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Practice Note 2: Submitting quality evidence for new qualifications
October 2011: Clear, well-documented evidence that meets the rules for listing qualifications on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF) is essential if a qualification is to transit easily through the approvals process.
With momentum building on reviews of qualifications, a steady stream of applications is arriving at NZQA for approval to develop qualifications and, to a lesser extent at this stage, to list them on the NZQF.
In line with a commitment to support best practice and learning from experience, this practice note draws on the experience of NZQA analysts in assessing applications received to date.
Key message 1: Read and study the Guidelines carefully
All the information needed for a strong application is contained in the Guidelines for the approval of qualifications at levels 1-6 for listing on the NZQF (PDF, 827KB).
Key message 2: Self-assess applications before submitting
Check that you can answer the Key Evaluation Questions and the more specific Enquiry Questions outlined on page 6 of the Guidelines.
While some of the enquiry questions obviously relate to approval to develop applications and others to approval to list, analysts will be assessing applications against these questions.
Key message 3: Clearly document stakeholder involvement and support
List all stakeholders consulted and involved and ensure you have a group that is representative of the relevant vocational, educational and social communities. Mandatory stakeholders include the relevant industry training organisation, any regulatory body and education providers (p 23 of the Guidelines). Others may include Māori or local iwi, relevant employers or other educators who may receive graduates for further education. Explain the reasons for the stakeholder selection.
When their qualifications review is due, education providers are advised of the review by NZQA. If a stakeholder, such as an education provider, has not been involved in the review, the application should specify why (for example, that they did not respond to an invitation to review). If you do not document your approach, analysts may assume you did not contact the provider.
The degree of involvement of stakeholders may vary across the review and development process according to expertise. For example, some may be more involved in the needs analysis and others in the development of the strategic purpose and outcome statement.
All stakeholders must complete the Stakeholder Attestation (DOC, 56KB) showing their involvement in the process.
Ensure your application answers the Key Evaluation Question: To what extent have relevant stakeholders influenced/contributed to the qualification design?
Key message 4: Provide a full needs analysis
The key reason requiring qualification developers to seek approval to develop qualifications is to ensure that only qualifications that are really needed are developed. To this end, any new qualifications need to be substantially different to existing ones. This will reduce the duplication and proliferation of qualifications.
Know the range of available qualifications
An examination of existing qualifications is the starting point. The application form asks you to identify substantially similar qualifications. The enquiry question asks, “What similar qualifications exist?” Therefore, listing the existing qualifications is critical.
Provide a needs analysis and evidence of what is required in the sector
A needs analysis is a comprehensive investigation and analysis that explains why the qualification is needed.
Gather together and present background research and data on the sector. For example, include demographic data and trends covering current and future employment opportunities and/or gaps; document interest from learners (supply) including any relevant information on age, gender, ethnicity and graduate profiles; document demand from employers or the community and provide any other relevant social, cultural or educational information.
Provide evidence of stakeholder consultation
If minutes are used as evidence, analyse and summarise key findings. State why those involved believe the qualification is necessary.
Write up this information in a needs analysis report
Any application to develop a qualification must document the need for the new qualification/s and provide evidence of that need.
Ensure your application answers the Key Evaluation Question: To what extent will the qualification enable graduates to pursue intended educational, employment and community outcomes?
Key message 5: Write clear strategic purpose and outcome statements
A key goal of the NZQF is to make the qualifications system easier to understand. The strategic purpose statement and outcome statement, which contain a graduate profile and possible education and/or employment pathways, are central to the achievement of this objective.
These need to be described in a way that anyone can understand. When the qualification is finally listed on the NZQF, it should be clear who the qualification is for, for example the target group of learners and any prerequisites, the industry of community that the qualification serves, and what the graduate will do, be and know.
More information on purpose statements can be found on page 14 of the Guidelines. Page 16 outlines the components of the outcome statement.
Ensure your application answers the Key Evaluation Question: How well does the qualification’s strategic purpose match the needs of relevant stakeholders?
Number the pages of your application
Manage application version control: For example, if substantive changes have been made following feedback from NZQA, ensure that the Stakeholder Attestation relates to the final version of the submitted application. It may be useful to include a brief change report outlining any changes made between an original and final application.
A qualification is not a programme: While education expertise in curriculum development is required, a qualification is not a programme. Applications do not need to detail what will be taught. The focus is on the big picture. While tutors may be involved in programme development, qualification development is more likely to involve subject and curriculum experts. They can focus on the big picture of what a graduate can do, be and know and how these attributes match the needs of industry or the community.
Applications to list qualifications following a review: Make sure the form, Outcomes of a Qualification Review: Changing the status of current qualifications (NZQF6) (DOC, 47KB) has been completed and included with the application. The form also provides NZQA with an indicative date of when the change will take place.
Good consultation means no surprises: If the process has gone well, education providers, employers and ultimately learners will clearly understand the purpose and status of qualifications and whether they are available, expiring or discontinued.
NZQA evaluators are available to help if required. In the first instance, contact our Client Services team.