South Africa employs a National Qualifications Framework (NQF), which defines benchmark requirements and goals for all levels of the education system. Initiated in 1995, the framework originally included eight levels. Two were added in 2008, meaning there are now a total of 10 levels. These levels are tightly linked to every phase of education in the country. Each level corresponds to a “level descriptor,” which outlines the specific scope of qualifications achieved at each level.
The levels are divided into three “sub-frameworks” which span general education, higher education and occupational training. These are the:
- General and Further Education and Training Sub-Framework (GFETQSF)
- Higher Education Qualifications Sub-Framework (HEQFS)
- Occupational Qualifications Sub-Framework (OQSF).
The first two sub-frameworks represent a linear trajectory from elementary education (level 1) through doctoral study (level 10). The Occupational Qualifications Sub-Framework ends at level 6, though optional level 7 and 8 qualifications may be offered through “collaboration with a recognized professional body and the Council on Higher Education”.
The national qualifications framework lists the minimum credits required for the award of a degree or qualification at each level. One credit is defined as 10 “notional” study hours. On average, one week represents about 40 notional study hours.
Typically, university undergraduate programs require 30 weeks of full-time study a year. Graduate programs, such as master’s and doctoral degrees, require 45 weeks of full-time study a year.
NOTE: Even though there is a minimum credit requirement, individual universities are allowed to set their own curricula, which can exceed the minimum.