Skip to content

Credit and Qualifications Framework for Wales

Related Links

The aims of the review were to understand the impact the CQFW has had in Wales and determine if its structure and purpose should be reviewed.
Tell us if you want any of the documents on this page in an alternative format.

An all-inclusive framework designed to provide greater clarity on the qualifications system in Wales.

The Credit and Qualifications Framework for Wales (CQFW) is managed by a strategic operational partnership comprising of the Welsh Government, Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) (external link) and Qualifications Wales (external link).


  • is an enabling tool in relation to Welsh Government’s economic and skills policies and goals
  • offers a national qualifications framework for learners in Wales of all ages and abilities
  • provides a common currency for learning achievement
  • supports the recognition of credit and qualifications across all levels, enabling learners to progress
  • facilitates providers to articulate pathways of progression that are easily understood and are transferable and consistent within Europe and the wider International community

Principles of CQFW

The CQFW embraces 3 common principles:

  • Expression of achievement as learning outcomes
  • The demands made by that learning on the learner (level)
  • The volume of learning achievements (credit)

Together, these principles create a model which can embrace and underpin all styles/types of learning in all sections of education and training.


The CQFW was formally adopted by the Welsh Government in 2002 and was launched in 2003. The implementation phase ran from 2003 to 2014.

In July 2014, the Welsh Government commissioned and published a Review of the CQFW which made 10 recommendations. It also identified the benefits of the CQFW as a tool for acknowledging learning outside more traditional areas, providing clarity, clearer pathways for progression and accrediting smaller volumes of learning. The review acknowledged that the CQFW supports the European Union Vocational Education and Training initiatives.


Following on from the CQFW Review in July 2014 and its recommendations, a number of objectives for the future have been agreed by the CQFW Advisory Group. They are:

  • to support CQFW as a meta-framework that underpins future qualification strategies
  • to revise the aims and objectives so that it evolves to become a ‘functional’ national qualifications framework which acts as a vehicle for describing the qualifications system in Wales
  • to simplify and raise the levels of understanding and profile of the CQFW
  • to maintain relationships with other UK nations to ensure alignment of frameworks across the UK and Europe
  • to re-design the QALL pillar to allow the separation of lifelong learning that is formal from the non-formal
  • to move ownership of the QALL pillar from Government back to the sector, with a view to making formal and non-formal learning less bureaucratic and more accessible
  • to revise existing publicity materials and use them to promote and raise the profile of the CQFW. Existing electronic communication and marketing mechanisms will also be utilised
  • to establish a CQFW Advisory Group with its membership drawn from wider key stakeholders
  • for Qualifications Wales to provide oversight of the regulated qualifications pillar.

Guidance (2015)

Qualification frameworks are designed to help the learner and others make informed decisions about the qualifications they need.

Each framework has a set of levels from which they can identify clear progression routes, which can be from one level to the next. The levels capture all the learning from the initial stages (Entry) to the most advanced (Level 8), and are mapped to levels within the European Qualifications Framework (EQF).

The CQFW fan diagram illustrates the levels and examples of qualifications and learning provision. It is also possible to see the progression routes between levels and to different types of learning, e.g. work-based learning to further education to higher education.

Higher Education (HE) pillar

HE is a devolved area, which means that most decisions about HE in Wales are taken by the Welsh Government.

HE in Wales provides learning programmes (including research opportunities) in a wide range of academic and vocationally oriented subject areas which lead to qualifications such as HNCs, HNDs, Certificate of HE, Foundation Degrees, Bachelor degrees, Masters, Postgraduate Certificates/Diplomas, Doctorates.

Regulated Qualifications pillar

Qualifications Wales, established September 2015, as the new independent regulator of non-degree qualifications and the regulated qualification system in Wales.

The regulated pillar identifies general and vocational education and training leading to regulated qualifications:

  • Entry
  • Essential Skills
  • GCSEs
  • AS/A levels
  • Vocational qualifications
  • Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification (Welsh Bacc)

CQFW Level Descriptors

Level descriptors are the agreed generic descriptions of the relative demand, complexity, depth of learning and of learner autonomy required at each level of the CQFW. All regulated learning including formal and non-formal quality assured lifelong learning must be referenced against level descriptors to be recognised.

With effect from 1 December 2015, Qualifications Wales (which has oversight of the regulated pillar) adopted the revised Ofqual level descriptors following the withdrawal of the QCF in England. These set out knowledge and skills at each level and are broadly the same as the CQFW knowledge and understanding descriptors. The category of ‘autonomy and accountability’ has therefore been removed from regulated qualifications.  

The Ofqual level descriptors adopted by Qualifications Wales apply to vocational and general qualifications within the regulated pillar only. All other learning must comply with the CQFW level descriptors (2009) which set out application/action and autonomy/accountability, as these categories remain important within the higher education and quality assured lifelong learning pillars.

Document Download

PDF Document (MFS)
CQFW Fan diagram (File size: 140KB)
PDF Document (MFS)
CQFW Governance diagram (File size: 80KB)
PDF Document (MFS)
CQFW brochure (File size: 860KB)