QCF, RQF, GLH, TQT? What Do They All Mean?


If you have been involved in Further Education in any way, shape or form over the past 7 years, then you will have seen the term QCF dotted around. Well, you may or may not have noticed but the QCF has been quietly slipping away over the past couple of years. In addition to this, you may have seen the acronym ‘RQF’ creeping in. But before we go into the details as to why the QCF was replaced and what by, just in case you’re not quite on the same page, let us bring you up to speed.

What was QCF?

QCF stands for the Qualification Credit Framework. The QCF was the system that Ofqual introduced in 2010 to regulate all vocational qualifications. This framework used ‘credits’ to form qualifications.

For some of you, the term ‘QCF’ may ring a bell but you’re not sure where you have seen it? It might help if we were to say that it often appeared at the end of qualification titles and still does in many cases. For example, if you enrolled onto the CAVA assessor qualification in the past 7 years, your certificate would have been for the ‘Level 3 Certificate in Assessing Vocational Achievement (QCF)‘.

How did the QCF work?

To help you understand the system a bit better, we have broken down the main workings of the QCF into 5 bullet points. We will be referring to vocational qualifications a lot in these 5 points, so to keep it simple we will just refer to them as ‘VQ’s (Apologies for adding another acronym to the mix). 

  • Each VQ has a credit value;
  • Every VQ comprises units (mandatory and sometimes optional units as well);
  • Each unit within a VQ has a specific amount of Guided Learning Hours (GLH) assigned to it;
  • Each unit within a VQ is worth a specific amount of credits;
  • When the total credit value of all mandatory units within a VQ doesn’t add up to equal the credit value of the qualification, then the learner picks optional units to bring the overall credits up to the credit value of the qualification.

As we briefly mentioned at the top of this post, the Qualification Credit Framework was scrapped back in 2015. Why are we telling you all this now, two years on? Well, even though the QCF was replaced by the RQF (which we will come onto in a moment), learners could still be registered onto qualifications on the QCF up until the 31st of December 2017. This means that it is still possible and completely acceptable to be completing or even registered onto a QCF qualification right now, even after it was binned off two years ago. So, it is likely that anyone new to the idea of becoming an assessor, wouldn’t have known that the QCF was being replaced; if indeed they knew what the QCF was in the first place. But not to worry, that’s why we are here!

NQF and QCF’s replacement – The RQF

Just on a quick note before we go into the RQF, you may be thinking “Come on, you’ve got to be joking… NQF? Why are you throwing ANOTHER acronym at me?” Don’t worry! It really isn’t going to be relevant to you going forward. But for the purpose of this post, you need to know. NQF is the National Qualification Framework. All of the non-vocational qualifications that Ofqual regulate were on the NQF. The academic qualifications if you like. You are just about to find out why we had to introduce this to you now…

The Regulated Qualification Framework (RQF) was branded as a “simple, descriptive framework” in Ofqual’s RQF publication from 2015. The RQF will be used to manage every qualification that is regulated by Ofqual. That includes qualifications that were stored on both the QCF and the National Qualifications Framework (NQF). 

It’s quite simple really; why have two frameworks to manage qualifications, when you can just have one? The Regulated Qualification Framework brings standardisation. It now provides an easier way to measure all qualifications as well. Now, anyone can see how both general and vocational qualifications relate to each other, which hasn’t been that simple (if at all possible) before. How does the RQF do this? Well, mainly through the introduction of TQT. 

What is TQT?

TQT stands for Total Qualification Time. It is the measurement awarding bodies must use to describe the size of a qualification. It kind of does what it says on the tin; TQT is the minimum amount of hours a typical learner will take to complete the respective qualification. TQT takes into account the learner’s study-time with and away from the assessor.

Total Qualification Time (TQT) has replaced Guided Learning Hours (GLH).

GLH was used as a way to measure the size of qualifications on the QCF. However, it soon became apparent that Guided Learning Hours often wasn’t an accurate representation of how long a learner would actually take to complete their qualification. Thus, making them next to pointless. However, just so that you know, GLH hasn’t gone anywhere; they now form a part of the TQT. 

So, to summarise:

  • QCF is the old framework that Ofqual used to store and manage all of the vocational qualifications they regulate. 
  • RQF is the new framework that Ofqual is using to store and manage all of the qualifications they regulate. 
  • GLH is the old measurement of the size of qualifications on the QCF. 
  • TQT is the new measurement of the size of qualifications on the RQF. 

There we go, now you know what all those pesky three-letter acronyms are all about!