United Kingdom Awarding Bodies

An awarding body, in the United Kingdom, is an examination board which sets examinations and awards qualifications, such as GCSEs and A-levels. There are seven main examination boards in the United Kingdom:

  • AQA (Assessment and Qualifications Alliance)
  • NCC Education
  • CIE (University of Cambridge International Examinations)
  • Edexcel
  • ICAAE (International Curriculum and Assessment Agency Examinations)
  • OCR (Oxford, Cambridge and RSA Examinations)
  • WJEC

Functions of awarding bodiesEdit

In the UK, in order for a qualification to be recognised as part of one of the UK qualifications frameworks: the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF), the Credit and Qualifications Framework for Wales (CQFW) or the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) in England and Northern Ireland, it must be awarded by an awarding body that is recognised by one of the government-appointed regulatory bodies or (for higher education qualifications on the SCQF and QCFW) be awarded by a body with degree awarding powers. The regulatory bodies are Ofqual in England, the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations & Assessment (CCEA) in Northern Ireland, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) in Scotland and Qualifications Wales in Wales; the Quality Assurance Agency covers all higher education providers in the UK and maintains the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (FHEQ).[1][2][3]

There are over 200 of these Awarding Bodies on the Register of Regulated Qualifications (covering England and Northern Ireland).[4] Some specialize in specific subjects. Others specialize in types of qualifications, such as ‘A’ levels, GCSEs and vocational competence or knowledge based qualifications.

An awarding body does not always provide the courses that lead to a qualification. Often an awarding body will provide an approval process for independent training providers who, if they meet the criteria, are able to award qualifications that are accredited by that awarding body.

An RQF qualification from an awarding body is always clearly identified as being at one of 9 Levels. These begin with ‘Entry Level’ (which is further divided into three sub-levels) and then run from Level One through to Level Eight. These levels are common across the different frameworks in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, including the FHEQ (which starts at level 4), allowing the difficulty of a qualification to be equated, e.g. level 6 is at the same level of difficulty as a bachelor's degree and level 8 is at the same level of difficulty as a doctoral degree. The levels used in Scotland are different from those in the rest of the UK, but are still common across SQA and higher education qualifications, with level 10 being at the same level of difficulty as an honours degree and level 12 a doctoral degree. There is a correspondence between the UK frameworks and the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) as follows:[5]

RQF/CQFW/FHEQ level SCQF level EQF level
8 12 8
7 11 7
6 10 6
5 8 5
4 7
3 6 4
2 5 3
1 4 2
E3 3 1
E2 2 N/A
E1 1 N/A

Qualifications also have credit sizes, using the UK Credit of 1 credit = 10 nominal hours of work or study (termed Total Qualification Time in the RQF). On the RQF, the terms 'Award', 'Certificate' and 'Diploma' are used to distinguish qualifications of 1 - 12 credits, 13 - 36 credits and 37+ credits respectively. An academic year is taken to consist of 120 credits, and a full calendar year 180 credits, so a bachelor's degree with honours normally totals 360 credits (split equally across FHEQ levels 4–6) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland or 480 credits (split equally across SCQF levels 7–10) in Scotland, while a doctoral degree (if credits are used) is 540 credits at FHEQ level 8/SCQF level 12. For comparison, the largest RQF qualification at level 8, the CMI Level 8 Diploma In Strategic Direction and Leadership, has a size of 67 credits.[6]


  1. ^ "What qualification levels mean". Gov.uk. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  2. ^ "Credit and Qualifications Framework for Wales". Welsh Government. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  3. ^ "Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework". Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework. Archived from the original on 16 June 2014. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  4. ^ "Register of Regulated Qualifications". Ofqual. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  5. ^ "Find and Compare Qualifications Frameworks". European Commission. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  6. ^ "CMI Level 8 Diploma In Strategic Direction and Leadership". Ofqual. Retrieved 13 October 2016.