NQF Terminology

It is not uncommon that the language of qualifications leads to different interpretations by the different agents active in the qualifications landscape. The NQF is no exception. It is against this context that the Institute developed a Standard Terminology List in an attempt to establish a common standard for the terms and its meaning in relation to the NQF as it is implemented and further developed in South Africa. It is our desire that this list will be used and understood by both expert specialist as well as the layperson.


Opportunity to pursue education and training, including relevant qualifications and part-qualifications, for all prospective learners

Accredited Learning Programme

A learning programme, leading to one of the qualification types of the HEQSF, that has gone through the process of approval by the CHE

Accredited Provider

A legally established institution (public or private) that has been recognised, usually for a particular period of time, by a QC or its appointed agent, as having the capacity or provisional capacity to offer a qualification or part-qualification registered on the NQF at the required standard

Accredited Standing

The status granted to a learner for admission to studies at a higher level than the learner's prior formal studies would have allowed, including exemption where applicable

Admissions Procedures

The application of institution-specific selection criteria to select potential learners to pursue education and training opportunities in programmes offered by an education and training institution

Adult Education and Training (AET)

Learning and training undertaken by adults, including formal, non-formal and informal learning, for improving knowledge and skills, for personal development, further learning and/or employment

Applied Competence

The ability to put into practice in the relevant context, the learning outcomes acquired in the process of obtaining a qualification or part-qualification (applied competence encapsulates foundational, reflexive and practical competence)


A learning programme in respect of an officially listed trade, which includes a trade-test in respect of that trade


The process of forming possibilities of connection between qualifications and/or part-qualifications to allow for the vertical, lateral and diagonal movement of learners through the formal education and training system and its linkages with the world of work


A person certified as competent to undertake a listed trade in accordance with the relevant legislation


The process used to identify, gather and interpret information against the required competencies in a qualification or part-qualification in order to make a judgement about a learner's achievement

Assessment Body

An entity accredited/delegated by a QC to conduct external summative assessment and moderate site-based assessment for specified qualifications, part-qualifications, or prior learning

Assessment Criteria

An entity accredited/delegated by a QC to conduct external summative assessment and moderate site-based assessment for specified qualifications, part-qualifications, or prior learning


A person that is able to conduct internal and external assessment for specific qualifications and/or partqualifications (for Higher Education, academic staff employed by the institution)

Basic Education

Education and training that takes place in primary and secondary schools, as well as in adult education and training centres

Career Development Services

Services and activities intended to assist people throughout their lives to make informed educational, training and occupational choices

Career Path

The sequence and variety of occupations which a person undertakes throughout a lifetime or the progression up an orderly hierarchy within an organisation or profession


Formal recognition of a qualification or part-qualification awarded to a successful learner

Continuing Education and Training

Various forms of education provided for adults consisting both of qualifications and part-qualifications, as well as short or part-time courses

Council on Higher Education (CHE)

An independent statutory body responsible for advising the Minister of Higher Education and Training on all higher education policy issues, and for quality assurance in higher education; the CHE is also the Quality Council for Higher Education established in terms of the NQF Act tasked to achieve the objectives of the NQF and to develop and manage the HEQSF


A measure of the volume of learning required for a qualification or part-qualification, quantified as the number of notional study hours required for achieving the learning outcomes specified for the qualification or part-qualification. One credit is equated to ten (10) notional hours of learning

Credit Accumulation

The totaling of credits towards the completion of a qualification or a part-qualification

Credit Transfer

The vertical, horizontal or diagonal relocation of credits towards a qualification or part-qualification registered on the same or different sub-framework

Credit Accumulation and transfer (CAT)

An arrangement whereby the diverse features of both credit accumulation and credit transfer are combined to facilitate lifelong learning and access to the workplace

Critical Cross-Field Outcomes (CCFOs)

The generic outcomes which inform all learning and teaching


A statement of the training structure and expected methods of learning and teaching that underpin a qualification or part-qualification to facilitate a more general understanding of its implementation in an educational system

Designated Group

Particular group of people identified in current employment equity legislation and applied in admission policies by education and training providers (currently black people, women and people with disabilities)


The process whereby a person formally registers at an institution for a specific learning programme

Entry Level Requirements

The minimum academic knowledge and/or practical competencies, and/or work experience that a learner must have completed in order to be admitted for study towards a qualification or part-qualification; this may include recognition of other forms of prior learning such as non-formal and informal learning and work experience deemed as comparable for entry

Equal Opportunity

The principle and practice whereby learning programmes comprising common learning outcomes are provided which can be reached at different rates, by learners with specialised educational needs, by adults, and by children, both inside and outside mainstream education and training

Evaluation of a Foreign Qualification

The process followed by SAQA to compare foreign qualifications with South African qualifications, considering the structure and outcomes of the foreign qualifications, and locating them within the NQF. This process includes the authentication of the status of foreign institutions and status of qualifications offered by foreign institutions, an investigation into the authenticity of qualification documentation, and the verification that the qualification was awarded to the individual in question


A person appointed to develop, administer and oversee a formal assessment

Exit Level Outcomes

The knowledge, skills and attitudes that a learner should have obtained or mastered on completion of a qualification and against which the learner is assessed for competence

External Assessment

Assessment conducted by a person or body that is not directly involved in the development and/or delivery of the learning programme

Exit Point

A point at which a learner is required to demonstrate competence through an assessment that leads to documentary proof (certification) of proficiency

Foreign Qualification

A qualification offered by an awarding institution that is accredited or recognised in a national system other than South Africa and in accordance with the national policies, or generally accepted practice of that country

Formal Learning

Learning that occurs in an organised and structured education and training environment and that is explicitly designated as such

Formative Assessment

A range of formal, non-formal and informal ongoing assessment procedures used to focus teaching and learning activities to improve student attainment, or which are required for the purpose of a year mark

Foundational Competence

Learning that provides opportunities for the development of proficiency in one or more languages as well as in some form of mathematics or mathematical literacy and that is intended to support further learning, or competence required to pursue work in a professional environment


Basic learning that supports further learning and that is


intended to provide learning opportunities for the development of proficiency in one or more languages as well as in some form of mathematics or mathematical literacy

General and Further Education and Training Qualifications Sub-Framework (GFETQSF)

The sub-framework of the NQF for General and Further Education and Training that is developed and managed by Umalusi

Guidance of learners

The counselling of learners by specially trained individuals who meet nationally recognised standards for education, training and development practitioners

Higher Education Qualifications Sub-Framework (HEQSF)

The sub-framework of the NQF for Higher Education that is developed and managed by the CHE

Higher Education

Education that normally takes place in public universities and registered private higher education institutions which offer qualifications that meet the requirements of the HEQSF

Informal Learning

Learning that results from daily activities related to paid or unpaid work, family or community life, or leisure

Institutional Audit

An improvement-orientated, external evaluation of institutional arrangements for assuring quality in teaching and learning, research and community engagement, based on self- and peer evaluation


An approach to education and training in which relevant components of the education and training system are not isolated, but rather relate to each other to enhance learner access to the system, progression within the system, and lifelong learning

Interdepartmental NQF Steering Committee

A Committee established by the Director General: HET in agreement with the Director General: Basic Education which coordinates the NQF responsibilities of the two departments; advises the DG:HET on matters relating to the Minister: HET's NQF responsibilities; and advises the CEO Committee

Internal Assessment

Any assessment conducted by a provider, the outcomes of which count towards the achievement of the qualification

International Comparability

The outcome of an analysis of how a qualification compares with and relates to similar international qualifications

International Comparability

A set of tasks and duties carried out or meant to be carried out, by one person for a particular employer, or in self-employment


A person enrolled for a particular qualification or part-qualification

Learner Achievement

The successful completion of a qualification or part-qualification that is recorded on the NLRD


A learning programme registered with the DHET which consists of a structured learning component, a practical work experience component of a specified nature and duration and which leads to a qualification registered on the NQF and which is related to an occupation; a learnership is based on an agreement entered into between the learner, the institution and the employer


The acquisition of knowledge, understanding, values, skills, competence and/or experience

Learning Outcomes

The contextually demonstrated end-products of specific learning processes, which include knowledge, skills and values

Learning Programme

A structured and purposeful set of learning experiences that leads to a qualification or part-qualification


One of the series of levels of learning achievement arranged in ascending order from one to ten according to which the NQF is organised and to which qualification types are pegged; this includes A(B)ET Levels 1 to 3 as access levels, and A(B)ET Level 4 which is on NQF Level 1

Level Descriptor

A statement describing learning achievement at a particular level of the NQF that provides a broad indication of the types of learning outcomes and assessment criteria that are appropriate to a qualification at that level

Lifelong Learning

Learning that takes place in all contexts in life - formally, non-formally and informally. It includes learning behaviours and obtaining knowledge; understanding; attitudes; values and competences for personal growth, social and economic well-being, democratic citizenship, cultural identity and employability

Ministerial Guidelines for the NQF

Guidelines developed by the Minister: HET that set out the strategies and priorities for the implementation of the NQF for a specific period

National Learners' Records Database (NLRD)

The electronic management information system of the NQF under the authority of SAQA, which contains records of qualifications, part-qualifications, learner achievements, recognised professional bodies, professional designations and all related information such as registrations and accreditations

National Programme Review

A form of accreditation that focuses on the re-accreditation of existing programmes in a specific discipline area. National reviews have three main components: (i) the re-accreditation of programmes; (ii) the follow-up process on the re-accreditation results; and (iii) the production of a report on the state of provision in a particular programme or disciplinary area

National Qualifications Framework (NQF)

The comprehensive system, approved by the Minister of Higher Education and Training, for the classification, co-ordination, registration, and publication of articulated and quality-assured national qualifications and part-qualifications. The South African NQF is a single integrated system comprising three coordinated qualifications sub-frameworks for: General and Further Education and Training; Higher Education; and Trades and Occupations

National Qualifications Framework Implementation Framework

A document prepared by SAQA, after consultation with the QCs, that guides the implementation of the NQF

Non-Formal Learning

Planned learning activities, not explicitly designated as learning, towards the achievement of a qualification or part-qualification; often associated with learning that results in improved workplace practice

Notional Hours

The agreed estimate of the learning time that it would take an average learner to meet the defined learning outcomes; it includes consideration of contact time, research, completion of assignments, time spent in structured learning in the workplace, individual learning and assessment. Ten (10) notional hours equate to one (1) credit


A set of jobs or occupational specialisations where the main tasks and duties are characterised by a high degree of similarity (skill specialization) and are grouped together on the OFO as an occupation; occupations include trades and professions

Occupational Qualifications Sub-Framework (OQSF)

The sub-framework of the NQF for Trades and Occupations that is developed and managed by the QCTO

Organizing Framework for Occupations (OFO)

A coded classification system to encompass all occupations in South Africa, used as the DHET's key tool for identifying, reporting and monitoring skills demand and supply in the South African labour market


An assessed unit of learning with a clearly defined purpose that is, or will be, registered as part of a qualification on the NQF


Sequencing of qualifications that allows learners to move vertically, diagonally, and in some cases horizontally, through NQF levels giving learners recognition for full or partially completed qualifications or part-qualifications

Placement Opportunity

Any opportunity for work or learning that could be offered to an individual and includes a vacancy for employment, an opportunity for self-employment, a learning programme and/or community service


The transfer of learning from one context to another

Post-School Education and Training

Education and training opportunities for people who have left school as well as for those adults who may never have been to school but require education opportunities(the term Youth and Adult Learning and Education [YALE] is also used in some sectors)

Practical Competence

The demonstrated ability to perform a set of tasks and actions inauthentic contexts

Private College

A private institution that is established or declared asa private college that is registered under the Continuing Education and Training Colleges Act (Act 1 of 2013)

Private Provider

See registration of a private provider

Professional Body

Anybody of expert practitioners in an occupational field, and includes an occupational body

Professional Designation

A title or status conferred by a professional body in recognition of a person's expertise and/or right to practice in an occupational field


The means by which individuals are permitted to move through NQF levels by accumulating appropriate combinations of credits


A planned combination of learning outcomes which has a defined purpose or purposes, intended to provide qualifying learners with applied competence and a basis for further learning and which has been assessed in terms of exit level outcomes, registered on the NQF and certified and awarded by a recognised body

Qualification Descriptor

A unique descriptor stating the purpose of the qualification and how it relates to other qualification types; it enables comparisons with other qualifications and provides a basis for designing, evaluating, approving and reviewing qualifications and their associated curricula

Qualification Variant

A qualification based on a specific qualification type that is described with a qualifier


Meeting the requirements of nationally agreed outcomes and performance/assessment criteria, thus facilitating both provision and monitoring

Quality Assurance

The processes of ensuring that specified standards or requirements for teaching, learning, educational administration, assessment and the recording of achievements have been met

Quality Council

One of the three Councils tasked with developing and managing each of the sub-frameworks of the NQF in order to ensure that agreed quality standards are met: CHE for the HEQSF; Umalusi for the GFETQSF; and QCTO for the OQSF

Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO)

The Quality Council for Trades and Occupations established in terms of the NQF Act of 2008 tasked to achieve the objectives of the NQF and to develop and manage the OQSF

Recognition of a Foreign Qualification

The acceptance of a foreign qualification, by an employer, education institution and/or professional body in South Africa, for the specific purpose of work, study or professional licensing

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)

The principles and processes through which the prior knowledge and skills of a person are made visible, mediated and assessed for the purposes of alternative access and admission, recognition and certification, or further learning and development

Recognition of Professional Bodies

A status assigned by SAQA to a statutory or non-statutory professional body for the purposes of the NQF Act of 2008 when it fulfils set criteria, including the registration of its professional designation(s) on the NQF

Record of Learning

A statement of all learning for which a student is enrolled or which the student has completed that is issued by an authorized issuing organization

Reflexive Competence

The demonstrated ability to integrate performances with understanding in order to adapt to changed circumstances and explain the reason behind these adaptations

Registered Examination Centre

A registration process undertaken by an assessment body to recognise an institution as having the capacity to conduct an examination

Registration of a Professional Person with a Professional Body

The inclusion of a person on a list of professionals who have met the requirements of a specific professional body for practice in that profession; requirements usually include a specified initial qualification as well as continuing professional development requirements, registration fees and adherence to a code of conduct

Registration of a Professional Designation

The approval by SAQA for the inclusion of a professional designation on the NQF, linked to the relevant professional body, as well as to the underlying qualification

Registration of a Private Provider

The inclusion, by the DHET, of a private provider that meets the minimum criteria set by the DHET on a list of providers allowed to operate in South Africa. Private skills development providers are exempt from this requirement. Registration is a pre-requisite for accreditation by the relevant QC

Registration of a Qualification or Part-Qualification

The formal inclusion of a qualification or part-qualification by SAQA on the NQF, with an identification of the relevant sub-framework, when a qualification or part-qualification meets the set criteria and as recommended by the relevant QC

Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA)

A body established in terms of the Skills Development Act to develop and implement sector skills plans and promote learning programmes, including workplace learning. The QCTO has delegated quality assurance powers to the SETAs

Skills Programme

A QCTO-accredited learning programme that is occupationally based and which when completed may constitute credits towards a qualification registered on the NQF

South African Institute for Vocational and Continuing Education and Training (SAIVCET)

An Institute established through the FET Colleges Amendment Act to assist the Minister: HET in the development of distance education and training, to support public colleges in the areas of curriculum development, and to research and advise the Minister on vocational and continuing education and training

South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA)

The statutory authority established in terms of the NQF Act of 2008 (which replaced the SAQA Act 1995) to oversee the further development and implementation of the NQF, the achievement of the objectives of the NQF, and the coordination of the three sub-frameworks

Short Course

A short learning programme through which a learner may or may not be awarded credits towards a qualification or a part-qualification, depending on the purpose of the programme

Sub-Framework of the NQF

One of three coordinated qualifications sub-frameworks which make up the NQF as a single integrated system: The Higher Education Qualifications Sub- Framework, the General and Further Education and Training Sub-Framework and the Occupational Qualifications Sub-Framework

Summative Assessment

A means to gauge learning related to specific outcomes associated with a qualification or part-qualification on the NQF at the end of a specified period of learning

System of Collaboration

An agreed mechanism to guide the mutual relations of SAQA and the QCs in such a manner as to promote constructive co-operation

Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) College

A public or private institution that is established or declared as: (i) a technical and vocational education and training college; or (b) a private college that is registered under the Continuing Education and Training Colleges Act


An occupation for which an artisan qualification and relevant trade test is required in terms of the Skills Development Act. SETAs are required to apply to NAMB to have an occupation listed as a trade


The Quality Council for General and Further Education and Training established by the GENFETQA Act of 2001. In terms of the NQF Act of 2008 it is tasked to support the achievement of the objectives of the NQF and to develop and manage the GFETQSF

Unit Standard

A part-qualification registered on the NQF developed under the SAQA Act of 1995. Currently registered unit standards remain valid until they are replaced or reach the end of their registration period

Verification of a Qualification

Process undertaken by SAQA or another competent authority such as a QC to confirm that a qualification or part-qualification was awarded to a specific individual at a specific time by the appropriate authority

Vocational Education and Training (VET)

A continuum of socially and economically necessary and desirable technical knowledge, skills and competencies required to orient and prepare people for work from low skill to high skill, involving an appropriately varied mix of humane, scientific and technological learning

Vocational Orientation

To provide the knowledge and skills to enter the economy through a general, broad orientation in vocational areas, as well as general learning in essential areas such as Language and Maths

Volume of Learning

Specification of the total number of credits required for a qualification or part-qualification

Work Experience

Exposure and interactions gained through being in the workplace

Work Integrated Learning (WIL)

A characteristic of vocational and professionally oriented qualifications that may be incorporated into programmes at all levels of all three the sub-frameworks. WIL may take various forms including simulated learning, work-directed theoretical learning, problem-based learning, project-based learning and workplace-based learning

Workplace-Based Learning

The exposure and interactions required to practice the integration of knowledge, skills and attitudes required in the workplace

Print Email