National Statistics: Vocational and other qualifications quarterly: July to September 2017


Nearly 2.8 million certificates were awarded in between July and September 2017, a decrease of 15.5% on the same period of 2016. The decline is mostly due to a decrease in the number of certificates in the qualifications and credit framework (QCF) and other general qualifications. There are also large decreases in the number of certificates in functional skills, key skills, free-standing maths and entry level. The general decline in overall certification numbers may be caused by a tightening in the availability of funding. This is notable at entry level, level 1, level 2 and level 1/2 qualifications.

Functional skills qualifications continue to replace key skills qualifications leading to a reduction in the number of certificates in the latter.

The reduction in the ‘other general qualifications’ may be an effect of the introduction of the English Baccalaureate and other school performance indicators. For example, the calculation of Progress 8 and Attainment 8 measures can only include a maximum of 3 non-English Baccalaureate qualifications.

The largest increase in number of certificates (59.1%) was seen in vocationally-related qualifications. This is likely caused by awarding organisations re-assigning the qualification type of QCF qualifications to vocationally-related qualification. Following the closure of the QCF unit bank and introduction of the regulated qualifications framework (RQF), Ofqual decided that inclusion of the term ‘QCF’ in qualification titles after 31 December 2017 would be an indicator of non-compliance with Ofqual’s titling rules. As well as amending qualification titles, awarding organisations are therefore likely to be re-assigning the qualification type. A concession to the inclusion of the term “QCF” has been given to applied general qualifications that have similar titles but differing assessment (pre-existing and newly introduced with 40% assessment) allowing differentiation between them.

The sector subject area with notable increase in number of certificates was construction, planning and the built environment.

The sector subject areas with notable decrease in number of certificates were languages, literature and culture, preparation for life and work, information and communication technology, and science and mathematics.

The qualification with the highest number of certificates this quarter was ‘BCS Level 2 ECDL Certificate in IT Application Skills’, followed by ‘Pearson BTEC Level 1/Level 2 First Award in Sport’ and ‘WJEC Foundation/National Skills Challenge Certificate (Welsh Baccalaureate)’.


The datasets used to produce this release are available for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.


Definitions for some of the specific terms used in our statistical bulletins are explained in the ‘Glossary for Ofqual’s statistics’.

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