Questions and answers about qualifications reviews

What do you expect the new reviews to do?

  • Reviews ensure that qualifications remain relevant, current and fit for purpose.
  • Reviews provide an opportunity for qualification developers to work together to look strategically at their sector’s workforce and skill needs to ensure the range of qualifications meet those needs.
  • Reviews will reduce the duplication and proliferation of qualifications that has made the NZ system difficult to understand.
  • Reviews will result in qualifications that are structured in the same way in alignment with the requirements for listing on the NZQF, and will be easier to understand and compare.

What is the purpose of clusters?

Organising reviews in clusters enables the stakeholders involved to look at the workforce requirements of their sector or industry strategically and identify the qualifications required to meet those needs.

If I change the qualification do the unit standards need to be reviewed?

Unit standards review is not part of the qualification review process, however it may be appropriate to start reviewing standards once qualifications have been approved for development.

I don’t want to be involved with the review process. What are the consequences of that?

It is best to be involved. If you can’t participate for any reason, you may nominate someone to be involved for you as your delegate.

If you don’t participate you will have to accept the approved review recommendations.

Can I review my qualification on my own?

No. Reviews are being conducted in groups, with similar qualifications being reviewed together, to ensure there is a clear alignment between qualifications and the workforce requirements of a sector or industry.

Can I review one qualification at a time?

No. Reviews are being conducted in groups, with similar qualifications being reviewed together, to ensure there is a clear alignment between qualifications and the workforce requirements of a sector or industry.

How long is a review expected to take?

A plan for the review has to be lodged with NZQA within one month of a review being triggered. The actual review and the report of the first stage of the review results are to be completed within 6 months of the trigger date.

Following NZQA’s approval of the review recommendations, the implementation of changes to qualifications and development of new qualifications can start. A timeframe for this will be agreed then.

The development process may take another six months.

What resources or support are available to help with the review?

Firstly, have a look at the detailed Guidelines for the review of qualifications at levels 1-6 on the NZQF (PDF, 1.6MB), which have been developed to support the review process. The Guidelines are expected to evolve as experience grows of the review process. NZQA welcomes any advice about further information which would be helpful to have included.

NZQA has appointed a Sector Relationship Manager (SRM) to every review who will attend meetings, and provide information and advice on NZQA processes.

NZQA also appoints a Professional Advisor who will work with the Review Lead to assist with review planning, provide expertise on the review structure and establish governance and working group structures.

If you have questions you can talk to your SRM or email

What is NZQA’s role?

NZQA’s role is to maintain oversight of the review process and its outcomes.

It also provides support for qualification developers to understand and meet the new requirements for listing qualification at levels 1-6 on the NZQF.

How do we work out who is going to lead the review?

Your cluster of qualification owners will work out who will lead the review. The Review Lead may be an ITO, an industry body, a provider or a group of providers, an independent facilitator or any mix of the above.

NZQA can assist with determining an appropriate facilitator if necessary.

How do you know who needs to be involved?

The Guidelines provide information on stakeholder selection and participation.

It is worthwhile taking time to get this right early on in the process. Reviews need people who are of good standing and can contribute a sector-wide, future-looking view.

I am not a qualification owner but I deliver the qualification and want to be involved in the review. How can I do that?

Contact the qualification owner or the ITO to let them know of your interest. You have an interest in the future of the qualification, so are a stakeholder in the review.

What is involved in making the review process work well?

Many reviews will have people from a range of backgrounds, accustomed to working with particular types of qualifications. It is important to put aside partisan interests to look at the big picture needs of the sector and how the different qualifications go together to meet those needs.

Planning, good decision making and effective consultation are also important to achieve a good outcome.

The Review Lead should ensure an approach that includes all parties and lets them collaborate equally. All views are valued and must be considered.

Differences of opinion should be fully discussed. There is no rule for how many qualifications are required. There may be multiple qualifications as long as there are distinct differences between them.

All parties need to agree with the proposed suite of qualifications for their cluster and no one should sign off on this unless they are satisfied.

I am involved in a review and I don’t feel that my point of view about the purpose and value of my qualification is being heard. What should I do?

Focus on the differences between the proposed qualifications and the needs they meet. No qualification will be placed on the NZQF unless there is a demonstrated need for it.

The focus of the review must be on the need for the qualification and not its historical ownership. New qualifications belong to everyone: they exist in the public domain.

Also remember that there is no rule for how many qualifications are required. There may be more than one qualification of a type (e.g. a level 5 Certificate) as long as there are distinct differences between them.

Don’t sign off on the proposed suite of qualifications unless you are satisfied that they will meet sector needs. It is important to remember that we are looking for suites of qualifications that meet the assessed needs of a sector or industry.

One organisation is dominating our review. What can be done about that?

The Review Lead should ensure a collaborative approach which encourages the full range of views to be considered. All parties need to agree with the proposed suite of qualifications for their cluster and no one should sign off on this unless they are satisfied.

If you feel the review is really getting stuck, contact the NZQA Professional Advisor appointed to your review.

How do I manage consultation and keep people informed?

It is important to plan at the start of the review for two rounds of consultation. This is time consuming.

Identify and consider the channels the review will use to keep all stakeholders informed of progress and consultation.

You say we need to agree on a new set of qualifications. Does this mean existing qualifications will go?

New qualifications will be developed as a result of the review to meet the criteria for listing on the NZQF, even though the content of some of the existing qualifications may be similar to some of the proposed new qualifications.

This will ensure that planning starts with the purpose of the qualification and the profile of graduates: the skills, knowledge and attributes graduates should have.

Existing qualifications will be phased out over time. There will be a transition phase to allow adequate time for learners to complete existing qualifications and organisations and learners to transfer to the new qualification.

How will the shift from the old to the new qualification happen?

Following the listing of a new qualification, existing qualifications need to have their status changed from current to expiring or discontinued.

When applying for approval of a new qualification, the application needs to include both signed permission from each of the existing qualification owners on this change of status and signed agreement to the new suite of qualifications.

What happens to the ownership of qualifications after the review?

Qualifications are in the public domain. They are public property, owned by everyone.

What cost is involved in a review?

Qualification developers, along with stakeholders, are responsible for any costs associated with the reviews. It is expected costs will be shared.

I want to revise my national qualification. What should I do?

Revisions will only be accepted if there are changes to the standards and the changes are required to ensure the qualifications remain achievable. The following changes will not be acceptable as part of a revision:

  • change to the title and/or level of the qualification
  • change to the purpose of the qualification
  • significant changes to qualification requirements
  • significant changes to the minimum credit value of the qualification.

I am thinking about developing a new qualification. What should I do?

The best thing to do would be to find out when the review of qualifications in your field is scheduled. Consider if you can wait until then to develop the qualification, and get involved with that review.

Alternatively you can start the application process and seek approval to develop a new qualification. Your qualification will still be reviewed when a review for your sector is scheduled.

What is the relationship of programmes to qualifications?

A programme is a detailed plan for learning that leads to the award of a qualification. There may be a variety of programmes that lead to the same qualification, but with different approaches, structures and emphases.

Qualifications are less detailed and quite separate from the programmes leading to them and they specify all the required learning outcomes for graduates and other important information for programme developers.

If unit standards are specified in the qualification, when do they get approved?

Unless they are already listed on the Directory of Assessment Standards, any required standards need to be submitted, using the current standards application process, at the same time as the qualification application.

How will consistency be managed?

Find out all you need to know in the Guidelines for assuring national consistency of graduate outcomes (PDF, 373KB).

What impact do you expect the qualifications reviews to have on the NZQF?

Over time, new and reviewed qualifications at levels 1-6 listed on the NZQF will have ‘New Zealand’ in the title of the qualification. The use of the term ‘National’ or a provider name in a qualifications title is being phased out as qualifications are reviewed. ‘National’ will be used to distinguish secondary school qualifications at levels 1-3, namely, National Certificates of Educational Achievement.

How will I know when there will be another review?

Future reviews will be scheduled when new qualifications are approved and will be at a maximum interval of five years. All qualifications listed on the NZQF following an initial review will have a future review date.

Can TEOs start preparing programmes based on the unregistered results of qualification reviews?

NZ qualifications are described using a strategic purpose statement, graduate profile and pathways. The themes and concepts for each qualification should not change between the end of the review and the full development of the qualification. TEOs should be able to start reviewing their programmes against the new draft qualifications as soon as they are finalised while awaiting approval to list.

Does NZQA have enough resources to ensure new qualifications are registered in a timely way? Will there also be a delay in the final registration of qualifications?

Additional contractor resources are currently being sourced to supplement NZQA staff, so that by the time programmes start coming through for approval there is sufficient resource to cope with the volume.

In relation to the principles of the New Zealand Qualifications Framework, can assessment be restricted to the commercial workplace only?

Assessment should be appropriate to outcomes being assessed. If a particular learning outcome is more suited to being assessed in a real life environment then that is where it should be assessed. However, this does not usually mean a requirement for the learner to be in employment. There are several ways that this can be achieved in a provider environment: having an agreement with a workplace for the use of equipment or integrating practice within a commercial environment with learning within a provider, to name a few.

Can the delivery of programmes to New Zealand qualifications be restricted to specified providers or by third party organisations?

There may be a limit on the delivery of programmes leading to the qualification in special situations, on a case by case basis, where qualifications are part of a licensing arrangement. There is currently only one example of this, and it is unlikely to be repeated.

Will programme approval require assessment and reporting against unit standards?

The only time assessment would be required to be carried out against assessment (achievement and unit) standards (and the results reported to NZQA) is where a standard has been listed as mandatory within a qualification specification. Qualification developers must make a case for assessment standards to be considered mandatory.

However, where assessment standards are included in a programme by a TEO then the normal requirements will apply.

Will there will be a limit to the number of programmes approved that lead to a qualification?

There will be no limit placed on the number of programmes approved leading to a specific qualification.

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