Jim Proudfoot considers the purpose of the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) and asks ‘what next?’ in light of its scrapping by Ofqual.

The recent Ofqual consultation on the QCF determined its design rules were too restrictive and imposed a one-size-fits-all approach not consistent with the development of high-quality vocational qualifications or those that met the needs of employers.

It has now been confirmed that these rules will go next summer. Transitional arrangements, costs and what signifies a high-quality vocational qualification will be published.

Some awarding organisations (AOs) recognised for QCF only may lose it altogether. Some of their qualifications may no longer be fit for purpose.

All qualifications must be valid, reliable, up-to-date, comparable to others at the same level, manageable and minimize any potential bias.

Ofqual says that qualifications that are not valid will have to be withdrawn or redeveloped. This implies that either there are qualifications already on the register that are not fit for purpose or that one result of withdrawing the QCF rules will mean that some qualifications will no longer be fit for purpose.

How will the Conditions of Recognition be amended to reflect this?

The QCF has been in operation for almost ten years now, about the same length of time as the diploma experiment in schools.

Its main purpose was to decrease the number of qualifications, especially duplicates, thus making the system clearer and more transparent to both learners and employers.

The numbers of duplicate qualifications and units has risen and this begs the question: “Are learners and employers still confused about which qualification is really relevant and accepted nationally?”

One of the main problems with the QCF was the (implied) insistence of sharing units

It is important to maintain national standards both for our internal needs as well as our international reputation. Change perceived for political reasons does not help.

One of the main problems with the QCF was the (implied) insistence of sharing units.

If one AO used another’s unit then it was forced to abide by that organisation’s use of the unit, specifically its review date, and also whether it wanted to continue with that version of the unit after that date had passed.

Any AO that uses someone else’s unit has to ask for it to be reviewed to match any extension of its qualification or it could ask for the ownership to be transferred then it would have control.

If neither of these options worked (for example because the owner refused to review it or transfer ownership — maybe because it saw the other organisation as competition) then it could actually just copy the details of the unit and create its own.

This situation has been a bone of contention between AOs for many years as they do not see why someone can come along and just copy their work for nothing but, once it is on the register, it is Crown Copyright.

Copying, of course, could also put into question the AO’s ability to develop its own units and could be a reason for an intervention by Ofqual against the conditions.

These are all good reasons for getting rid of the QCF. The original aim has been forgotten, probably because of the implications of actually transferring credit along with the fear of competition and, in simple terms, cost. It is easier to do the whole qualification in one place.

Some consider assessment in the QCF as overkill, but the ability for an AO to vary its assessment strategy may be a retrograde step and harder to police.

When a system is changed problems arise and this will mean substantial cost in time for the AOs.

Ofqual’s Regulatory IT System (RITS) may well change or be completely replaced. There are still outstanding transition issues from 2010 when Web-Based Accreditation (WBA) became RITS and certain fields in the new system could not be populated and information was lost or archived.

This varies in the NQF and the QCF. Officially, there is only one framework. The National Qualifications Framework (NQF) does not deal in credit but this is the main aspect of the QCF and it demands sharing.

I look forward to seeing how these two will become one.