transparent and readily available. We now have effective credit systems operating in both FE and HE and although these will, of course, continue to develop and be refined they should not, in themselves, continue to be the major focus of discussion, or, for that matter, seen as a continuing obstacle to development. The debate we must have now is educational. Credit and the frameworks that utilise it must now go into background mode and be maintained and developed according to the educational drivers and the needs of learners and providers. The debate is particularly important across sectors and between the users of qualifications and credit frameworks. It is only real and effective professional collaboration here that will achieve the kind of continuous ladder of progression for learners that the parallel frameworks potentially offer. Collaboration must, inter alia, be in the areas of curriculum planning, design and development, teaching and learning, assessment, professional development for staff and student experience. In vocational areas the active participation of employers and professional bodies is essential. Without real collaboration at the level of curriculum and professional practice, credit on its own will do little to aid learner progression. It goes without saying that genuine management support and commitment - not lip service to innovation that has characterised the development of credit – is either the deal maker or breaker. Institutional managers, of course, must be mindful of the effect of any curriculum development on the corporate bottom line. Ultimately the development and realisation of the full potential of cross sector and cross framework learner pathways will only happen if they are cost effective for all concerned. In turn this is more likely to happen if things are co-designed from the bottom up rather than reverse engineered to achieve the nearest fit. If government wishes this potential to be properly realised it must ensure an appropriate and sympathetic funding framework is in place. This should and must involve focused funding incentives to the kind of collaborative cross sector curriculum development of credit based modular systems noted above, at least in the short term. This guide is intended to give clear information about the nature, benefits and applications of credit and credit based systems to users and, in particular, to encourage cross sector and framework collaboration and innovation. It has been written in seven free standing sections (plus appendices) to provide easy reference to particular aspects. For clarity some aspects may be covered in more than one section. It is hoped that the guide will be seen as a living resource and be added to and updated by practitioners as a way of recognising and consolidating current practice and experience in working across the QCF and the FHEQ. SECTION 1
  • 5. 0605 Q3. What are the key features of credit systems Section 2. Understanding credit and credit based modular systems (CBMS) In the educational sense “credit” does not exist in isolation. It has become shorthand for the credit based modular systems in which credit is the unit of measurement of learning. The defining characteristics of CBMS are that they are •outcomes led •credit based •modular or unitised And operate within… • Qualifications frameworks, which have clearly defined levels and levels descriptors, such as the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) and the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications ( FHEQ) Q4. How do modules, units, learning outcomes, assessment and learning activities relate to each other? Modules/units, learning outcomes and assessment The modular or unitised structure is at the heart of CBMS and is a fundamental aspect of curriculum design in all credit frameworks. Modules or units enable a given curriculum area or subject to be logically divided into self contained episodes of learning defined by a unique set of learning outcomes. One of the major benefits of CBMS is that all of the key information about an episode of learning is available to the learner at the outset. Well written learning outcomes will set out exactly what the learner is expected to know, do and understand on successful completion of the learning. Clear assessment criteria, linked to each learning outcome, illustrate the things against which successful learning will be judged. Assessment methodology shows how and in what format the criteria will be applied. Information about teaching and learning inputs explain the nature of the intended interactions between teachers and learners and any required self study that is designed to cover the content of the module/unit. The direct relationship between learning outcomes, assessment and learning activities sets the context in which teaching inputs, the requirements for self study and optimal use of available learning resources can be carefully planned. This relationship may be expressed graphically as in figure 1 below. Q5. Do credit based modular systems require different approaches to teaching and learning? Teaching and Learning Although CBMS are not in themselves systems of teaching and learning there is no doubt that the professional skills required to support effective learning are different from those that may have been used in more traditional, less transparent systems. Teachers need to be clear that the methodology and the style of their teaching will enable students to achieve specific learning outcomes and demonstrate this through particular assessments. In the early days of CBMS critics claimed that what they termed a “reductionist” approach led to assessment driven teaching and study, encouraged surface learning and stifled innovative or inspirational teaching. It is hard to see however, how letting students into the secret of what is expected of them and how they will be assessed at the outset can in fact lead to any of these things. Advocates of CBMS would claim that it is the very transparency of the system that liberates good teachers to provide the best quality learning experience for students. Q6. What are levels? Why do we need them? Levels There has always been an understanding of how educational qualifications relate to each other within a particular “family” of qualifications. Explicit levels descriptors, which were developed as an integral part of CBMS, provide a standard set of benchmarks describing the relative difficulty of learning at each level which enables all qualifications to be assigned a level. In turn this enables all qualifications to be considered alongside each other, across “families” of qualifications and therefore gives a clear picture of the equivalence of various qualifications in terms of their degree of difficulty. Credit value, in terms of the number of credits gives a clear picture of the relative size of qualifications. This is why the common unit of credit in the QCF and FHEQ is so important. Appendix 2 shows how comparison of qualifications by level and credit across all of the frameworks in the UK and Ireland is relatively straightforward. Q7. What does credit rating mean? Credit rating Credit rating is the process of allocating level and volume to a piece of learning – deciding how hard and how big it is - to set its credit value. Level descriptors and the credit metric - 1 credit equals 10 hours of learning - enable this to be done. This is normally the first stage of an accreditation process – whether concerning prior and experiential learning or learning from a source, such as the workplace or an employer, for which formal recognition is being sought. It also mirrors the process used in designing new modules and units from scratch. Q8. What is module mapping or matching? Various approaches may be used in order to arrive at a robust credit rating. The more information that is known about the episode of learning concerned the more straightforward the process is. This includes SECTION 2 Module/unit Learning outcomes Self-study Content Resources Teaching Assessment Learning activities
  • 6. 0807 the learning outcomes, the assessment(s) and the learning hours or the duration of the “course”. Level can be fixed by comparison with level descriptors but may also draw on other relevant information such as who the learning is intended for, at what stage in life or career it might be offered, what it may be preceded by or followed with (if at all). Where little or incomplete information is known, particularly where learning hours are not clear, the processes of module matching and mapping are frequently used. As the terms imply these involve comparing the episode of learning concerned to validated modules/units in the same subject at various levels and sizes to get a picture of equivalence. Some HEIs have a suite of specially validated modules that are used for this purpose. Middlesex University for example, …“now use our transdisciplinary Negotiated WBL Project modules as benchmarks for ascribing the level and volume of credit. We have these at 10, 15, 20, 30, 40 and 60 credits at levels 4 to 7 and we look for equivalencies with the learning activities undertaken for which credit is being sought in relation to the example assessment requirement specified in these modules. The explicitness of this approach also provides a guide to learners trying to get their heads around how much (volume) credit they should be claiming as much as the level…” (Dr Darryll Bravenboer, Associate Dean, Institute for Work Based Learning, Middlesex University) Module matching and mapping is used extensively in APL and APEL. Qualification mapping is the same process applied to mapping and matching whole qualifications against other qualifications to enable • APL for individuals or cohorts • Two or more qualifications to operate in parallel • An articulation agreement between providers This is also covered in section 5 of this guide Q9.Aren’t all the frameworks different? How can they work side by side? Section 3. Credit and qualifications frameworks Credit and qualifications frameworks worldwide provide a hierarchical structure for the qualifications that are available from entry level to higher professional and postgraduate level. Different frameworks define this range of progression variously between 8 and 12 levels of achievement. Although it would undoubtedly be simpler, for the sake of comparison, if all frameworks used the same number of levels defined in the same way, the differences do not cause a major problem in practice. Appendix 2 shows the frameworks in use in the UK and Ireland and illustrates how equivalences between qualifications are relatively easy to establish, despite the different scale of levels. Historically the development of credit has been hampered by the continuing quest for uniformity across systems. Again the focus on, and concern about, parallel systems has perhaps pushed the much more important debate about the educational benefits within and across CBMS into the shade. Uniformity, however theoretically desirable, is simply not necessary in practice. Lack of uniformity does not prevent the major benefits of CBMS such as flexibility and credit transfer from happening. All that is required to align different systems is a transparent and agreed metric for conversion – an exchange rate. These are already known and acknowledged for most systems in common use and would not be difficult to calculate for any others that may emerge. This guide concentrates on the two CBMS in use in England, the QCF and The FHEQ. Technically speaking, of course, the FHEQ is not a credit framework but it has this status in practice for the majority on UK HEIs which are credit based. Partly in response to this, in 2008 the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) published the “Higher Education credit framework for England: guidance on academic credit arrangements in England” (www.qaa.ac.uk) which gives clear guidance on the use of credit in the FHEQ. The QCF was designed in the light of almost 20 years of CBMS operating successfully in HE and consequently incorporated many of the key aspects of its design. Critically – • Both use eight levels • Both use similar levels descriptors • Both use the same credit metric – the 10 hour credit This commonality was designed into the QCF to enable consistent, parallel operation with the FHEQ and the potential for learners to build programmes of learning and progression within and between both frameworks. This is the overt aim of the AoC CATS project. Credit in HE The credit system used in UK HE has been developed over the last 25 years and most British Universities now operate CBMS. Therefore, for these institutions the FHEQ is a de facto qualifications and credit framework. Only a small minority of HEIs (including Oxbridge) are not credit based. Quality in UK universities is overseen by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA). Each HEI has been responsible for the design and operation of its own credit system and has autonomous control over it. Despite this, all operate to a common set of principles regarding the use of credit, the credit rating of key qualifications and the credit metric. The ten hour credit is universal. Institutions may use modules of different sizes at undergraduate and postgraduate levels ranging from 5 to 60 credits. The majority of institutions use versions of the SEEC or NICAT level descriptors which have some differences but are functionally very similar. The NICAT descriptors (see appendix 3) were also used in the QCF as the framework was being developed and were replaced by the QCF descriptors in the revised “Regulatory Arrangements for the Qualifications and Credit Framework “ published in SECTION 2/3
  • 7. 1009 2008 (www.ofqual.gov.uk) Assessment regulations and practice have a higher degree of similarity than difference. Q10. How does credit accumulation work? Q11. What is the difference between general and specific credit? Credit accumulation and transfer (CAT) is therefore theoretically possible within and between HEIs, and between national and international frameworks. However, the practice of credit accumulation in UK HE generally refers to the accumulation of credit within a validated, prescribed award structure which defines the required content at the various levels relevant to the award. Credit is rarely just “accumulated” on an ad hoc basis, although some adult learners may study in this way. When considering the transfer of credit this means that all credit - whether recognised from other UK institutions, via an exchange rate from other systems or through an accreditation process – will have both a general credit value, i.e. its intrinsic freestanding value, and a specific credit value i.e. the value it has against the specific content of a given award if proposed for transfer. This is an essential aspect of quality assurance which guarantees the integrity and relevance of awards but it has also caused a great deal of confusion in all aspects of credit transfer, including AP(E)L, for staff and especially for learners. It means that a given qualification with a universal general credit value may have a different specific credit value against what is outwardly the same award in different institutions. However, the fact that UK HE awards do not follow a standard content and format across the same subject is testimony to the strength and range offered within the system and not a sign of inconsistency. Having said this, there are, of course, subjects in professional areas, invariably involving the input of professional bodies and particularly those that confer a “licence to practise” where the majority of content is prescribed and variation is minimal. This is reassuring! Q12. What are negotiated or bespoke awards? Some UK universities offer bespoke or negotiated awards which, by definition, have no prescribed content and therefore may enable learners to tailor a new award around the content of an existing qualification so as to make maximum use of its full credit value (i.e. where general and specific credit value would be the same). Negotiated or bespoke awards may be designed for individuals or for companies who want a programme that is tailored to the particular needs of an aspect of their company activity. Although the interpretation and implementation of the shared principles of CBMS varies little within the structure and delivery of mainstream undergraduate provision, in different HEIs the way they are applied to some of the processes that credit enables such as APL, APEL and accreditation may vary significantly between institutions. This is covered in detail in section 5. Credit in FE Q13. What are “rules of combination” and “pathway rules”? Q14. What can a qualification include? Strictly speaking there is no credit in FE in the same way that there is credit in HE. The credit system that is used in FE is contained in the externally regulated QCF. Similarly, the QCF can be used and accessed by users other than FE Colleges, such as employers and other providers so perhaps this section could more accurately be headed “credit outside of HE”. Furthermore, most FE colleges are not QCF awarding organisations so the credit in FE is largely awarded by external awarding organisations in much the same way as pre QCF qualifications offered in FE colleges were. As the QCF is a national, regulated framework, all credit awarded by a QCF awarding organisation must be accepted by all other QCF awarding organisations. In HE no university is compelled to accept the credit from another HEI: many do, of course, but this is on a voluntary basis. However, the distinction between general and specific credit is the same in the QCF/FE as in HE. Whilst the general credit value of any QCF credit is fixed and incontestable within the QCF, transfer of it into a QCF qualification is still subject to the “rules of combination” which determine the specific content required in a qualification and therefore what can be transferred. All validated HE awards also have the equivalent of rules of combination which are usually called something like “pathway rules”. In many FECs the use of QCF credit sits alongside the use of credit within its HE provision. In some ways FECs with significant HE provision, validated or franchised through an HEI partner or partners and offering a full range of FE QCF based qualifications, are uniquely placed to develop programmes that offer seamless progression in various discipline areas through and across the QCF and FHEQ, particularly at the critical interface between levels 3 and 4. Equally, the opportunity to develop continuous pathways through levels in given subjects offers opportunity for new partnerships, including those between FE/HE providers and professional bodies. These are being explored in the CATS project. The overarching aim of this collaboration is to provide a range of possible pathways for learners through their academic and professional learning that : • Is appropriate to individual personal and professional needs • Is time and cost effective for learners, providers, employers and sponsors • Gives a high quality learning experience • Results in a high quality, appropriate qualification outcome • Offers access to further learning and professional development • Has the potential to draw on content in both the QCF and the FHEQ as appropriate SECTION 3
  • 8. 1211 Potential learner pathways accessing learning from both the QCF and the FHEQ Q15. Don’t words like “award”, “certificate” and “diploma” mean different things in the QCF and the FHEQ? Names and titles There is still some unhelpful confusion, especially when working across the QCF and the FHEQ concerning the use of some important terms. This was known when the QCF was launched. The different meanings are repeated below for clarity. • Award in the QCF refers to a specific qualification of between 1 and 12 credits • Award in the FHEQ is a generic term to describe any qualification outcome i.e. a Bachelor’s award, a master’s award etc. • Certificate in the QCF refers to a specific qualification of between 13 and 36 credits • Certificate in the FHEQ refers to intermediate qualifications at level 4 of undergraduate awards (120 credits) or the first stage (60 credits) of a masters award at level 7 • Diploma in the QCF refers to a specific qualification of 37credits or more • Diploma in the FHEQ refers to intermediate qualifications at level 5 of undergraduate awards (240 credits) or the second stage (120 credits) of a masters award at level 7 SECTION 3 Don’t words like “award”, “certificate” and “diploma” mean different things in the QCF a This was known when the QCF was l The different meanings are repeated below for clarity.
  • 9. 1413 Q16. What are the main benefits of credit based systems? Section 4. Features, advantages and benefits of credit based systems – with special interest in working across frameworks Credit based modular/unitised systems: • Enable learning episodes of all sizes to be quantified – bitesize to degree • Enable learning episodes of all sizes to be recognised • Offer genuine flexibility – in curriculum design, development and delivery. Partnership and collaboration between key stakeholders - providers, professional bodies and employers - enables the development of a continuous QCF/FHEQ curriculum from levels 1 – 8 in specific areas for all vocational routes • Use a standard credit metric which establishes consistency This is essential in building trust in the value and quality of qualifications. The value of this consistency across frameworks should not be underestimated and should be exploited as a real benefit • Provide credit value and level which establishes equivalence This is crucial it judging the respective value and merit of a huge range of qualifications • Facilitate and simplify a consistent, quality assured approach to AP(E)L This is covered in more detail in section 5 • Facilitate and simplify a consistent, quality assured approach to accreditation This is covered in more detail in section 5 • Support work based learning (WBL) CBMS are ideally suited to all types of WBL – learning about, at and through work • Support the design of bespoke qualifications Bespoke qualifications for individuals, cohorts, companies or sectors maximise the features and benefits of CBMS. They enable qualifications to be demand led and enable providers to be responsive and innovative • Enables accumulation, transfer, intermission and exit with honour. The ability to transfer credit between qualifications, institutions, frameworks and careers is a key flexibility of CBMS. Of equal importance to individuals is that CBMS enables learners to achieve and accumulate credit, to take time out from study (to intermit), to learn at their chosen pace and to “exit with honour” if they so choose. Q17. There seem to be lots of different words to describe recognising existing learning. What do they all mean and how do they differ? Section 5. APL, APEL, RPL and Accreditation APL, APCL, RPL, APEL, AEL, AP(E)L etc…. Quality assured processes for the accreditation and recognition of prior and experiential learning is one of the major benefits that CBMS enable. Credit permits precise and consistent judgments to be made about prior learning. In the course of development however, rather too much time has been spent agonising over the minor differences in what are fundamentally two types of a very similar process. The key purpose of all the variations defined by the acronyms in the heading is to enable learning that has already been achieved to be recognised and put to a new use. The two types are: • The recognition and accreditation of existing certificated learning – which means the recognition of other formal, structured learning for which certificates or transcripts have been issued. This is usually referred to as APL, APCL, RPL • The recognition and accreditation of informal and experiential learning - which means the recognition of informal learning, or learning from life and work experience. This is usually referred to as APEL or AEL The term AP(E)L refers to both types (the accreditation of prior and experiential learning) and RPL (the recognition of prior learning) refers to the recognition of uncertificated and experiential learning in the QCF. Some institutions also use the terms “advanced standing” and “exemption”. In practice there is sometimes a blurring of the boundaries between the two processes and many claims for credit involve a mixture of both prior certificated and experiential learning. Of course, the proliferation of titles is not ideal and can be confusing, especially for learners, but ultimately it is the processes that are important. What is essential for systems to be effective is that they are highly visible and accessible to all users and are supported by high quality, up to date information and materials. Unfortunately this is not always the case and information is often difficult to find. This is not helpful for processes that are designed to empower learners to build on existing achievement and to engage or re engage learners that might otherwise not participate. Q18. APL, APCL, RPL, APEL, AEL, AP(E)L etc…are there any restrictions on what can and can’t be used? Most UK HEIs offer some form of APL and APEL. The processes are governed by a common set of principles although there is significant variation in the way they are applied and implemented. There may be variations in the total proportion of credit through AP(E)L that may be used as part of a new award and this usually varies between a half and two thirds, although in some cases is less. There are also variations in practice about the stages at which AP(E)L may be used - some HEIs for example allow no AP(E)L credit at level 6 in undergraduate awards. The pathway regulations of some awards in some SECTION 4/5
  • 10. 1615 HEIs may permit no AP(E)L – these are often in professional areas. Universities may apply their regulations for AP(E)L differently in different Faculties or Schools. There are usually good reasons for these variations in practice, invariably related to ensuring the quality and integrity of named awards. However, there are some HEIs that have not embraced the use of AP(E)L with any great enthusiasm and have not taken advantage of the flexibility it offers for students. The recognition of prior and experiential learning is available in the QCF through the processes of RPL and exemption. Within the QCF learners can avoid the need to repeat learning and assessment already achieved as follows: • Learners are awarded credit for past QCF qualifications, which can be transferred to other qualifications as appropriate • Other learning and achievements that haven’t been certificated can be assessed and awarded through the recognition of prior learning (RPL) • Learners with certificated achievements outside the QCF, who already have the skills and knowledge for a unit, can claim exemption Q19. What are the benefits of APL, APCL, RPL, APEL, AEL, AP(E)L etc? Benefits for learners, providers, employers and sponsors For learners • Makes effective use of and rewards learning from life and work experience • Raises self esteem, increases motivation and confidence • Enables flexibility in pace, place, time and mode of part of a learning programme • May enable a qualification to be completed in a shorter time and/or at less cost For employers • Flexible means of providing up-skilling, CPD and in-house learning support • Assists workforce planning and development • Increases employee motivation and retention of staff • Promotes partnership and collaboration with HE/FE providers For Providers • Positive support for access and widening participation • Enhances recruitment, retention and progression • Promotes innovation in course design and responsiveness • Increases potential for collaboration with employers and other providers Q20. What does “accreditation mean? Who does it? Accreditation Accreditation is the process of awarding formal, detailed recognition to a given episode or body of learning. Within a CBMS this gives the learning a credit value expressed as a volume of credit at a particular level. It is a separate and distinct process from the accreditation of prior and experiential learning (detailed above), although it shares many common components. Almost all learning that is presented for accreditation is in some way connected with the workplace and employment. It may include in-company training, short courses and most aspects of continuing professional development (CPD). Accreditation is also the term used to describe the process by which Ofqual approves a qualification and recognises it as being in the QCF. In HE, learning is accredited through a process of benchmarking external learning (say from a company training programme) against the quality standards and regulations of appropriate modules and awards offered within the institution. It is a formal process of recognition that gives the accredited learning an approved volume of credit at a given level, usually from levels 4 - 7 of the FHEQ. Accreditation may be given to a full external course or qualification or a freestanding module/unit. In most cases the accrediting university and other HEIs will consider learning accredited in this way as potential admission with credit into university awards. In most cases this is recognised as general credit but some instances accreditation may also include a detailed agreement which recognises the accredited learning against a specific university award or awards. The latter is often contained in an articulation agreement or something similar. Accreditation may also be carried out by other awarding organisations. The Open College Network, for example, offers bespoke accreditation of in company training using fundamentally the same principles as in HE. Learning accredited by the OCN is accredited against the QCF template, and can be either of existing or co-developed provision, but is not formally recognised on the QCF as part of a national qualification. However, as OCN recognition gives it an approved credit value it may still be presented for credit transfer into appropriate qualifications. Q21. What are the benefits of accreditation? Accreditation at all levels offers many benefits for learners, providers, employers and sponsors. These include: Recognition (and reward) • Recognition confers internal and external validity on the accredited learning. It is valued more highly and has greater utility both inside and outside of the “company” • This impacts positively at both individual and corporate levels Equivalence - accredited learning is benchmarked against respected, external standards SECTION 5
  • 11. 1817 Relevance – all accredited learning stays specific to the need of the accredited provider or partner and does not have to ”fit” with external content/design Flexibility – can be used in a variety of ways as part of career and company development Time efficiency • Employee/learners can earn & learn • Accreditation of in company provision as opposed to external courses means less down time Motivation and focus – enhanced by learning in and through work Visible investment in human resources/capital – contributes to a positive company culture Productivity – motivated staff who feel valued repay investment in recognised training Q22. What next for CATS? Section 6. Suggestions for consolidation and further development The aims of the CATS project would be further supported by 6.1 Continuing joint FE- HE curriculum development using cross sector, subject based curriculum teams particularly at L3/4. These must be practitioner based and be driven by collaboration and shared commitment at this level, supported by management 6.2 Given vocational and/or professional areas should actively pursue joint QCF/FHEQ programme design, validation and approval at L4 and above where this is appropriate. This will give the flexibility for learners to move between and across framework according to individual, career and company needs. 6.3 It is essential that there are formal, working agreements in all partnerships about the specific arrangements for : •AP(E)L •accreditation •credit transfer These must be worked out in advance and marketed as a feature and benefit of provision and progression that is jointly offered 6.4 Collaborative work, particularly at the level 3/4 interface should look to establish consistent “progression sensitive” approaches to: •Programme design •Teaching and learning •Assessment •Student support and experience 6.5 Partnerships must be active in all key areas needed for successful and sustainable development including curriculum, management, teaching and learning, student support and learning resources support. All stakeholders must have defined roles. Partners may include: •HEIs •FECs •Other providers/Awarding Organisations •Employers •Professional bodies/trade and industry associations 6.6 Government should be lobbied to establish sensible and supportive funding/costing mechanisms enabling easy movement between QCF and FHEQ with no financial penalties to providers/sponsors/learners SECTION 5/6
  • 12. 2019 Section 7. Glossary Glossary – terms explained SECTION 7 APL/APCL Accreditation Accumulate AEL APEL AP(E)L Assessment Regulations Assessment criteria Awarding Organisation CATS CATS points CBMS Certificated Learning Credit Credit Value Credit Level Credit Transfer The Accreditation of Prior Certificated Learning. The identification and recognition of existing certificated learning as relevant to be used as part of a new qualification or award The process of awarding formal recognition, expressed as a volume and level of credit, to a given body of learning To build up credit to achieve a qualification The Accreditation of Experiential Learning (as distinct from “Prior”) which may be ongoing throughout a programme of study The Accreditation of Prior Experiential learning The identification, assessment and formal acknowledgement of learning achieved through work or life experience The Accreditation of Prior Certificated and Experiential Learning. A term used when including both Certificated and Experiential Learning Rules governing assessment including pass marks and other grades of assessment, number of credits needed to complete a an award or to progress to the next stage of an award The specific criteria against which achievement of the learning outcomes of a unit/module is judged An organisation recognised and approved by Ofqual to award credit and qualifications in the QCF The Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme - the generic term used to describe the system which enables credit to be accumulated towards a qualification and potentially to be transferred between courses, qualifications and institutions A term sometimes used instead of credits Credit Based Modular System(s) Learning which has been formally assessed by examination, assignment or other means and for which a certificate and/or transcript has been given A numerical value given to a unit of learning on the basis that 1 credit equals 10 notional hours of learning in the FHEQ or the learning outcomes achievable in ten hours of learning in the QCF Indicates the volume of learning or ‘how much’ learning is expected. For example, 20 credits describes 200 notional hours of learning/ or the learning outcomes achievable in 200 hours of learning in the QCF Indicates the relative level of difficulty of learning or ‘how hard’ it is. For example, learning at level 5 (equivalent to the second year of a full time degree) is ‘harder’ than learning at level 4 (equivalent to the first year of a full time degree) A way of transferring credit achieved from one programme of study/qualification to another. This means that learners do not have to repeat learning already achieved
  • 13. 2221 SECTION 7 General credit HEIs Learning Outcomes Level descriptors Notional hours of learning Ofqual Qualification descriptors QAA The credit value of a qualification, part qualification or module/unit of learning (See also “specific credit” below) Higher Education Institutions - this includes universities and colleges of higher education Express learning achievement in terms of what the student will know, understand or be able to do, on successful completion of a module, unit or qualification. A unit/module/qualification will normally have several learning outcomes Learning becomes more difficult at each level (for example, each subsequent year of study on a full time degree course) of an award or qualification. Level descriptors are used to facilitate course/ programme design by demonstrating the differences in achievement at each level The number of hours a student will need to spend, on average, in a range of activities, including all teaching, self study and assessment, to achieve the learning outcomes Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulations Ofqual is the regulator of qualifications, examinations and assessments in England and vocational qualifications in Northern Ireland and the regulator of the QCF Used in the FHEQ to exemplify the learning outcomes of the main qualification at each level and demonstrate the nature of change between qualifications at different levels The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. The core business of the QAA is to review the quality and standards of higher education in universities and colleges in the UK Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) Specific credit Transcript Uncertificated Learning Unit/module The identification and recognition of existing learning as relevant to be used as part of a new qualification or award in the QCF. It is described as ‘a method of assessment (leading to the award of credit) that considers whether a learner can demonstrate that they can meet the assessment requirements for a unit through knowledge, understanding or skills they already possess and do not need to develop through a course of learning’. The amount of credit from a body of learning that is considered directly relevant (i.e.” specific” ) to a new qualification and may therefore be transferred as APL or APEL. (See also “general credit” above) The formal, detailed record of a student’s achievements issued by an HEI which typically, will show modules, titles, credit value and level, marks and grades achieved Describes learning which has been undertaken and for which no certificate or transcript has been awarded and that usually has not been formally assessed A discrete block of learning with a coherent set of formally identified learning outcomes, which have been given a value (volume) and level of credit to show how much learning is required to be undertaken and how difficult it is. For example 20 credits at level 4 equates to 200 hours of notional learning in the first year of a full time degree in HE.
  • 14. 2423 APPENDIX 1 The Joint Forum for Higher Levels (JFHL) overarching principles and operational criteria for a common approach to credit SECTION 1: ESTABLISHING CONSISTENCY IN THE AWARD OF CREDIT Principle 1 Credit is awarded to a learner in recognition of the assessed achievement of identified sets of learning outcomes. Operational Criteria 1. The award of credit recognises achievement of the required sets of learning outcomes; achievement above this threshold does not result in the award of additional credit. 2. Credits are not graded. 3. Achievement may be described additionally through the award of marks or grades. 4. Learners should be provided with a verified record that clearly identifies the credits they have been awarded. Principle 2 Credit may only be awarded by those bodies and organisations that have the formal powers to do so. Operational Criteria 5. Organisations that award credit must be able to demonstrate, by statute, charter and/or regulatory body approval, that they have the formal power to do so. SECTION 2: ESTABLISHING CONSISTENCY IN THE DETERMINATION OF CREDIT VALUE Principle 3 The credit value of qualifications and their component units or modules, where relevant, is determined with reference to consistent and transparent criteria. Operational Criteria 6. Credit value describes the number of credits that may be awarded to a learner for the successful achievement of the identified learning outcomes of a unit, module or qualification. Operational Criteria 7. The credit value of a unit, module or qualifications is determined against identifiable criteria. 8. One credit represents the achievement of those learning outcomes within a unit, module or qualification that a learner would be expected to achieve in 10 notional hours of learning. Operational Criteria 9. Credit is awarded at a particular level. 10. Credit level is determined by reference to identified level Principle 4 The descriptors of qualifications and of their component units or modules where relevant, include a credit value determined with reference to consistent and transparent criteria. Operational Criteria 11. The description of units, modules or qualifications includes their credit value. SECTION 3: UNDERSTANDING CREDIT ACCUMULATION Principle 5: Credit can be accumulated towards a qualification or award, subject to transparent criteria consistently applied. Operational Criteria 12. Where bodies approved to award credit and/or qualifications allow learners to accumulate credit towards a qualification; this must be on the basis of transparent criteria consistently applied. SECTION 4: UNDERSTANDING CREDIT TRANSFER Principle 6 Credit that represents assessed achievement relevant to a learner's programme of study, may be transferable between qualifications and awards, subject to transparent criteria consistently applied by the receiving institution. Operational Criteria 13. Where bodies approved to award credit and/or qualifications permit learners to transfer credit; this must be on the basis of transparent criteria that are consistently applied. APPENDIX 1
  • 15. 2625 APPENDIX 2. Credit and Qualification Frameworks in use in the UK and Ireland APPENDIX 2 Main stages of education/ employment Framework for higher education qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland Qualifications and Credit Framework/National Qualifications Framework for England, Wales and Northern Ireland www.ofqual.gov.uk Professional or postgraduate education, research or employment Level 8 - Doctoral Degrees Level 7 - Master’s Degrees, Integrated Master’s Degrees, Postgraduate Diplomas, Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), Postgraduate Certificates Level 8 - Vocational Qualifications Level 8 Level 7 - Fellowships, NVQ Level 5, Vocational Qualifications Level 7 Higher education Advanced skills training Level 6 - Bachelor’s Degrees with Honours, Bachelor’s Degrees, Professional Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), Graduate Diplomas, Graduate Certificates Level 6 - Vocational Qualifications Level 6 Entry to professional graduate employment Level 5 - Foundation Degrees, Diplomas of Higher Education (DipHE), Higher National Diplomas (HND) Level 5 - NVQ Level 4,Higher National Diplomas, (HND), Higher National Certificates (HNC), Vocational Qualifications Level 5 Level 4 - Vocational Qualifications Level 4 Specialised education and training Level 4 - Higher National Certificates (HNC), Certificates of Higher Education (CertHE) Qualified/Skilled worker Entry to higher education Completion of secondary education Level 3 - NVQ Level 3, Vocational Qualifications Level 3, GCE AS and A Level, Advanced Diplomas Progression to skilled employment. Continuation of secondary education Level 2 - NVQ Level 2,Vocational Qualifications Level 2, GCSEs at grade A*–C, ESOL skills for life, Higher Diplomas, functional skills Level Secondary education. Initial entry into employment or further education Level 1 - NVQ Level 1, Vocational Qualifications Level 1, GCSEs at grade D–G, ESOL skills for life, Foundation Diplomas, functional skills Level 1 (English, mathematics & ICT) Qualifications can be taken at any age in order to continue or return to education or training Entry Level - Entry Level Certificates Level (sub levels 1–3), ESOL skills for life, functional skills, Entry Level (English, mathematics & ICT) Main stages of education/ employment Credit and Qualification Framework for Wales www.cqfw.net The Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework www.scqf.org.uk National Framework of Qualifications for Ireland www.nfq.ie Professional or postgraduate education, research or employment Level 8 - Doctoral Degrees Level 7 - Master’s Degrees, Integrated Master’s Degrees, Postgraduate Diplomas, Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), Postgraduate Certificates Level 12 - Professional Development Awards, Doctoral Degrees Level 11 - Level 11 - SVQ Level 5, Professional Development Awards, Postgraduate Diplomas, Master’s Degrees, Integrated Master’s Degrees, Postgraduate Certificates Level 10 - Doctoral Degree, Higher Doctorate Level 9 - Master’s Degree, Post-graduate Diploma Higher education Advanced skills training Level 6 - Bachelor’s Degrees with Honours, Bachelor’s Degrees, Professional Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), Graduate Diplomas, Graduate Certificates Level 10 - Bachelor’s Degrees with Honours, Professional Development Awards, Graduate Diplomas, Graduate Certificates Level 9 - Bachelor’s/Ordinary Degrees, Professional Development Awards, SVQ Level 4, Graduate Diplomas, Graduate Certificates Level 8 - Higher National Diplomas, SVQ Level 4, Professional Development Awards, Diplomas of Higher Education (DipHE) Level 7 - Professional Development Awards, Higher National Certificates (HNC), Certificates of Higher Education (CertHE) SVQ Level 3, Advanced Highers Level 6 - Highers, SVQ Level 3, Professional Development Awards, National Progression Awards, National Certificates Level 8 - Honours Bachelor Degree, Higher Diploma Level 7 - Ordinary Bachelor Degree Entry to professional graduate employment Level 5 - Foundation Degrees, Diplomas of Higher Education (DipHE), Higher National Diplomas (HND) Specialised education and training Level 4 - Higher National Certificates (HNC), Certificates of Higher Education (CertHE) Level 6 - Advanced Certificate, Higher Certificate Qualified/Skilled worker Entry to higher education Completion of secondary education Level 3 - NVQ Level 3, Vocational Qualifications Level 3, GCE AS and A Level, Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification Advanced Level 5 - Level 5 Certificate, Leaving Certificate Progression to skilled employment. Continuation of secondary education Level 2 - NVQ Level 2, Vocational Qualifications Level 2,Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification Intermediate, GCSEs grade A*–C Level 5 - Intermediate 2, Credit StandardGrade, SVQ 2, National Progression Awards, National Certificates Level 4 - Level 4 Certificate, Leaving Certificate Secondary education. Initial entry into employment or further education Level 1 - NVQ Level 1, Vocational Qualifications Level 1, GCSEs at grade D–G, Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification Foundation Level 4 - IIntermediate 1, General Standard Grade, Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQ) 1, National Progression Awards, National Certificates Level 3 - Level 3 Certificate, Junior Certificate Qualifications can be taken at any age in order to continue or return to education or training Entry Level - Entry Level Certificate (sub levels Level 1–3) Level 3 - Access 3, Foundation Standard Grades, National Progression Awards, National Certificates Level 2 - Access 2, National Progression Awards, National Certificates Level 1 - Access 1 Level 2 - Level 2 Certificate Level 1 - Level 1 Certificate
  • 16. 2827 Appendix 3. NICAT level descriptors A note on level descriptors Level descriptors describe the level of achievement expected at each level of learning and give a clear indication as to the relative difficulty or demands of each level. There are eight levels of learning used in the FHEQ and the QCF, numbered 1-8 (where level 8 doctorate level learning is the highest). This numbered scale is preceded by the most basic level of learning which is described as “entry level” which is not numbered. Most UK universities use either the NICATS or the SEEC level descriptors. The Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) also uses the NICATS descriptors. The summary version of the NICATS is appended below. The full versions of the level descriptors, which should be used in the design and development of new curricula are available at www.nicats.ac.uk. (The SEEC descriptors are available at www.seec.org.uk ) In higher education, qualification descriptors are also used. These describe the level of achievement expected on completion of full qualifications at a given level of the FHEQ. They are normally used in higher education in conjunction with levels descriptors and are available at www.qaa.ac.uk NICATS Summary Generic Level Descriptors The level descriptors should be seen as a developmental continuum in which preceding levels are necessarily subsumed within those which follow. Learning accredited at the following levels will reflect the ability to: ENTRY LEVEL: employ, recall and demonstrate elementary comprehension in a narrow range of areas, exercise basic skills within highly structured contexts and carry out directed activity under close supervision. LEVEL 1: employ a narrow range of applied knowledge, skills and basic comprehension within a limited range of predictable and structured contexts, including working with others under direct supervision, but with a very limited degree of discretion and judgment about possible action. LEVEL 2: apply knowledge with underpinning comprehension in a number of areas and employ a range of skills within a number of contexts, some of which may be non-routine and undertake directed activities, with a degree of autonomy, within time constraints. LEVEL 3: apply knowledge and skills in a range of complex activities demonstrating comprehension of relevant theories; access and analyse information independently and make reasoned judgments, selecting from a considerable choice of procedures in familiar and unfamiliar contexts and direct own activities, with some responsibility for the output of others. LEVEL 4: develop a rigorous approach to the acquisition of a broad knowledge base; employ a range of specialised skills; evaluate information, using it to plan and develop investigative strategies and to determine solutions to a variety of unpredictable problems; operate in a range of varied and specific contexts, taking responsibility for the nature and quality of outputs. LEVEL 5: generate ideas through the analysis of concepts at an abstract level, with a command of specialised skills and the formulation of responses to well defined and abstract problems; analyse and evaluate information; exercise significant judgment across a broad range of functions; and accept responsibility for determining and achieving personal and/or group outcomes. LEVEL 6: critically review, consolidate and extend a systematic and coherent body of knowledge, utilising specialised skills across an area of study; critically evaluate new concepts and evidence from a range of sources; transfer and apply diagnostic and creative skills and exercise significant judgment in a range of situations; accept accountability for determining and achieving group and/or personal outcomes. LEVEL 7: display mastery of a complex and specialised area of knowledge and skills, employing advanced skills to conduct research, or advanced technical and professional activity; accepting accountability for all related decision making including use of supervision. LEVEL 8: make a significant and original contribution to a specialised field of inquiry demonstrating a command of methodological issues and engaging in critical dialogue with peers; accepting full accountability for outcomes. APPENDIX 3
  • 17. 3029 3029 Appendix 4. Quality Assurance Agency statement on the relationship between frameworks The frameworks for higher education qualifications and credit: how they relate to academic standards Qualification frameworks “The framework for higher education qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland” (FHEQ) was first published in 2001 and revised in 2008. It has five levels - numbered 4 to 8, with bachelor’s degrees located within level 6, master’s degrees in level 7 and doctorates in level 8. A similar higher education qualifications framework was agreed for Scotland in 2001. Its different number of levels reflect the different education system, but the two frameworks share many common purposes and features, including common structures, qualifications titles and qualifications descriptors at postgraduate levels. These two frameworks are an integral part of quality assurance in higher education. Higher education institutions use them in planning, delivering and monitoring their study programmes and the awards that come from them, and external quality assurance procedures focus directly on how effectively institutions manage their use of the frameworks. The numbering of the FHEQ levels corresponds with levels 4 to 8 in the National Qualifications Framework (NQF)/Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) for the vocational qualifications system and can assist with transfer and progression between different levels and types of study. The FHEQ also aligns with the Framework for Qualifications of the European Higher Education Area to assist students’ and graduates’ international mobility. The FHEQ is based on the concept that qualifications are awarded for the demonstrated achievement of learning outcomes and attainment, rather than the length or content of study. It provides the basis for a shared understanding, for higher education and its key stakeholders, of the link between standards and qualification levels. It aims to support a consistency of approach and transparency about expectations for students and employers by providing a series of general qualification descriptors which summarise the levels of knowledge and understanding and the types of abilities that holders of different qualifications are likely to have. Credit frameworks Credit is a means, used by many higher education institutions for a substantial number of years, of quantifying the amount or volume and complexity of work normally associated with learning outcomes. In the United Kingdom (UK) the unit is based on 10 notional hours of learning – knowing that some learners will take more and some less time. The difficulty or complexity associated with the learning is represented by a level numbered like the FHEQ from 4 to 8 and the NQF/QCF from 1 to 8. The credit level descriptors used across the UK are generally derived from those developed through the Northern Ireland Credit Accumulation and Transfer System (NICATS) project. Both Scotland and Wales have integrated credit and qualifications frameworks. In England and Northern Ireland, various large consortia have shared approaches to credit practices for many years, using a common 'language' to support curriculum development within and between institutions, and through this supporting consistency in approach to standards. Credit provides a tool for describing and comparing learning in terms of volume and intellectual demand and can therefore assist students in planning and accumulating learning towards an award. Credit can also help in transfer between institutions (both nationally and internationally) if students wish or need to interrupt their studies or move. In 2008, QAA, on behalf of the Credit Issues Development Group (established by the Burgess Group), published the “Higher education credit framework for England: guidance on higher education credit arrangements in England” following consultation with the sector and other bodies. Those institutions in England that elect to use credit are encouraged to use this credit framework in conjunction with the FHEQ in order to promote consistency of approach across the sector in the use of credit. The English higher education credit framework provides advice and guidance on the use of credit in the design of programmes leading to the main qualifications referenced at each of the levels in the FHEQ. It provides advice on the minimum total volume of credit for the qualification and the minimum credit at the level of the award that is typically used in the design of the main qualifications. The credit level can be referenced against its NICATS derived level descriptors. The English higher education credit framework has been designed to be complementary to the implementation of the FHEQ and it therefore uses the same levels and refers to the main qualification examples in the FHEQ. However, not all higher education institutions in England use credit-based systems in the design and management of curricula and the standards of qualifications. The English higher education credit framework is therefore not an essential or formal part of external quality assurance procedures. However, where a higher education institution uses credit, the management of its use could be discussed and the credit framework would provide an appropriate point of reference. The Joint Forum for Higher Levels which includes QAA, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, the Learning and Skills Council, the Higher Education Funding Council for England and a range of stakeholders, has developed a set of ‘Overarching principles and shared operational criteria’ for a common approach to credit. These are designed to help those working at the interface between the vocational education and training sector and the higher education sector to develop a common understanding of how credit is used in the two sectors. A number of Lifelong Learning Networks and Skills Pathfinders have begun to use them in support of their work. Quality Assurance Agency – August 2008 www.qaa.ac.uk APPENDIX 4
  • 18. 3231 3231 Appendix 5. Sources of information about credit and credit frameworks https://www.gov.uk/what-different-qualification- levels-mean UK Government website, lots of useful information under education and learning www.qaa.ac.uk The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) – Information and publications about the quality system in higher education, the FHEQ, codes of practice, APL guidelines etc. http://www.nicats.ac.uk/about/prn_tlevl_descriptors.pdf The NICATS Level Descriptors and other information www.seec.org.uk SEEC Southern England Consortium for Credit Accumulation and Transfer. Very useful website for all aspects of CATS and SEEC levels descriptors http://www.scqf.org.uk/AbouttheFramework Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework This site has lots of very useful general information and resources. www.nfq.ie The National Framework of Qualifications for Ireland http://www.ofqual.gov.uk The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation. Information about the QCF and links to useful archived QCA and QCDA publications APPENDIX 5

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