National Vocational Qualification
National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) were practical work-based awards in England, Wales and Northern Ireland that are achieved through assessment and training. The regulatory framework supporting NVQs was withdrawn in 2015 and replaced by the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF), although the term “NVQ” may be used in RQF qualifications if they “are based on recognized occupational standards, work-based and/or simulated work-based assessment and where they confer occupational competence”.
As the NVQ were based on a student’s practical skills, it was completed in the workplace and not in the classroom. The NVQ was assessed through building up a portfolio of evidence based on the student’s professional experience. At the end of the NVQ, the student would also undergo two final practical assessments, during which an NVQ assessor will observe and ask questions.
To achieve an NVQ, candidates had to prove that they had the ability (competence) to carry out their job to the required standard. NVQs were based upon meeting National Occupational Standards which described the “competencies” expected in any given job role.
NVQ’s were not awarded by Pass or Fail: instead the NVQ grading criteria was either awarding a successful ‘Competent’ award (which was seen as passing the NVQ). Alternatively, if further work needed completing, the student would receive a ‘Not Yet Competent’ (which was regarded as failing the NVQ). Typically, candidates worked towards an NVQ that reflected their role in a paid or voluntary position. For example, someone working in an admin office role may take an NVQ in Business and Administration.
There were five levels of NVQ ranging from Level 1, which focuses on basic work activities, to Level 5 for senior management.
Although NVQ’s such as a NVQ Level 3 can be roughly translated as being at the same level as a GCE Advanced Level or BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma, in terms of depth and vigor of study, the NVQ cannot be compared with other academic qualifications at the same level, i.e. GCE Advanced Levels and the BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma (A* at A-Level is equivalent to a D* at BTEC Level 3). For this reason, the NVQ Level 3 does not attract UCAS points and cannot be used for university admission.
In Scotland the approximately equivalent qualification is the Scottish Vocational Qualification.
Research by the London School of Economics
NVQs are not formally defined in terms of equivalence to conventional academic qualifications. However, for the compilation of social statistics and other purposes, approximate equivalences have to be established. The following equivalences are used by the London School of Economics‘s Research Lab
- NVQ 1 = foundation GNVQ, three to four GCSEs at grades D-E, Business & Technology Education Council (BTEC) first certificate.
- NVQ 2 = four or five GCSEs at grades A*–C, BTEC first diploma.
- NVQ 3 = two or more A levels, BTEC Ordinary National Diploma (OND), City & Guilds Advanced Craft.
- NVQ 4 = BTEC Higher National Certificate (HNC) or Higher National Diploma (HND), or City & Guilds Full Technological Certificate / Diploma
- NVQ 5 = NQF 7–8