The New Zealand Qualifications Framework



Section 1. The New Zealand Qualifications Framework 2

Purpose of the NZQF 2 Principles underpinning New Zealand qualifications listed on the NZQF and the quality assurance system 2 Lifelong learning 3 Relationship between the NZQF and other tertiary education policy 4 Ongoing development of the NZQF 4 Section 2. Qualifications Framework design features 5 NZQF qualification definition 5 Qualification types 5 Level descriptors 5 Section 3. Qualification design features 7 Qualification title, type and level 7 Strategic purpose statement 7 Outcome statements 7 Credit value 8 Subject area classifications 8 Status 8 Review of qualifications 9 Award of the qualification 9 Section 4. Qualification type definitions 10

Certificate level 1 10 Certificate level 2 10 Certificate level 3 11 Certificate level 4 11 Certificate level 5 12 Diploma level 5 12 Certificate level 6 13 Diploma level 6 13 Diploma level 7 14 Bachelor’s Degree 14 Graduate Certificate 15 Graduate Diploma 16 Bachelor Honours Degree 16 Postgraduate Certificate 17 Postgraduate Diploma 18 Master’s Degree 18 Doctoral Degree 20 Section 5. Quality assurance arrangements 22

Non-University tertiary education organisations 22 Universities 26 Section 6. Appendices 29

Table 1: Summary of qualification definitions – Levels 1-10 29 Table 2: NZQF Level Descriptors 30

SECTION 1: The New Zealand Qualifications Framework

Section 1. The New Zealand Qualifications Framework TE TAURA HERE TOHU MÄTAURANGA O AOTEAROA

The New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF)1 is established under section 248 of the Education Act 1989. It was first brought in as a single unified framework on 1 July 2010 under the former section 253 (1) (c) of the Act and was fully introduced into the Act in the August 2011 legislative amendment (the new section 248).

Purpose of the NZQF The NZQF is a framework based on outcomes, described in terms of knowledge, skills and attributes, and their application.

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) administers the NZQF, which is the definitive source for accurate information about all quality assured qualifications, covering senior secondary school and tertiary education qualifications, and including all qualifications open to international students. The NZQF provides information about what knowledge and experience holders of qualifications can be expected to have, and about what further education and/or employment opportunities the qualification leads to.

The NZQF is designed to optimise the recognition of educational achievement and its contribution to New Zealand’s economic, social and cultural success.

Specifically, the NZQF:

• conveys the skills, knowledge and attributes a graduate has gained through completing a qualification

• requires the development of integrated and coherent qualifications that meet the needs of individuals, groups, industry and the community

• enables and supports the provision of high-quality education pathways

• enhances confidence in the quality and international comparability of New Zealand qualifications

• contributes to Mäori success in education by recognising and advancing mätauranga Mäori

• represents value for money, is sustainable and robust.

Principles underpinning New Zealand qualifications listed on the NZQF and the quality assurance system New Zealand qualifications are based on need, outcomes, flexibility and collaboration. This approach is intended to provide a simple structure for qualifications and programmes.

Qualifications are designed to identify the underpinning skills, knowledge and attributes graduates need to perform a range of roles across a broad context.

1 The NZQF replaced the New Zealand Register of Quality Assured Qualifications and the qualifications listed on the National Qualifications


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SECTION 1: The New Zealand Qualifications Framework

The following principles underpin the design of qualifications:

Needs based The usefulness, relevance and value of the qualification is based on its relationship to the workforce and skill needs of individuals, groups of learners, employers, industry and communities. Evidence is required to establish and demonstrate these workforce and skill needs.

The qualification explicitly acknowledges the cultural and social aspirations of Mäori, Pasifika and/or other identified communities, where appropriate.

Focused on outcomes Clear specification of outcomes makes the purpose of the qualification transparent, enables comparisons with other qualifications (both nationally and internationally) and increases portability of the qualification internationally.

Clear outcomes make explicit what graduates can “do, be and know” on completion of the qualification. Clear outcomes also indicate pathways to further education, employment and/ or a contribution to their community.

Evaluative quality assurance emphasises the achievement of outcomes relevant to the needs and aspirations of significant stakeholders, particularly learners. NZQA uses an evaluative approach in the quality assurance of qualifications and programmes (see Section 5).

Flexibility Qualifications can be achieved in different settings including the workplace and education institutions.

Having programmes of study and industry training that lead to a qualification allow learners to achieve it in ways most suited to their educational, work or cultural needs and aspirations. This may include credentialing learning obtained formally or informally towards the qualification.

Trust and accountability Qualifications are developed collaboratively with a wide range of stakeholders in an environment of mutual trust and accountability. The relationships between these parties, like those between government agencies and tertiary education organisations, are based on good communication and collaboration. Parties can rely on the integrity of the processes used and the information provided.

Lifelong learning Qualifications recognise learning gained in many different ways. The learning can happen at any stage of a person’s life, in either part-time or full-time study, and in a range of places and ways:

• on-job

• in education institutions

• electronically

• online

• by distance

• a mixture of ways.

The NZQF does not put limitations on how or where people can learn.

The New Zealand Qualifications Framework 3

SECTION 1: The New Zealand Qualifications Framework

Relationship between the NZQF and other tertiary education policy The NZQF is fundamental to an integrated tertiary education system. Government tertiary funding subsidies and student loans and allowances are only for qualifications that are quality assured and on the NZQF. Student and graduate visas for international students are also only granted on the basis of study towards and achievement of qualifications on the NZQF.

Ongoing development of the NZQF Since the NZQF was introduced in 1991, it has evolved. It will continue to change to provide an effective and usable qualifications framework.

Qualification type addition or removal The need for a particular qualification type on the NZQF is periodically reviewed. Potential additions are usually triggered by an external party making a request.

The merits of an additional qualification type are evaluated against the design and principles of the NZQF.

NZQA follows its standard consultation process for all changes to the NZQF.

Any qualification type added to or removed from the NZQF is approved by the NZQA Board.

Changes to qualification type definitions Qualification type definitions are reviewed periodically to ensure that the definition remains fit for purpose and is clear. If changes are required, NZQA, in consultation with Universities New Zealand, will draft proposed changes, and consult with the wider sector. Once the proposed changes have been finalised, the NZQA Board will approve them. The new definition is then published on the website.

If there has been substantial changes to the definition, there may be transition arrangements put in place for existing qualifications.

This document outlines the general features for designing, developing and listing and maintaining a qualification on the NZQF. Other relevant documents include the:

Guidelines for approval of New Zealand qualifications at levels 1- 6 for listing on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework

NZQF Qualification Listing and Operational Rules 2012

Degrees and Related Qualifications: Guidelines for Programme Approval and Accreditation to Provide Programmes

These documents are available on the NZQA website at

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SECTION 2: Qualifications Framework design features

Section 2. Qualifications Framework design features

NZQF Qualification definition A qualification recognises the achievement of a set of learning outcomes for a particular purpose through formal certification.

Qualification types All quality assured qualifications listed on the NZQF fit into a qualification type. Each qualification type is defined by an agreed set of criteria which includes the level at which the qualification is listed and the number of credits required at each level. The full definitions for qualification types are provided in Section 4 and a summary in Table 1.

NZQF structure – levels and qualification types


10 Doctoral Degree 9 Master’s Degree 8 Postgraduate Diplomas and Certificates,

Bachelor Honours Degree

7 Bachelor’s Degree,

Graduate Diplomas and Certificates

6 5


4 3 2



Level descriptors The NZQF has ten levels. The level descriptors are provided in Table 2 (see the Appendices). Levels are based on complexity, with level one the least complex and level ten the most complex.

The level descriptors are broadly defined in terms of what a graduate is expected to know, understand and be able to do as a result of learning.

Knowledge is what a graduate knows and understands. It is described as a progression from ‘basic general knowledge’ through to knowledge which is ‘factual’, ‘operational’, ‘theoretical’, ‘technical’, ‘specialised’ and ‘frontier’ knowledge.

Complexity of knowledge is described together with breadth and/or depth in the field of study or work.

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SECTION 2: Qualifications Framework design features

Skills are what a graduate can do. The dimension of integration, independence and creativity is important to describing skills progression and reflects the degree of familiarity of the task/ problem requiring:

• Predictability or unpredictability

• Analysis and judgement

• Extent to which the processes involved are standardised or require adaptation and innovation.

Skills are described in terms of:

• the type, range and complexity of processes

• the types, range and complexity of problems and solutions.

Application of knowledge and skills is the context in which a graduate applies knowledge and skills. Specifically:

• Application is expressed in terms of self-management and leadership in a profession or responsibility for the performance of others

• The context may range from highly structured to dynamic

The learner is progressively more autonomous and more accountable, more responsible for interacting and collaborating with, managing and leading others, within progressively less transparent, more dynamic contexts.

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SECTION 3: Qualification design features

Section 3. Qualification design features

The following information covers the key features for all qualifications listed on the NZQF:

• qualification title, type and level

• strategic purpose statement

• the outcome statement (graduate profile, education and employment pathways and/or contribution to the community)

• the credit value of the qualification

• the subject area of the qualification

• whether the status of the qualification is current, expiring or discontinued

• qualification review date

• award of the qualification.

Qualification title, type and level Qualifications listed on the NZQF have a title where the generic stem of the title begins with the qualification type and is completed by a designator, which identifies its main discipline or subject field, and the level. The title may include other qualifiers, such as optional discipline and focus qualifiers.

The use of qualification titles is restricted to approved qualifications developed by qualifications developers who can demonstrate that their development process has involved, and has had the support of, the appropriate nationally recognised bodies related to the subject title and major content of the qualification.

All qualifications on the NZQF are assigned one of the ten levels. The level is determined by evaluating the qualification graduate profile against the level descriptors. The graduate profile is viewed holistically and the notion of best fit is applied in determining the level.

Strategic purpose statement A strategic purpose statement identifies why the qualification should be listed on the NZQF.

It clearly states the qualification’s use and relevance to learners, industry and the communities. The statement should also acknowledge the cultural and social aspirations of Mäori, Pasifika and other communities, where these are reflected in the need for the qualification.

Outcome statements All qualifications listed on the NZQF contain outcome statements which describe the knowledge, skills and attributes of a graduate. The outcome statement is used by prospective employers and other tertiary education organisations, and for comparing qualifications. Different learners will achieve the outcomes in different ways, so outcome statements indicate the minimum achievement expected from a qualification.

Each outcome statement includes:

• Graduate profiles that identify the expected graduate outcomes of a qualification. This comprehensively describes what a person awarded the qualification must be able to collectively do, be and know. In developing graduate profiles, the qualification developer should consider the full range of capabilities and competencies.

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SECTION 3: Qualification design features

• Education pathways that identify other qualifications that a graduate could enrol into after completing this qualification. Where qualifications are standalone, and do not prepare graduates for further study, the outcome statement should make this clear.

• Employment pathways or contributions to the community that identify the areas in which a graduate may be qualified to work, or the contribution they may make to their community.

Credit value All qualifications on the NZQF have a credit value. The credit value relates to the amount of learning in the qualification.

In determining the amount of learning in a qualification, a qualification developer estimates how long it would typically take a person to achieve the stated outcomes in the context specified and to demonstrate that achievement through assessment. This determines the credit value for a qualification. One credit is equivalent to ten notional learning hours.

Notional learning hours include:

• direct contact time with teachers and trainers (‘directed learning’)

• time spent in studying, doing assignments, and undertaking practical tasks (‘self-directed’)

• time spent in assessment.

A typical learner can usually complete 120 credits of learning in a year.

Subject area classifications All qualifications on the NZQF are assigned a six-digit code from the New Zealand Standard Classification of Education (NZSCED) classification system. The NZSCED classifies a qualification into a subject area, which can be used when searching for qualifications in an area of interest.

Information about the NZSCED classification system is available from the Ministry of Education website at

Status All qualifications listed on the NZQF must display and maintain clear information on the status using the following definitions:

Current Qualifications that are current are those which are listed on the NZQF and can be offered by tertiary education organisations.

Expiring Qualifications which are expiring are those which are either being replaced with a new qualification or the decision has been made for them to be closed. This will normally be as a result of a review.

The qualification may continue to be available to existing individuals while they complete their programme, but no new learners would be able to enrol. Current candidates will need to complete the qualification before the expiry date.

Discontinued Qualifications designated as discontinued will no longer be available or awarded.

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