National Qualifications Framework (NQF) qualifications and unit standards | Western Cape Government

National Qualifications Framework (NQF) qualifications and unit standards


The National Qualifications Framework (NQF) is the system that records the credits assigned to each  level of learning achievement in a formal way to ensure that the skills and knowledge that have been learnt are recognised throughout the country. 

The NQF is a set of principles and guidelines by which records of learner achievement are registered to enable national recognition of acquired skills and knowledge, thereby ensuring an integrated system that encourages life-long learning.

The objectives of the NQF are to: Graduation

  • to apply a single integrated national framework for learning achievements,
  • facilitate access to, and mobility and progression within, education, training and career paths,
  • enhance the quality of education and training, and
  • accelerate the redress of past unfair discrimination in education, training and employment opportunities.

These objectives are designed to contribute to the full personal development of each learner and the social and economic development of the nation at large.

You can search the SAQA qualifications database to find out what qualifications are available for each level, how many credits they are worth, and which service-providers offer this training.

Unit standards are also registered at specific levels of the NQF. The progression to the next level has to be in sequence and you have to achieve one level to move over to the next level.  You can accumulate credits for successfully completed unit standards towards a qualification.

Some qualifications are made of unit standards while others are based on modules. There are qualification rules for each qualification that specify the combination of unit standards and/or modules and their credits.

Qualification rules

There are different credit values for the 3 different components (fundamental, core and elective).

Fundamental component:

There are unit standards to the value of 25 credits in the fundamental component. All the fundamental unit standards are compulsory.

Core component:

Unit standards to the value of 91 credits have been included in this component. All the unit standards in the core component are compulsory.

Elective component:

The learner must choose elective unit standards totalling 22 credits from this component related to the business/ computer/ information technology field in which they operate.

The NQF is a single integrated system which comprises of 3 co-ordinated qualifications sub-frameworks, including the:

  • General and Further Education and Training Sub-Framework (GFETQSF),
  • Higher Education Qualifications Sub-Framework (HEQSF), and
  • Occupational Qualifications Sub-Framework (OQSF).

The sub-frameworks have qualifications registered at the following NQF levels:

  • GFETQSF - levels 1 to 4;
  • HEQSF - levels 5 to 10;
  • OQSF - levels 1 to 6. For NQF levels 7 and 8 the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations can motivate for a qualification only in collaboration with a recognised professional body and the Council on Higher Education, in a process co-ordinated by SAQA.

There are 3 Quality Councils (QCs), namely:

You can search the SAQA unit standards database to find out more about unit standards.

Unit standards are shorter courses. They may take up to a day, a month or maybe even 3 months. For every credit you achieve in a unit standard, it is equivalent to 10 hours of learning.

Unit standards are registered on the NQF and qualifications are registered on the NQF and some qualifications are based on unit standards.

Subject to SAQA approval, a qualification can be registered on the NQF at a specific level.

Qualifications and part qualifications for registration on the NQF must:

a.) be recommended and submitted to SAQA for registration by a Quality Council (QC),

b.) comply with the criteria for registration,

c.) be written in English, and

d.) meet the criteria as laid down by the sub-framework for the qualification/part qualification type.

A certain number of credits are allocated to the successful completion of a registered qualification. If there are 120 credits in the qualification, you’ll have to complete the modules and courses in order to obtain the 120 credits.

There’s no specific target market when it comes to NQF because the NQF is for everybody.

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The content on this page was last updated on 10 March 2021