Glossary of Terms.

A level

An A level is normally taken as a two-year course progressing from either GCSE or an equivalent qualification. It comprises the advanced subsidiary (AS) and A2 qualifications. The AS is a stand-alone qualification and is valued as half a full A level qualification (assessed at the standard expected for a student halfway through an A level course). The A2 is the second half of a full A level qualification (assessed at the standard expected for a student at the end of a full A level course). Both are worth 50 per cent of the full A level qualification.


The Adult Learning Inspectorate (ALI) and Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education) are government agencies who inspect providers of training who receive any public funds for training provision. They produce inspection reports/grades which they make publicly available online:

Adult Learning Inspectorate Website

Ofsted Website

Access courses

Access courses are designed to prepare students who do not have standard entry qualifications for higher education courses.


The process through which regulators confirm that a qualification and the associated specification conform to the relevant regulatory criteria.

Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL), Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL)

A general term used for the award of credit on the basis of demonstrated learning that has occurred at some time in the past. This learning may have come about as the result of a course, or self-directed study, or as the result of experience either at work or in leisure pursuits.

Aegrotat award

An award made on the basis of partial achievement to a learner who is unable, through temporary illness, injury or indisposition, to complete all the usual assessment requirements.


The adding together of attainment across the components and units of a qualification to arrive at a measure of achievement for the qualification as a whole. Aggregation may require a weighting of the different elements to determine how much each element can contribute to the whole qualification.


A process through which an awarding body may be challenged on the outcome of an enquiry about results or, where appropriate, other procedural decisions affecting a centre or individual learners.

Applied learning

Acquiring and applying knowledge, skills and understanding through tasks set in sector or subject contexts that have many of the characteristics of real work, or are set within the workplace. Most importantly, the purpose of the task in which learners apply their knowledge, skills and understanding must be relevant to the workplace.


The process of making judgments about the extent to which a learner’s work meets the assessment criteria for a qualification or unit or part of a unit.


The person who makes a judgment on learner’s work.


Confirmation that work has been produced by the learner who is putting it forward for assessment, and that it has been produced under the required conditions.


The process through which learners’ results and/or grades are determined on the basis of available evidence.

Awarding body

An organisation or consortium that awards qualifications. To be eligible to award accredited qualifications, awarding bodies must meet the requirements of and be recognised by the regulators.


Qualifications that may not be combined because of overlapping content.

Blended learning

A method of educating that uses e-learning techniques, such as online delivery, combined with traditional face to face lectures, seminars, and tutorials.

Credit accumulation and transfer schemes (CATS)

Arrangements within institutions which determine student progression towards defined learning outcomes, including formal qualifications, and recognition of these arrangements between institutions to facilitate the transfer of students.

Centre approval

A process through which a centre wishing to offer particular qualifications is confirmed as being able to maintain the required quality and consistency of assessment and comply with other expectations of the awarding body.


The record of attainment in a unit or qualification issued by the awarding body.


The extent to which results obtained in different assessments, for example in different units, between awarding bodies or over time, represent equivalent attainment.


The extent to which high performance in one element of an assessment can balance lower performance in another. This idea recognises that it is the student’s overall attainment rather than individual elements that is most significant.


The knowledge, understanding, skills or area of competence to be covered in a qualification as described in the specification.

Controlled assessments

Controlled assessments are internal assessment activities undertaken by learners under conditions set by an awarding body. The conditions relate to the three elements of assessment: setting of tasks, conduct of tasks and marking of learners’ assessment evidence.

Distance learning

Instruction provided at a distance to students who do not normally attend lectures and tutorials at the institution. It can involve learning through TV, radio, correspondence, computer network, CD-ROM and video.


The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The UK Government department which brings together responsibilities for business, industrial strategy, science, innovation, energy and climate change. BEIS is a ministerial department, supported by 47 agencies and public bodies.


The Department for Education is responsible for education, children's services, higher and further education policy, apprenticeships and wider skills in England and equalities.


Delivery of content via electronic media, such as internet, video, interactive TV and CD-ROM. E-learning encompasses all learning undertaken, whether formal or informal, through electronic delivery.

Employability skills

Transferable core skills that represent functional and enabling knowledge, skills, and attitudes required in today's workplace. They are necessary for career success at all levels of employment and for all levels of education.

Experiential learning cycle

A process that stresses the central role of experience in learning related to the world of work. Learners reflect on their experience, draw out and articulate lessons learnt (generalise), and then apply their learning to new situations or activities. The learner’s subjective experience is of critical importance in the learning process.

External assessment

A form of assessment in which question papers, assignments and tasks are set by the awarding body, taken under specified conditions (including details of supervision and duration) and marked by the awarding body.

Foundation degree

Foundation degrees are two-year higher education qualifications that were first offered in 2001-02. They are designed to meet skills shortages at the higher technician and associate professional levels. Foundation degrees are one level below the honours degree.

Further education

Further education is for people over compulsory school age (currently 16 in England) which does not take place in a secondary school. It may be in a sixth-form college, a further education college or a higher education institution. Further education courses are generally up to the standard of GCE A-level or NVQ Level 3.

Foundation learning tier

The foundation learning tier is made up of all units and qualifications at Entry level and level 1 of the new Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) taken by learners aged 14 and over. Units and qualifications within the foundation learning tier will be packaged together into progression pathways – frameworks for learning to ensure that all learners are helped to progress towards level 2 or other meaningful destinations.

Functional skills

These are the core elements of English, mathematics and ICT, which provide the essential knowledge, skills and understanding needed to operate confidently, effectively and independently in life and at work. Functional skills will relate to GCSEs in English, mathematics and ICT, Diplomas and apprenticeships. They will also be available as stand-alone qualifications.


GCSE stands for General Certificate of Secondary Education. This qualification is normally taken by 15- to 18-year-olds in schools and colleges across the country but GCSEs are available to anyone who would like to gain a qualification in a subject which they are interested in. GCSE specifications are currently under review and revised specifications will be available for first teaching in September 2009, except for English, English literature, ICT and mathematics, which are for first teaching in September 2010.


A point on a scale of performance used to differentiate achievement within a qualification (for example, A*, A, B, C, D, E).

Guided learning hours (GLH)

The number of hours of supervised or directed study time required to teach the qualification or a unit of a qualification.


Working in partnership, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) promotes and funds high-quality, cost-effective teaching and research, meeting the diverse needs of students, the economy and society.

Higher education

Higher education courses are programmes leading to qualifications, or credits which can be counted towards qualifications, which are above the standard of GCE A-levels or other Level 3 qualifications. They include degree courses, postgraduate courses and Higher National Diplomas. Higher education takes place in universities and higher education colleges, and in some further education colleges.

Higher education institutions (HEI)

An institution offering higher education courses.

Information, advice and guidance (IAG)

People need IAG to make informed choices about local learning and work opportunities. Information is the data about how to access learning and work opportunities. Advice is the additional support given to understand the information. Guidance offers even more in-depth help from a trained adviser.


The Institute of Consulting is the professional body for all consultants and business advisers. Designed to raise standards of professional practice in support of better business performance, the Institute provides a development path for the profession, supported by high quality resources and a recognised qualification route.

Internal assessment

Assessment tasks where learners’ evidence is assessed in the centre against criteria provided by the awarding body and subjected to external moderation. The assessment tasks may be set internally at the centre or be provided by the awarding body.

Internal standardisation

Processes carried out by centres in relation to internally assessed work to ensure consistency within each Line of Learning in relation to the setting of tasks, conduct of tasks and marking of learners’ assessment evidence. Internal standardisation thereby ensures that all learners are judged against the same standards regardless of which teaching group they are in or which assessor marks their work.

Lead assessor

A person who has responsibility within a consortium for overseeing all aspects of the quality assurance of the assessment carried out for the principal learning and project components for all Diploma programmes offered.


An individual who is studying for a qualification.

Learning outcomes

These indicate the knowledge, skills and understanding that learners should have developed through the teaching and learning activities. They provide opportunities for checking progress and reviewing work with learners.

Level indicators: Entry

Entry level qualifications recognise basic knowledge and skills and the ability to apply learning in everyday situations under direct guidance or supervision. Learning at this level involves building basic knowledge and skills and is not geared towards specific occupations.

Level 1

Level 1 qualifications recognise basic knowledge and skills and the ability to apply learning with guidance or supervision. Learning at this level is about activities that mostly relate to everyday situations and may be linked to job competence. The Foundation Diploma is a level 1 qualification.

Level 2

Level 2 qualifications recognise the ability to gain a good knowledge and understanding of an area of work or a subject area, and to perform varied tasks with some guidance or supervision. Learning at this level involves building knowledge and/or skills in relation to an area of work or a subject area and is appropriate for many job roles. The Higher Diploma is a level 2 qualification.

Level 3

Level 3 qualifications recognise the ability to gain, and where relevant, apply a range of knowledge, skills and understanding. Learning at this level involves obtaining detailed knowledge and skills. It is appropriate for people wishing to go to university, people working independently or, in some areas, supervising and training others in their field of work. The Advanced and Progression Diplomas are level 3 qualifications.

Level 4

Level 4 qualifications recognise specialist learning and involve detailed analysis of a high level of information and knowledge in an area of work or study. Learning at this level is appropriate for people working in technical and professional jobs, and/or managing and developing others. Level 4 qualifications are at a level equivalent to Certificates of Higher Education.

Level 5

Level 5 reflects the ability to identify and use relevant understanding, methods and skills to address broadly-defined, complex problems. It includes taking responsibility for planning and developing courses of action as well as exercising autonomy and judgement within broad parameters. It also reflects understanding of different perspectives, approaches or schools of thought and the reasoning behind them.

Level 6

Level 6 reflects the ability to refine and use relevant understanding, methods and skills to address complex problems that have limited definitions. It includes taking responsibility for planning and developing courses of action that are ably to underpin substantial change or development, as well as exercising broad autonomy and judgement. It also reflects understanding of different perspectives, approaches or schools of thought and the theories that underpin them.

Lifelong learning

Defined by the Government as all post-16 learning, but applying specifically to learning by adults who are already in the workplace and need special part-time provision, or to learning that adults may wish to undertake to enrich their lives.


Is the independent employer led sector skills council responsible for the professional development of staff working in the UK lifelong learning sector.


Management Standards Centre.

The MSC was responsible for developing a new set of National Occupational Standards (NOS) for management and leadership in May 2004. As an employer led organisation which champions management and leadership the MSC is working with the Skills for Business Network to identify and address the skills gaps and shortages on a sector by sector basis thereby contributing to the profitability of the UK.


The process through which internal assessment is monitored to ensure it meets required standards, and makes adjustments to results as required to compensate for any difference in standards that are encountered.


National Assessment Agency.

The National Assessment Agency (NAA) supports the secure delivery of the public exam system and develops and delivers high-quality national curriculum assessments.

National curriculum

The national curriculum is a framework used by all maintained schools to ensure that teaching and learning is balanced and consistent Within the framework of the national curriculum, schools are free to plan and organise teaching and learning in the way that best meets the needs of their pupils.

National Database of Accreditation Qualifications (NDAQ)

This is a website that contains details of all qualifications that are accredited by the qualification regulators in England (Ofqual), Wales (DCELLS) and Northern Ireland (CCEA). More information can be found on NDAQ at

National Occupational Standards

Regulatory authorities will be able to use the NOS Directory to find out what NOS exist in sectors and occupations to assist them in approving qualifications. Awarding bodies can use NOS to develop training and qualifications. NOS will identify learning and skills needs in a particular sector or occupation and can act as the basis for qualifications.
Education and training providers may find Occupational Standards (NOS) useful for the following:

  • Mapping Provision
  • Education and training providers can map their current provision of courses and workshops against the relevant NOS. This enables providers to identify gaps in provision, and can highlight where there is a need to update material to include new areas or to remove materials which are out of date.
  • New Provision
  • Education and training providers can also use NOS to develop entirely new courses basing the syllabus on the units of competence which make up the NOS.


The Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) aims to improve standards of achievement and quality of education through regular independent inspection, public reporting and informed advice. Ofsted is responsible for assessing the quality of initial teacher training.

Personal, learning and thinking skills (PLTS)

The framework of skills that will equip all young people for successful employment and lifelong learning. PLTS require learners to be: independent enquirers / creative thinkers / reflective learners / team workers / self-managers / effective participators.


Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

A public body, sponsored by the Department for Education (DfE) which maintains and develops the national curriculum and associated assessments, tests and examinations.

Qualification and Credit Framework

The Qualification and Credit framework is a new way of recognising skills and qualifications. It does this by awarding credit for qualifications and units (small steps of learning). It enables people to gain qualifications at their own pace along flexible routes.

Qualification specification

A detailed statement that defines the purpose, content, structure and assessment arrangements for a qualification.

Quality Improvement Agency

The Quality Improvement Agency aims to raise the quality of education and training throughout the learning and skills sector by inspiring a culture of self-improvement and by supporting the move to self-regulation.

Reasonable adjustments

Defined in the Disability Discrimination Act as reasonable steps to ensure disabled people are not placed at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with non-disabled people, ‘substantial’ being more than minor or trivial.

Regional Development Agencies

Since 2002, RDAs have created (or safeguarded) over 500,000 jobs, created over 56,000 new businesses and brought over 5,600 hectares of brownfield land to life. RDAs implement this goal through focusing on specific regional priorities that drive economic growth. They support business development and competitiveness by encouraging public and private investment, and by connecting people to economic opportunity. They work to improve levels of education, learning and skills, and do all that they can to enhance their region’s environment and infrastructure.

Regulators for qualifications

Statutory organisations that are required to establish national standards for qualifications and ensure consistent compliance with them. The regulators for England, Wales and Northern Ireland are respectively: Ofqual, the Department for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills (DCELLS) and the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA).

Rules of combination

Automatic rules that define which qualifications can make up a full qualification.

Section 96

Under the provisions of Section 96, 98, 100 and 101 of the Learning and Skills Act 2000, schools, institutions and employers in England may offer to those under the age of 19 a course leading to an external qualification which is funded either by a local education or a learning and skills council only if the qualification is approved.

Sector skills councils (SSCs)

There are 25 SSCs and each one is an employer-led, independent organisation that covers a specific sector across the UK. The four key goals are to:

  • improve productivity, business and public service performance
  • reduce skills gaps and shortages
  • increase opportunities to boost the skills and productivity of everyone in the sector’s workforce
  • improve learning supply including apprenticeships, higher education and national occupational standards (NOS).


SFEDI is the Government recognised UK Standards Setting Body for Business Support and Business Enterprise.


Skills Funding Agency.

The Skills Funding Agency funds skills training for further education (FE) in England. It supports over 1,000 colleges, private training organisations and employers with more than £4 billion of funding each year.

Social Enterprise Coalition

Social enterprises are profit-making businesses established to tackle social or environmental issues. The Coalition is the UK's national body for social enterprise.

Standards Setting Bodies

Sector Skills Councils and standards setting bodies work with employers and partners to develop the Occupational Standards for the industries, sectors and occupations they cover. SSCs and standards setting bodies develop, maintain and update NOS as the needs of industry change, as work patterns shift, and as new operational practices, legislation and technologies are introduced.


A process to ensure that the assessment criteria for a qualification or unit are applied consistently by assessors, moderators and verifiers.

Training provider/provision

Training provider is a general term used to refer to the whole range of institutions and organisations who provide training and development to individuals and companies. It encompasses colleges of further education, work-based learning trainers and training companies of any size and type. The training provision offered by providers can be anything from one-day courses/seminars to 3-year diplomas and degrees.

Universities and Colleges Admission Services (UCAS)

UCAS is the UK central organisation through which applications are processed for entry to full-time first degrees. Students who wish to progress to higher education must apply through the UCAS application system. Universities are diverse, ranging in size, mission and history. The Secretary of State has the power to grant university status to an institution. Former polytechnics were given the status of universities under the Further and Higher Education Act 1992. These are sometimes called 'new' universities or post-1992 universities. The pre-1992 or 'old' universities include many founded in the 1950s and 1960s, the civic universities established in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, which date from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.


The smallest part of a qualification that is capable of certification in its own right.


A process of moderation that includes local checking of assessment processes and decisions.

The above information has been collated from the following organisations website:

  • IC
  • QCA
  • Social Enterprise Coalition
  • MSC
  • LLUK
  • LSC
  • NAA
  • Ofqual
  • UK Government (UK GOV)