NQF credit system

Qualifications: credits, modules and NQF levels

Credits are the number of notional study hours required for achieving the learning outcomes. Notional hours include study time, assignments and examinations. The credit rating system rates 10 notional hours as equivalent to one credit.

For example: A Higher Certificate has 120 credits consisting of a 10 x 12 credit module. A module consisting of 12 credits equates to 120 notional hours. It therefore requires at least 8 hours of study per week in a 15-week semester.

Qualifications require a certain number of credits, broken down into smaller units. Undergraduate modules are usually 12 credits. Each module is pegged according to a specific NQF level. A bachelor’s degree of 360 credits, for example, consists of 30 modules of 12 credits each.

A bachelor’s degree may consist of

  • between 8 and 10 modules of 12 credits each at NQF level 5
  • between 10 and 12 modules of 12 credits each at NQF level 6
  • 10 modules of 12 credits each at NQF level 7

These levels follow on from one another. When choosing a module, you must first have passed the module at the lower level. Before you can be awarded a qualification, you must have completed the required number of credits. The modules must be completed at the required NQF level.

New NQF levelVocationalProfessionalGeneral
10 Doctoral degreeDoctoral degree
9 Master’s degreeMaster’s degree
8Postgraduate diplomaPostgraduate diploma 
Bachelor degree
Honours degree 
Bachelor degree
7Advanced diplomaBachelor degree 
Advanced diploma
Bachelor degree
6Diploma (240 credits and 360 credits)Diploma (360 credits) 
6Advanced certificate (120 credits)  
5Higher certificate (120 credits) 

SAQA looks at 10 main academic skill areas, and depending on your level of NQF qualification, it suggests that you are more skilled in these areas the higher your NQF level is.

Here are the ten skill areas the NQF focuses on, with a rough description of what they imply:

  • Scope of knowledge – do you understand what you’re studying?
  • Knowledge literacy – can you apply that understanding?
  • Method & procedure – can you apply specific theories, technique and methods of what you are studying?
  • Problem-solving – can you think for yourself, critically, and find solutions to problems?
  • Ethics & professional practice – can you stick to codes of conduct and do you understand the values of your society?
  • Accessing, processing & managing information – can you interpret and analyze information relating to what you are studying?
  • Producing & communicating information – are you able to accurately communicate what you have learned, in words and writing?
  • Context & systems – do you understand the systems and environment of your field of study?
  • Management of learning – are you able to evaluate and take responsibility for your own learning, as well as the learning of others?
  • Accountability – are you able to properly use resources, to be accountable and responsible for your actions, as well as work effectively?
QualificationNQF Level
General Certificate1
Elementary Certificate2
Intermediate Certificate3
National Certificate (Matric)4
Higher Certificate5
Diploma & Advanced Certificate6
Bachelor’s Degree & Advanced Diploma7
Honours Degree & Postgraduate Diploma8
Master’s Degree9
Doctoral Degree10

A national qualifications framework is a formal system describing qualifications. 47 countries participating in the Bologna Process are committed to producing a national qualifications framework. 

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