SAQA NQF Levels and Credits Explained

Spread the love

In this article, we will discuss SAQA NQF levels and credits. Firstly, it’s important to note that South Africa uses NQF levels.

The department of education uses the SAQA NQF levels and credits system. It determines the level of qualification students have achieved. Individuals with higher NQF levels have higher qualifications. For instance, a person who has matriculated will attain an NQF level 4. However, a person who has a diploma will attain an NQF level 5.

What is SAQA?

Let’s talk about SAQA before we dive into NQF levels and credits.

SAQA stands for The South African Qualifications Authority. Their purpose is to oversee that qualifications are established and maintain quality. Furthermore, their objective is to develop and implement the NQF.

In addition, SAQA promotes the NQF so that there is long-lasting education and training. According to their website SAQA is responsible to:

  • “Oversee NQF implementation and collaborate with the Quality Councils
  • Develop and implement NQF policies and criteria
  • Register qualifications and part-qualifications on the NQF
  • Recognize professional bodies and register professional designations
  • Undertake research and collaborate with international counterparts
  • Maintain the National Learners’ Records Database
  • Provide an evaluation and advisory service with respect to foreign qualifications
  • Inform the public about the NQF
  • Provide advice to the Minister of Higher Education and Training”

What is NQF?

Let’s discuss the NQF system now that we have a clear understanding of SAQA. Firstly, the NQF is a system that is put into place to evaluate achievements and skills.

NQF stands for National Qualifications Framework. Its objective is to create a single integrated national framework for learning. Furthermore, each NQF level plays an integral part in the South African educational system.

How Do SAQA NQF Levels and Credits Work?

SAQA NQF levels and credits are pretty simple to understand. The level starts at NQF level 1 and goes up to level 10. NQF level 1 is the lowest and NQF level 10 is the highest. Therefore, a person with an NQF level of 10 will have the highest qualification.

Furthermore, the SAQA NQF levels and credits are divided into three categories.

  • First is Level 1-4. This is equivalent to high school (Grade 9-12)
  • Next, is Level 5-7. This is equivalent to attaining technical qualifications and college diplomas
  • Last is Level 7-10. This is equivalent to attaining a university degree

NQF levels

Here is a quick breakdown of each NQF level. This will give you a better understanding of how the system works.

NQF level 1 General Certificate

The General Certificate is the most basic level. This is attained by students who have completed Grade 9. Here, students can complete high school or attend a TVET college.

NQF level 2 Elementary Certificate

Students who have completed grade 10 will attain an Elementary certificate.

NQF level 3 Intermediate Certificate

The intermediate certificate can only be attained once grade 11 is completed

NQF level 4 National Senior Certificate

Once a student has passed matric they will attain a National Senior Certificate. This NQF level allows students to further study at higher tertiary institutes.

NQF level 5 Higher Certificate

Students who have completed a higher certificate program will attain The NQF level 5 certificate. Furthermore, tertiary institutes offer this certificate.

NQF level 6 National Diploma or an Advanced Certificate

The National Diploma or an Advanced Certificate is attained by students who have completed a diploma program

NQF level 7 Bachelor’s Degree or Advanced Diploma

A Bachelor’s Degree or Advanced Diploma is attained by students who have a degree from a university

NQF level 8 Honours Degree

An honors degree is received after completing an honors program. Students will however first need a degree to complete their honors.

NQF level 9 Master’s Degree

Masters degrees are the second-highest NQF levels. Individuals will need to complete their masters before attaining an NQF level 9.

NQF level 10 Doctorates Degree

A doctorate degree is the highest NQF level. Here, students will need to complete a doctorate program in their field of study. This is essentially the last level and most challenging level. However, individuals with a doctorate get great opportunities.


This system is used to determine the number of hours required for achieving a learning outcome. One credit is equivalent to ten notional hours. Furthermore, notional hours include assignments, study time, and exams.

Certain qualifications require a set number of credits. For instance, a Higher certificate has 120 credits, while a bachelor’s degree has 360 credits.

Each subject one does will contribute to their credit score. In addition, credits can also determine if you can enroll in certain programs.

What is the Purpose of SAQA NQF Levels and Credits?

The purpose of this system is to measure the qualification level of individuals. Furthermore, it represents the academic achievements obtained by students. This strategy was put into place to bring education and training together.

In addition, the NQF is a set of principles and guidelines used to record learners’ achievements. This system is nationally recognized. Furthermore, SAQA NQF levels and credits help determine one’s skills and knowledge.

Dr. Felicity Coughlan, Director of The Independent Institute of Education explains that the NQF protects the general public. “South Africa has a register of all qualifications which is managed by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), and this register is referred to as the NQF,” she says.

What are The Benefits of Having an NQF Qualification?

There are a ton of benefits to having an NQF qualification. For starters, your academic skills are nationally recognized. Furthermore, NQF levels help set the standard in each skill set. For instance, those with higher NQF levels can be awarded better opportunities.

How to Get a Higher NQF Level

You will need to meet certain requirements in order to get a higher NQF level. For example, someone with an NQF level 4 cannot get an NQF level 7. They will first need to get an NQF level 5 and level 6 before getting a level 7.

Furthermore, getting a high NQF level will require hard work and effort. This means that you will need to dedicate lots of time to your studies.

SAQA Competency

SAQA uses 10 categories to determine competency across the 10 NQF levels

  1. Scope of knowledge
  2. Knowledge literacy
  3. Method and procedure
  4. Problem-solving
  5.  Ethics and professional practice
  6. Accessing, processing, and managing information
  7. Producing and communicating information
  8. Context and systems
  9. Management of learning
  10. Accountability

These 10 categories determine is you can:

  1. Understand what you’re studying
  2. Apply what you have studied
  3. Apply theories, methods, and techniques to what you have studied
  4. Think practically and find solutions to issues
  5. Understand values and follow a code of conduct within society
  6. Analyze data relating to what you are studying
  7. Communicate what you have learned
  8. Understand the environment and systems of your field of study
  9. Evaluate what you have learned
  10. Work effectively and be accountable and responsible for your work

How to View Your NQF Credits?

Individuals can view the NQF credits on their results or qualification document. However, they can also obtain them by doing the following

  • Visit the SAQA website ( and complete an ID number search. Alternatively, you can email SAQA and have them send your results
  • Contact the educational institute you attended. They usually keep records of results and qualifications.

Can You Go to University With an NQF Level 4?

The NQF level 4 is attained by students who have passed matric. Students can go to university with an NQF level 4. However, it’s important to note that there are other factors that should be considered.

Universities always look at your matric pass level. Therefore, you will need to pass with a bachelor’s degree matric pass level. Furthermore, you will need a minimum APS score of 23 points. We always suggest checking out the requirements for each course beforehand. This will give you a better insight into what the pre-requisites are.

What universities look at before accepting students

  1. Your matric pass level
  2. APS score (minimum 23 points)
  3. Type of NQF level 4 qualification attained
  4. High school subjects

How Long Does It Take to Reach the Highest NQF Level?

It’s important to understand that all good things take time. With that said, getting a doctorate can take a solid few years. One might experience some setbacks but it’s always important to push through.

NQF level timeline

  • NQF Level 1- 4 is attained while in high school (Grade 9- 12). Therefore, this takes 3 years.
  • An NQF Level 5 can be attained within a year
  • NQF level 6 can be attained within a year or two, depending on the institute
  • An NQF level 7 can be attained within three years
  • An NQF level 8 can be attained within a year or two
  • NQF level 9 can be attained whenever a person finishes their thesis. This is dependent on each individual
  • An NQF level 10 can be attained within four to six years. Again, this is fully dependent on the individual.

From the above data, we can conclude that getting an NQF level of 10 requires a lot of hard work. However, this can be an extremely rewarding achievement.

Discover more from

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *