Diplomas, Certificates, Awards

There are lots of different qualifications. There are awards, certificates, diplomas. They also have ‘levels’. Level 1, level 2, level 3 up to level 8. How do you know what this all means you? Is one course better than another? Is city and Guilds level 2 the same as VTCT level 2? Will you show your piece of paper to an employer only to have them say: ‘Oh, no, we don’t recognise that one.’ Some courses are simple, some are complex. Some courses are short, some are long. How to compare them?

The answer to all these anxieties and problems is the RQF– the regulated qualification framework system, run by the regulator, Ofqal. I have explained the purpose of the Regulated Qualification Framework (‘RQF’) in the ‘How it all works together’ page. You may want to refer back to it for background. The RQF is an official system for describing and comparing qualifications from different organisations.

Ofqual maintain a ‘Register of Regulated Qualifications’. All these qualifications and courses have to be registered in this register, and they all have to conform to the required system so that each one’s ‘levels’ and ‘credits’ are comparable with everyone else’s. This way, everything is transferable. All level 2 diploma qualifications in beauty therapy are comparable, whether they’re offered by City & Guilds or by VTCT. They might differ in their details, but otherwise they should be much the same. The rules of the RQF dictate that a qualification must:

(1) Have a name – e.g. ‘City & Guilds Level 2 Diploma in Beauty Therapy’
(2) Have a unique RQF qualification number so you can check it out in the RQF database – e.g. ‘500/8637/6’
(3) give its ‘Level’ – e.g. Level 1, Level 2, Level 3 etc.
(4) state its ‘Credits’ (how long the course is)
(5) state whether it is a ‘Diploma’, a ‘Certificate’, or an ‘Award

The way qualifications are kept much the same is this.  On another page I have explained about NOS – National Occupational Standards. They are the basic subjects for study. If VTCT offers a beauty therapy course level II, and one of the units is ‘manicure’, that unit will in fact be an NOS.

Sure enough, there’s an NOS unit SKANS2 ‘Provide manicure services’. This is a 12 page, detailed, document, setting out exactly what has to be taught and exactly what skills the successful student must achieve. Whether it’s ITEC or VTCT who include this unit in their qualification, exactly the same information and training must be covered, and it must be all provided to the same standard within the RQF framework.

Awarding organisations – such as, City & Guilds, VTCT or ITEC – choose to put together courses  made up of a single NOS unit, or a group of NOS units to form a larger subject. Then training providers who are accredited by these awarding organisations run courses in them and grant qualifications from  City & Guilds, VTCT or ITEC to the people you pass the courses.

Each unit comes with an assumed number of ‘credits’ and hours of work. The point of this is to allow qualifications to be transferred and added to. You can build up to a certificate or diploma, by doing additional awards. If you have a particular award certificate, you can use its credits against the credits required to pass the diploma you later take, even if it’s provided by a different awarding body. So you don’t end up having to do the same thing twice, and, wherever possible, you can build up your qualifications over time.

Course providers must say how many ‘credits’ a course has. The number of ‘credits’ tells you how many hours they think it should take you to complete the course. Roughly, 1 credit = 10 hours. So, if a course has 44 credits, it means they think it will take students 440 hours to do the course. This includes self-study, not only classroom time. Sometimes, the details will include ‘GLH’ – Guided Learning Hours – and that is classroom time only.

A course will result in a Diploma, a Certificate, or an Award. All courses are made up of units (topics). An Award may just be a single unit. A Certificate will contain many units, and a Diploma even more. It depends on the length of the course – based on how many ‘credits’ the course has.

• Awards = Courses with 1 to 12 credits (1 – 120 hours).
• Certificates = Courses with 13 to 36 credits. (130 – 360 hours)
• Diplomas = Courses with 37 credits or more (370 hours +)

An Award is good enough to learn a very specific skill, but a Diploma with many subjects may be necessary to prove that you have a wide range of skills necessary to run a beauty salon.

There is a grading system from Level 1 to Level 8. Level 1 courses are suitable for 16-year-old school leavers. Level 8 courses are suitable for University graduates. Most workers in the beauty industry need a Level 2 and/or Level 3 qualification

The RQF system is designed to allow you to use existing qualifications as a step towards a higher qualification. So, if you have earned the credits for a Certificate you should be able to move to a Diploma course in the same general subject area and use relevant units from the certificate course without having to take them again as part of the Diploma course. (You always need to check about the actual course with the provider.)



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