The Government call for the completion of the national vocational framework has today been answered by the publication by the Employment Department of its long-awaited strategy paper on higher level NVQs.
A vision for higher level vocational qualifications, calls for an NVQ framework embracing levels 4 and 5, roughly equivalent to a first degree or HND and a master's degree respectively, and including all occupational sectors. It also calls for a consensus on the nature of qualifications appropriate for different sectors, which would involve "clarification" of the relationships between NVQs and awards offered by statutory and professional bodies and higher education. But it questions whether a single qualification pattern will satisfy employers.
The document recommends that, like lower level NVQs, levels 4 and 5 should remain unit-based to encourage flexibility through credit accumulation and transfer and provide a mechanism for updating knowledge and skills. But the definition of the higher levels will probably be different, with knowledge given a higher profile in the assessment process. While the National Council for Vocational Qualifications will remain responsible for accreditation of NVQs and for the overall framework, professional bodies and higher education should form partnerships for developing NVQs and quality assurance. The document was prepared by the Higher Levels Strategy Group, which includes representatives from the Employment Department, the Department for Education and the NCVQ. It is being sent to higher education institutions, statutory and professional bodies, and awarding bodies. There will be a three-month consultation period but NCVQ chief executive John Hillier said a unified framework would not become a reality "before the end of the century". Ray Cowell, vice chancellor of Nottingham Trent University and chairman of the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals's working group on vocational higher education, said the document represented an important step towards "a rapprochement between the traditional approach in university education and the NVQ approach".