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Qualifications Framework

The promulgation of the Decree to establish the National Qualifications Authority sets out a scope of responsibilities it is to pursue. These are detailed in the aims and objectives. Specifically, the Authority is empowered to:

"work in coordination with other relevant bodies to establish and develop a national system of qualifications in the UAE through drawing up plans and policies in this regard within a comprehensive and standardised strategy, which determines regulations and standards of higher, general, technical education qualification and vocational training and how to develop them continuously in order to keep pace with scientific and technological progress and the requirements of economic and social development in UAE."

This Qualifications Framework for the Emirates Handbook is a guideline and reference tool for accreditation/awarding bodies and qualifications designers and developers. It facilitates the operation of the national qualifications framework for the UAE by introducing the grid of level descriptors, the qualifications, respective issuance authorities and other related information. It includes a list of definitions, a selection of confirmed qualifications that encompass qualification types, profiles and related specifications used by recognised accreditation/awarding bodies in their respective processes and procedures for the development, accreditation and recognition of qualifications against the qualifications framework for the UAE known as QFEmirates.

The Handbook is also an advisory and informative document for associated users or interested individuals who may wish to use or learn more of the UAE arrangements with respect to the national framework of qualifications.

Download QFEmirates Handbook
Download QFEmirates Summary

If you have any questions or comments about the QFEmirates, please email them to

Features of a qualifications framework

The review of international qualifications frameworks indicated there was no ideal or perfect range of levels for a qualifications framework, nor was there any intrinsically correct set of characteristics on which the analysis of learning outcomes could be based. The task in designing a framework was essentially that of finding the structure that was best fit for purpose, given the intended scope of the framework in the national interest.

In the case of the qualifications framework for use in the United Arab Emirates, this was:

  • to provide a frame of reference, enabling all qualifications to be described and compared;
  • to accommodate all qualifications, including those used in general education, vocational education and training, and higher education sectors, recognising achievement in learning from the most rudimentary to the most complex;
  • to define the learning outcomes required for new qualifications;
  • provide the basis for comparison of UAE qualifications with other national or international qualifications; and
  • to establish ways to facilitate and support alignment and integration of the quality of outcomes of education and training with economic and social development.

Of note in recent years, was that some common design guidelines emerged from reviewed experiences in developing national and international qualifications frameworks. In general, it is accepted as good practice that a framework be, of few levels as possible: there should be no levels for which there are no qualifications and there should not be so many levels that the difference between any two is difficult to describe.

On the matter of the analysis of learning outcomes it was generally recognised that descriptors that need to work across and between systems (particularly descriptors of levels in meta-frameworks , such as that used in the European Qualifications Framework) should be as general as possible while still enabling clear level differentiation, so that these descriptors comprise statements that are generalised and set out in few categories.

At the opposite extreme, learning outcomes for specific qualifications, or for sets of qualificationsin closed arrays such as sectoral based qualifications, are often very detailed and may include many statements and may describe characteristics that are specific to a field.

Learning outcomes descriptors for national frameworks are typically between these extremes: they need to be detailed enough for relevant accreditation/awarding bodies to use them in determining qualification design, while remaining general enough to be used as a referent for the comparison of qualifications. In this light a more detailed approach has been adopted for the initial for the qualifications framework for the UAE known as QFEmirates. This reflects the current maturity of the system and associated infrastructure. It would be anticipated that has the system matures and more supporting infrastructure is established there that the level of specificity may become less prescriptive.


Purpose of a Qualifications Framework

Typically, a qualifications framework is designed to be the single structure and reference point through which all qualifications in a country can be compared nationally and internationally. It sets out to recognise all forms of learning.

Framework levels can accommodate qualifications awarded for:
  • Formal learning – formal structured learning achieved and formally recognised typically in:
    • schools
    • training centres
    • colleges/institutions
    • universities
    • other forms of formal learning environments.
  • Informal and non-formal learning - structured and unstructured learning achieved typically in:
    • the workplace
    • the community
    • other experiential forms, from the most basic to the most advanced levels of learning.


    Qualifications Framework usage

    A QF consists of agreed structures and conventions. It is used:

    • to indicate the outcome needed for a particular qualification, recognised at a given level in the Qualifications Framework;
    • to compare new and existing qualifications, and enable relationships to be defined;
    • to facilitate:
      • the recognition of the learning achievements of all individuals;
      • mechanisms to help learners make informed decisions about education and training, career progression and mobility of individuals between employment, for example between military and civilian;
      • the recognition and mapping of international qualifications;
    • as a frame of reference for purchasing government funded education and training; and
    • as a means of national and international benchmarking of qualified individuals in the UAE.
    It is also used:
    • as an aid to designing and developing qualifications,
    • as a tool to assure consistency and integrity of qualifications outcomes, and
    • as an indicator of notional occupational and employment relevance.

    Qualifications Framework architecture

    Typically, a qualifications framework is based on:
    1. a number of levels
    2. a range of learning outcomes at each level with learning outcomes being described in terms of knowledge, skill, and competence
    3. a classification and titling convention for qualifications.
    1. A number of levels

      Each level represents a hierarchy of relative difficulty, complexity and depth.

      The higher the qualifications frameworklevel the greater the challenge and demand that would be expected of a learner to be awarded the relevant qualification.


    2. A range of learning outcomes at each level with learning outcomes being described in terms of knowledge, skill, and competence

      The global trend is moving towards describing qualifications in a qualifications framework in terms of learning outcomes.

      Using learning outcomes as the common language in the design of qualifications frameworks makes it easier for international alignments. It also enhances portability and mobility for individuals.

      Each of these unique learning outcome terms is defined in statements of knowledge, skill, or competence. They are assembled in vertical strands for each framework level. The use of strands of learning outcomes and levels in a qualifications framework help improve the hierarchical and distinguishingcharacteristics applicable between levels as well as within a level. It provides those designing qualifications with a finely drawn vertical and horizontal structure (grid) to facilitate easy alignment.

      A set of learning outcome statements for each level are called Level descriptors. They distinguish the levels within a qualifications framework.

      Level descriptors form the foundation for specific qualifications design and development (i.e. – qualifications are developed for specific needs and aligned to the appropriate level).

      Summary Level Descriptors for each Framework level are also produced. This is summary information for each level that is indicative and provides supplementary support to the interpretation of the overall meaning of the level.They are not definitive of the levels, and importantly are not used for specific alignment and qualifications referencing.


    3. A qualification structure–classification (type) and titling convention for qualifications

      A convention for generic qualification title(s) to be recognised and used by accreditation/awarding bodies is ascribed at each level of the framework along with generic qualification profiles (covering various qualification types); augmenting the level descriptors. These are the essential and fundamental building blocks from which the full capabilities and benefits of the qualifications framework are derived. Qualifications can thus be designed and developed from this framework.

      Aspects of existing certification arrangements in the UAE were significant factors for consideration in qualifications framework design. These factors included but were not limited to:

      • the need to accommodate a range of existing qualifications without significant rationalisation (a qualifications framework is not intended to bring about a comprehensive reform of awarding practice in the country)
      • the need to develop some new qualifications, particularly for vocational education and training and for certain very rudimentary learning achievements
      • the need to validate and provide national recognition for a wide range of sectoral and professional qualifications, many of which may be awarded for quite small sets and/or medium sets of learning outcomes
      • the need to provide a notional frame of reference for employment
      • the need to provide flexible certification to support a major initiative in the use of recognised prior learning/experiences (RPL) processes
      • the need to provide a simple, easy-to-use referent for a vast and extremely varied range of qualifications from other countries held by foreign nationals working in the UAE.

      A further key design consideration was the desire to ensure that the QFEmirates could be clearly and easily aligned to international meta-frameworks, in particular the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) and the Framework for Qualifications of the European Higher Education Area (the 'Bologna' framework).

    Levels in the Qualifications Framework

    Taking all of these factors into account, it was determined that the qualifications framework for the UAE was to be comprised of ten (10) levels. For each of the ten levels learning outcome descriptors related to knowledge, skills, and competence (in terms of aspects of competence) were developed to define the broad learning outcomes required for awarding a qualification at that level.

    The intended ten levels would readily relate to EQF and the Bologna framework as shown table below.

    The rationale for having two QF levels in the UAE that relate to EQF Level 1 is to meet the need for a very low level qualification that can be achieved comparatively quickly by learners with no previousqualifications, providing an encouragement support and easily-accessible first rung on the ladder of achievement.

    The rationale for having two QF levels that relate to EQF Level 6 derives from the very wide range of qualifications that are categorised internationally as 'Bachelor Degrees'.

    QFEmirates EQF Bologna
    1, 2 1  
    3 2  
    4 3  
    5 4  
    6 5 Short cycle
    7, 8 6 First Cycle
    9 7 Second Cycle
    10 8 Third Cycle

Scope and purpose of the QFEmirates

The QFEmirates of ten (10) levels has been designed to be the single structure through which all qualifications in the UAE can be described and compared, enabling the relationship between all qualifications to be defined.

The Framework levels aim to accommodate qualifications awarded for learning achieved in schools; the workplace; the community; training centres; colleges; and universities, from the most basic to the most advanced levels of learning. Thus, the QFEmirates sets out to recognise all forms of learning, including that achieved through experiences in workplaces or other non-formal or informal settings.

While the QFEmirates provides a frame of reference for existing qualifications, it also provides the basis for the design of new types of qualifications, recognising 'learning outcomes' defined in terms of knowledge, skill, and aspects of competence. In particular, the Framework paves the way for a new system of qualifications and awards for vocational, technical and professional education and training (known as vocational education and training) in the UAE.

The QFEmirates introduces a general understanding of the meaning of a qualification, defining it as:

"a formally approved parcel of learning outcomes to standards set by the relevant accreditation/awarding body, which can be achieved by a learner."

This understanding differs from the existing common approach that a qualification is based on participation and time-spent on a course or programme.

The Framework of ten (10) levels also provides the basis for comparisons of UAE qualifications with other national and international qualifications. It includes alignments between qualifications systems in the UAE and the qualifications and certification systems of other countries as well as between the QFEmirates and meta-frameworks such as the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) and the Framework of Qualifications of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA, or 'Bologna' Framework).

The model for a qualifications framework is, therefore, designed to address multiple functions as:

  1. a referent for existing qualifications,
  2. a structure within which new qualifications can be developed
  3. an instrument for the international comparison and alignment of qualifications.

QFEmirates Level Descriptors

Level Descriptors are sets of learning outcomes statements that define levels in a framework of qualifications. QFEmirates level descriptors are comprised of:


  1. Number of levels

    Ten (10) levels have been adopted for the QFEmirates.


  2. Learning Outcomes

    Learning outcomes are expressed in terms of:

    • knowledge,
    • skill, and
    • aspects of competence (comprising three [3] sub-parts).

    There are five (5) strands of learning outcomes in the QFEmirates. They reflect what is expected to be achieved for the respective level, for each qualification. A qualification is benchmarked and aligned to the requisite level.

    The ten (10) levels in QFEmirates encompass the widest possible spread of learning: Level 1 can recognise the ability to perform practical and elementary tasks, while Level 10 qualifications recognise the ability to discover and develop new knowledge and skills at the frontier of research and scholarship.

    The 10 levels and five (5) 'strands' of learning outcome statements (totalling fifty [50] statements) form a grid of level descriptors. See Annexure B - Grid of Level Descriptors.

    The five(5) strands of learning outcomes comprise knowledge, skill, and aspects of competence - in terms of:

    • autonomy and responsibility,
    • role in context, and
    • self-development.


    Strands of learning outcomes

  3. The Grid of Level Descriptors sets out descriptor statements for the QFEmirates.

    The statements are set out in five 'strands', building to a grid of 50 statements. The five strands comprise one each describing knowledge and skill and three describing aspects of competence (autonomy and responsibility, role in context and self-development). These level descriptors form the foundation for the QFEmirates.

    For more information, download the Grid of Level Descriptors.

    Note on reading level descriptors:
    • The descriptor statements defining any particular level should be read concurrently across all five strands of learning outcomes to affirm a level
    • The level descriptors are cumulative: e.g. the descriptor for level 5 assumes the inclusion of all of the outcomes in the preceding levels

    As a quick ready-guide for users, Summary Level Descriptors (SLDs); or executive summary statements of the aggregate of the strands, at each level have been developed. They are developed as an indicative guide showing a synopsis of the:

    • learning for each level,
    • achievement for each level, and
    • generic relationship with work for each level.

    The SLDs are not definitive and are only intended as a working guide and should not be used for detailed referencing.

    For more information, download the Summary Level Descriptors.

Qualifications structure - type, titling and scope convention

Establishing the UAE Qualifications Framework provides qualitative ways of classifying and describing qualifications that will be used within the UAE. That is, according to type and title. Working from the established ten (10) level descriptors qualification types and generic qualification titles, their respective scope and profile can be developed for each as can a coding system. That is, the UAEQF Qualifications Structure is comprised of:

  • types of qualifications that can be used,
  • the qualification levels,
  • the 'generic' nomenclature that is used for qualifications,
  • the 'generic titles'of the Principal Qualifications including Composite Awards and Component Awards that are to be used for respective levels,
  • the broad learning outcomes envisaged (scope) of each respective qualification for the given level,
  • the identifiable and prescribed parcel of learning outcomes (profile) that distinguishes one type of qualification from another, at same and different levels (i.e. qualificationprofile and title).

    Does not refer to any particular sector activity or field of learning but signifies the bias of the qualification. E.g. a particular qualification may be knowledge rich versus another type of the same level that is skills or autonomous rich and best suited to a vocational context.

With the establishment of a Qualifications Structure within the UAE Qualifications Framework titling beyond the generic can occur. That is specific titles to amplify the generic title can be developed against recognised by accreditation/awarding bodies policies. These 'specific'qualification titlesset-out the detailed learning outcomes relevant to sector activities, disciplines or fields of learning

For example:

the Degree, 'Bachelor'is a generic title used for a level 7 qualification in the QF.

The specific sector activities, disciplines or field of learning that may apply relates to Mechanical Engineering. Thus the qualification title comprised of the generic title and amplified by the specific title would be represented in the following manner:

Bachelor in Mechanical Engineering
'generic' title 'specific' title

The UAEQF Qualifications Structure is primarily concerned with control of the 'generic' title.

Consequently, the titles, scopes and profiles of 'generic'qualification are used as the basic building block for developing the 'specific'qualifications. The 'specific'qualification therefore, are much more detailed and focused than those defining 'generic'qualification titles, scopes and profiles, as they set-out the specific sector activities, disciplines or fields of learningoutcomes required for achieving each particular qualification.

Therefore, 'specific'qualificationsare directly developed against the Framework for each sector activities, disciplines or field of learning. Often these qualifications are developed and/or recognised by the relevant the accreditation/awarding bodies, in consultation with respective advisory arrangements/committees, competent to advise on such.

It should be noted that while it is possible to design qualifications that fit exactly to the scope and the profiles for a level, the reality in practice is that most qualifications are made from bundles of learning outcomes that may relate to more than one level. Nevertheless, it is possible to identify the dominant level in any bundle of outcomes and so ascribe a level designation to any qualification.

An initial generic set of qualification names/titles, scopes and profiles have been developed for usage in the UAEQF.


Types of qualifications

At each level of the Framework a variety of qualifications may be required to meet specific needs. For instance, there may be a need to provide more than one type of qualification at the same level of the Framework as it readily aligns to the learning outcomes however, the size, quantum (volume), content and effort is smaller in relative terms than, additional to, or a subset of, another 'larger' volume qualification.

Moreover, there may be a need for other types of qualifications that readily align at the same level of the Framework but only some strands of learning outcomes are evident.

A simple means of addressing the need is to classify qualifications according to type. Three qualification types have been identified in the Qualifications Framework. Qualifications are to be described in terms of a simple classification type:

  1. 'Principal' qualification
  2. 'Composite' award
  3. 'Component' award
1. It is likely that the use of qualification types will vary across the Higher Education, General Education and Vocational Education and Training sectors across all levels or some levels. Respective sector accreditation/awarding bodies will determine whether to, or how such, will be applied according to need, relevance and demand.
2. For ease of usage and distinguishing identifier, the term Award is used within the UAEQF to cover Composite and Component awards. Collectively, though they are all referred to as qualifications.


The following defines each qualification type:

  1. principal qualifications - are the major type of qualification associated with formal recognition at each level, and capture a typical range of achievements for the level, for example:
    • Secondary School Certificate (Grade 12)at Level 4, or
    • Secondary School Certificate (Grade 12)at Level 4, or
    • Diploma at level 5, or
    • Certificate 4 at level 4, or
    • Certificate 3 at level 3.
    These qualifications also include supplemental qualifications, which may often require the achievement of an initial Principal Qualification as a prerequisite entry, but for all intents and purpose readily subscribe to be a main type qualification.


  2. composite awards - provide formal recognition for learners who achieve a multiple set of cohesive learning outcomes encompassing, in varying combinations, all five strands of learning outcomes but not the full combination of learning outcomes required for a Principal Qualification. They may:
    • represent a cluster of learning outcomes, which are not sufficient to be a Principal Qualification, or
    • be included as constituent parts of Principal Qualifications, or
    • maystand-alone (independent) as a set for recognition purposes.


  3. component awards - provide the smallest formal recognition of learning outcomes for learners, within the Framework, who achieve an outcome forming a cohesive achievement, and may relate to all or only some of the strands of learning outcomes, defining the level.


    These qualifications are often relatively small or narrow in application. For example:
    • A stand-alone unit of learning is included within a Composite Award and/or Principal Qualification, or
    • Certification of competence in health and safety in the construction industry, or
    • Relate to specific and narrow knowledge or work performance outcomes, orr
    • Updating and refreshing specific knowledge or skills, or
    • To continuing professional development, or
    • May not be included in a Principal Qualification but may contribute towards Composite Awards, or
    • They may be low in volume effort relative to, or by comparison with, the outcomes of Principal Qualifications.

When the Qualifications Framework is fully developed, it is anticipated, as the need arises, that the various classes of qualifications will be available at each of the ten levels.

Pictorial concept of qualification types:

It should be noted that the range of qualifications developed, aligned and offered against the Framework will be constantly under review, operating dynamically to meet the needs of users.

Supporting descriptive instruments

It should be noted that the 'level descriptors' are the definitive base of the QF. In addition to this definitive structure, a range of additional descriptive instruments are provided that give supporting information:

  • to assist users in understanding the meaning of the levels,
  • in interpreting how familiar qualifications are placed at Framework levels,
  • in relating the levels to understandings of how qualifications are used in the world of work (for an indicative summary of employment relevance, refer to Annexure E - Employability indicators of Framework levels, and
  • in education and training, and work, and
  • in society generally.

These supporting instruments include and are enclosed at Annexure A to Annexure E:

  1. Key definitions of terminology in the QF;
  2. Grid of Level Descriptors;
  3. Summary level descriptors (SLDs);
  4. QF summary process of activities related to the Framework and Qualification development responsibilities; and Employability indicators of Framework levels- a reference to employment relevance and indicative alignment of QF (level) descriptions with occupational relevance.

Employability indicators of Framework levels

The proposed employability indicators of the UAEQF levels is, a notional occupational reference to employment relevance and an indicative alignment only to the QF level descriptors.


UAEQF level Indicative employability range Employment relevance indicated in Framework descriptors

Leading specialist / expert

Employability in the leadership of research and critical change activity

A leading expert in their field of work, profession or discipline, with expertise in the critique and development of social and organisational structures and in the initiation of change, that includes mastery in producing new and original knowledge or extending and redefining existing knowledge or professional practice and can deploy substantial authority, creativity, autonomy, independence, fair and valid ethical judgements, scholarly and professional integrity and account for overall governance of processes and systems in identifying unique solutions or conclusions. Can apply innovative and advanced approaches to managing, leading and developing technical or professional teams. Typically, they display highly developed expert communication and information technology skills.

Higher Professional

Employability as senior professionals or leaders in specialised fields

Highly specialised professionals with requisite knowledge and expertise allied to competence in management and strategic leadership and who can lead and function autonomously and ethically, and deploy a range of advanced skills in planning, evaluating, producing and executing creative solutions to highly complex, unpredictable and unfamiliar issues in a range of contexts. Typically, they display highly developed specialist communication and information technology skills.


Employability as autonomous professionals and as managers

In some fields, advanced and specialised knowledge-based professionals and, in others, generalists with high level research, analysis and problem-solving skills who are able to work independently and ethically or apply management expertise in the supervision and/or mentoring of others or in a combination of both. Typically, they have highly developed advanced communication and information technology skills.

Para-Professional and Higher Technical

Employability at the upper end of many technical occupations, or in para-professional and management roles

Specialist command of the theoretical knowledge and analytical skills of an occupational field and the ability to design, evaluate and/or plan solutions and apply ethical values to complex and unpredictable problems, or apply high level specialist administrative/management

Supervisory and Technical

Employability as a highly developed and specialist craft-worker, technician or administrative operative and/or supervisor roles
Specialist command of the knowledge and skills of an occupational field and the ability to develop, specify and/or implement solutions to complex problems, or apply specialist administrative/supervisory responsibilities including leading multiple groups. Typically, they display advanced communication and information technology skills.

Highly Skilled

Employability as an advanced craft-worker, technician or administrative operative, and/or in limited supervisory roles

Entry to many higher level supervisory and para-professional careers with strong general employability
Comprehensive command of the knowledge and skills of an occupational field and the ability to identify, diagnose and implement solutions to abstract, familiar and non-routine problems covering complex type work, and assume control, coordination or administrative implementation responsibilities that include leading teams and multiple groups. Typically, they display comprehensive communication and information technology skills.


Employability as a generalist craft-worker, technician or administrative operative, and/or lead teams Entry to many careers with strong general employability

Command of a broad range of specialised knowledge and skills of an occupational field and the ability to work independently, identify and deploy known solutions to defined problems, assume control or administrative responsibilities for specified outcomes covering skilled type work, and lead technical/peer teams and/or others in a specific work activity. Typically, they display effective communication and information technology skills.


Entry to many occupational sectors and employment in semi-skilled vocational occupations
The capacity to draw on a broad range of mainly factual and procedural knowledge and apply a limited range of skills to carry out tasks and deploy routine solutions to predictable and occasional unpredictable problems using simple rules, instruments, tools and techniques relating to a whole job, whilst working under indirect supervision with some autonomy and which may include leading small teams within a technical or group activity.


Entry to many occupational sectors and employment in roles requiring routine general skills
The capacity to draw on general, factual knowledge of a defined field of work or discipline and carry out simple, routine tasks under guidance and in accordance with procedures within a defined context to respond to, or solve, defined problems whilst working independently and/or in small structured teams under direct supervision and in a managed and/or routine environment


Employability in occupations requiring limited well-defined and procedural skills or programmes to enable occupational entry
The capacity to carry out work in well-defined, familiar and predictable contexts under direct supervision or to perform simple repetitive and predictable tasks to solve well-defined problems in a controlled environment

Nomenclature for qualifications

The Qualifications Framework in the UAE uses three qualification types: 'Principal' Qualifications, 'Composite' Awards, and 'Component' Awards. General descriptions have been accorded to the use of these three types of qualifications as detailed earlier. What follows in relation to each type of qualification, is the arrangements confirming the initial generic nomenclature for all qualifications that will be used in the Qualifications Framework, the 'generic' qualification profile title, followed by the process for permitting greater specificity of each in order to meet the intended needs of a specific sector's activities, discipline or field of learning outcomes required for a particular qualification.


Titling/naming convention of 'Generic' Principal Qualifications

In relation to the naming of the Principal Qualifications titles, the following generic nomenclature has been adopted for use at each level:



'Generic' qualification structure for each qualification

As noted above the 'generic' qualificationsnomenclature at each level require further amplification so as to affirm intended outcomes. This ensures clarity of the purpose of the qualification, and builds community wide confidence and understanding in their usability, applicability and currency.

As stated earlier, initially a qualification structure is identified and then augmented with a profile that accords with the qualification type, level, 'generic' title, scope and its intended outcomes and distinguishing features relative to other qualifications. Subsequently, accreditation/awarding bodies augment this to reflect the description of respective array of 'specific' arrangements they recognise or have developed.


Generic qualification profiles

Qualification profiles are provided for each of the principal classes of qualifications that reflect typical ranges of achievements for the levels with which they are associated, and for a small range of Composite and Component Awards that are or will be in widespread use.

Several of the levels have only one generic qualification profile defined, while others have two or three. Where there is more than one generic qualification defined for a level, each would represent a slightly different parcel of learning outcomes that warrant a qualification profile for each. Each qualification profile may sometimes include one or more statements from adjacent levels.

Apart from describing the learning outcomes required for a type of qualification, the Qualification Profiles provide other information that is useful in interpreting and comparing qualifications:

  • the qualification title that is to be used and appear on the qualification testamur;
  • the framework level of the qualification;
  • a brief summary scope;
  • the qualification type;
  • the volume of the qualification (expressed in nominal duration / credits where appropriate);
  • the relevant knowledge, skill and aspects of competence;
  • an indicator of the employment relevance of the qualification;
  • the employability range associated with the qualification; and
  • the access and progression arrangements for learners associated with the qualification.

Respective Commissions, within their remit, use the Qualification Profiles to manage and administer the development / accreditation / recognition of respective 'specific' and appropriately named qualifications. Developers are expected to align their outcomes to the respective Profile.

The summary list of the Principle Qualification titles used in the UAE Qualifications Framework, each with its own Profile and detailed in the annexure G is also outlined below. Respective Commissions will use the listed Principal Qualification titles within their responsibilities.


Authority - qualification requirements

As outlined above there are three sectors which will use the Qualifications Framework in the UAE, each with their respective authorities and responsibilities. Specifically, they cover Higher Education, General Education, and Vocational Education and Training.

There are points where overlaps occur across the sectors. In these instances respective commissions are responsible for ensuring there is a best fit concordance between the approved qualification and the outcomes of the relevant 'generic' Qualification Profile (title), with respect to the relative combinations of knowledge, skill and aspects of competence approved within their remit.

Typically, the sector qualification authorisations are as follows:


Qualification Authorisations



The authority to issue qualifications

Varying responsibilities apply to the issuance of qualifications under respective commissions.


Higher Education sector

The Commission for Academic Accreditation of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research is responsible for the licensure and accreditation of institutes and universities. Upon being licensed and accredited for requisite programs respective institutes and universities have authority to issue relevant qualifications.


General Education sector

The Ministry of Education under legislation has responsibility for the issuance of the relevant General Education Secondary School Certificates (G 12). These qualifications are issued under the authority of the Ministry by approved education bodies.


Vocational Education and Training sector

Auspiced under legislation of the National Qualifications Authority, the Vocational Education and Training Awards Commission (VETAC) has authority to issue qualifications. The Commission may however, delegate this function, where appropriate, to licenced education and training providers (LETPs) that meet specific quality assurance conditions established by the Commission.

Associated Requirements


Credit Accumulation and Transfer Schemes (CATS)

Given the emergence of a modern and increasingly global community, as well as technological advances in communication the Authority and respective commissions are cognisant of the need to promote the use of formal recognition mechanisms that afford individuals' opportunities to trade their learning achievements within and external to their country of origin. Such mechanisms necessitate openness, transparency and commitment by stakeholder systems to an agreed currency and descriptive framework for all qualifications. They should empower individuals with information which allows them to make informed choices about their future learning arrangements.


Entry requirements

Qualification entry requirements vary according to sector, qualification type and level.


CoreLife Skills

There has been a growing trend across many countries to introduce mechanisms to recognise or acknowledge the role particular key or generic skills play in underpinning work, learning and life, and which can support the promotion of life-long learning. Many countries have introduced them and have associated them with their developed or developing qualifications systems. The naming of these particular skills has varied and includes labels such as Generic Skills, Key Skills, Core Skills, Employability Skill, Key Competencies, Essential Skills, Necessary Skills, Critical Cross-Field Outcomes, and so on.

The UAE Qualifications Framework Project (for-runner to the NQA) proposed, in its November 2008 report, "Proposal for the Inclusion of Generic Skills or Key Competencies in Unit-standards in the UAE", eight generic skills or key competencies. These were information skills, communication skills, organising oneself skills, working with others skills, numeracy skills, problem-solving skills, technology skills and societal skills.

Further work ensued and, in terms of the UAEQF, it was suggested that the title, scope and application be as detailed below.


Title of generic skills or key competencies

The title to be used for generic skills or key competencies in the UAE is CoreLife Skills. This title endeavours to cover the general intent and nature of the generic skills or key competencies. That is, that they are considered central (core) to underpin / support performance and functionality in work, learning and everyday life. From the initial work carried out by the UAE Qualifications Framework Project (QFP) in identifying the generic skills areas or key competencies, small focus groups were held and suitable labels selected to reflect contextual application in the UAE. These are as follows:



Equivalence Recognition including Foreign Qualifications and Awards

The demand for declaration of equivalence of Foreign Qualifications and Awards is a norm within mature qualification based systems. The UAE is a major receiver of foreign issued qualifications and awards. This applies to:

  • nationals that may have successfully completed a Foreign Qualification or Award in another country, or in-country (UAE), and
  • expatriates that are engaged in employment in the UAE.

To this end the recognition of Foreign Qualifications is critical to the orderly function of the community, employment and economy in the UAE. The UAE has a range of established formal declaration processes that cover equalling and/or attesting qualifications. In particular, it applies to higher education qualifications including Diploma and Higher Diploma. This is carried out by the Certificate Equivalency Department (CED) of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific and Research (MoHESR). There is also a formal process in place for General (schools) Education, which is managed by the Ministry of Education (MoE).

In terms of the VET Sector there was no formal structure or processes in place to confer equivalence, mutual recognition declarations and/or attesting of qualifications. This has been addressed with the establishment of the VETAC.


Recognised prior learning (RPL) arrangements

The principle of life-long learning is well recognised internationally and has been the subject of many reports. A major theme that has emerged is the need to give greater attention to addressing recognition processes related to prior learning, particularly informal and non-formal learning.

Recognition of prior learning (RPL) is typically defined, as a systematic practical process that assesses and recognises all learning, in other words, an individual's knowledge, skills and competence, regardless of where or how the learning was acquired. RPL, hence, means the comparison of the previous learning and experience of a learner howsoever obtained against the learning outcomes required for a specified qualification.

This definition makes clear a number of principles in the development and execution of RPL:

  • Learning occurs in all kinds of situations - formally, informally and non-formally,
  • Measurement of the learning takes place against specific learning outcomes required for a specific qualification,
  • Credits that may be awarded for such learning if it meets the requirements of the qualification, and where they apply.

As such, a national policy is necessary as a mechanism to advance the implementation of RPL processes across all sectors of education and training. An RPL policy should meet the needs of all the stakeholders, including licensed education and training providers (LETP), quality assurance bodies and most importantly, the main beneficiaries of the process, the learners.

Therefore, the process of recognising prior learning is about:

  • Identifying what the candidate knows and can do;
  • Matching the candidate's skills, knowledge and experience to specific standards and the associated assessment criteria of a qualification;
  • Assessing the candidate against those standards; and
  • Crediting (credentialing) the candidate for skills, knowledge and experience built up through formal, informal and non-formal learning that occurred in the past.

The UAE National Qualification Authority (NQA) recognises the importance of articulating and furthering some of the key objectives relevant to RPL. This includes facilitating access to, and mobility and progression within education, training and career paths.


Coordination of Commissions' activities – equivalences, attestation and RPL

Given there is a range of common and often overlapping issues that pervade the management and administration of equivalences, attestation and RPL between higher education, general education and vocational education and training, the NQA for its part manages the coordination of the respective commissions to facilitate dialogue, consistency and enhance pathways and opportunities between and across the sectors.

In this regard the NQA has established arrangements and processes to give effect to these outcomes. It coordinates regular meetings of the commissions, facilitates and promotes joint activities, monitors progress and reports to the NQA Board on the issues and outcomes achieved.

Continuous improvement

Continuous improvement is an integral part of any quality system, and in light of the fact that the UAE Qualifications Framework was established through a process of nationwide consultations and dialogue with key stakeholders with interest in such under the oversight of a stakeholder representative body it is proffered that the approach should be retained. The NQA Steering Committee in establishing the Qualification Framework Technical Coordination Group (QFTC-Group) conferred terms of reference on it that included continuous improvement.

Responsibility for maintaining of the UAE Qualifications Framework is a shared stakeholder responsibility and can be harnessed through the continuation of a body comprised of such stakeholders to ensure its relevance and currency. With this in mind the Qualification Framework Technical Coordination Group (QFTC-Group) having completed items 1 to 2 of the Terms of Reference is such a body, and is to be retained and invited to give effect to items 3 to 6.