NQA Credits

Use of credits

A common feature of qualification systems being developed in many countries is the use of an accepted mechanism that recognises the quantum of learning attained or contained in a qualification. This mechanism acts as a form of currency in that it is the medium of exchange when learners transfer their attainment from one qualification to another under ‘credit’ transfer arrangements. The credits act as forms of tokens or coupons. Collect enough of the right sort of coupons, and you will be awarded a qualification.


The mechanism of credit also acts a store of value, enabling consistent comparisons of qualifications and outcomes of learning that appear similar.

Value of a credit

There is growing acceptance of an international credit value where one credit represents about 10 hours of notional learning time.

Learning time defined

Learning time is not a measure of delivery time.  It is an estimation of the time it takes a learner typical of the cohort who would normally seek a particular award (a qualification or unit standard) to achieve the performance requirements for that award.


Attainment is generally taken to mean an ability to consistently meet the stated requirements in repeated performances – not the first time they achieve the requirements.

Scope of learning

Learning time should include all relevant learning activities that contribute to the attainment of the outcomes of learning.  Such activities could include:


  • Formal, directed learning including classes, training sessions, coaching, seminars and tutorials
  • Practical work in laboratories or at other locations
  • Information retrieval, eg from libraries or through the Web
  • Self-directed study, such as private study, revision, remedial work
  • Work-based activities that lead to formal assessment
  • Practice – gaining, applying and refining skills
  • Undertaking all forms of assessment, and
  • Counselling, mentoring, reflection.

Learning time is notional


Learning time is notional as it is not linked to any one individual learner.  A learner who achieves the required performances in more time than anticipated for the ‘average learner’ will not receive more credits – they will only receive that number of credits deemed appropriate by the qualification developer or national standard setter.  Similarly, a learner who achieves the requirements in less time than the average learner will not be awarded less credit – they will receive the stated credits.