Comparing the New Zealand and Hong Kong Qualifications Frameworks

The comparative analysis of the New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF) and the Hong Kong Qualifications Framework (HKQF) is the result of a joint project between the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) and the Education Bureau of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (EDB).

The comparative analysis explores the characteristics of each framework to identify similarities and differences, enabling New Zealand and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to reach agreement on the comparability between the levels of the two frameworks through a process called referencing.

In order to respond to the consultation questions, you will need to refer to the principle summaries (findings) which are set out below on this page.

You can read the full draft referencing report (PDF, 1.5MB).

Project methodology

For people to trust the comparison of levels in the frameworks, the process of referencing must be transparent and robust. NZQA and EDB have:

  • compiled responses to the Principles
  • held Joint Working Group meetings and meetings of each side’s domestic advisory groups
  • sought international expert advice

The final step in this process is consultation and agreement by key stakeholders.

Principles

NZQA and the EDB have agreed that six Principles, adapted from the Criteria and procedures for referencing national qualifications levels to the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) be used in the referencing the HKQF and the NZQF. The EQF referencing process provides a well-tested, credible and rigorous approach that is recognized internationally and considered good practice.

The Principles are listed below:

Principle 1 - The roles and responsibilities of NZQA and the corresponding authorities for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region are clear and transparent.

Principle 2 - Comparison between the HKQF and the NZQF demonstrates clear links in the levels between the qualifications frameworks.

Principle 3 - The HKQF and the NZQF are based on learning outcomes and, where these exist, credit systems and the recognition of credit.

Principle 4 - There are clear and transparent policies and processes for the inclusion of qualifications on the HKQF and NZQF.

Principle 5 - Both qualifications frameworks are underpinned by quality assurance and are consistent with international quality assurance principles.

Principle 6 - The referencing process shall involve international experts. (Please note that the international experts for the project will provide material for this Principle at the end of the consultation period).

The findings under each Principle are presented in detail in the sections of the full draft referencing report. (PDF, 1.5MB) The Principle summaries are set out below.

The process and results of the technical comparison of the levels of the two frameworks are described in Principle 2.

Principle summaries

Principle 1: The roles and responsibilities of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority and the corresponding authorities for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region are clear and transparent

The full response to this Principle starts on page 17 of the full draft referencing report (PDF, 1.5MB).

Responses to this principle clearly identify the organisations and agencies responsible for, and their authority for, the development and implementation of the qualifications framework.

Summary

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) and the corresponding authorities for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region have clear and transparent roles and responsibilities in relation to their qualification framework. NZQA and EDB are the bodies with responsibility for the national framework and are competent to make a proposal for fair comparison with another national framework.

NZQA and the Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications (HKCAAVQ) were established by legislation or statute. The NZQA, Education Bureau of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (EDB) and HKCAAVQ have responsibility for the qualifications frameworks in their jurisdictions. NZQA and HKCAAVQ are mandated as the competent authorities to decide on the comparability of qualifications from other countries and systems to qualifications on their own frameworks. 

There are several differences in the roles of the relevant organisations that stem from the differences between the two frameworks.  NZQA is the only agency with responsibility for the framework, providing the policy function for the NZQF. The policy function is then operationalised by NZQA alongside Universities New Zealand in the university sector.  The NZQF defines qualification types and assigns them to specific levels as well as acting as a register of all quality assured qualifications in New Zealand

In Hong Kong, EDB has the overall responsibility for policy development and implementation of the HKQF.  In this role it is assisted by an executive arm, the Qualifications Framework Secretariat (QFS).  HKCAAVQ is the legal authority to accredit programmes/qualifications for operators without self-accrediting status and is legally responsible for maintaining the Qualifications Register (QR).

Principle 2: Comparison between the NZQF and the HKQF demonstrates clear links in the levels between the qualifications frameworks

The full response to this Principle starts on page 20 of the full draft referencing report (PDF, 1.5MB).

Responses to this principle outline the technical work which has occurred to demonstrate the referencing of the levels between the NZQF and the HKQF.

Summary

A comparison of the NZQF and the HKQF demonstrates that there are clear links in the levels between the qualifications frameworks (except for NZQF level 8), as illustrated in the diagram below.

The underlying principle of referencing is that the processes and outcomes of the comparison must be transparent and relevant in order to generate trust in the findings. The methodology for referencing the levels of the NZQF and the HKQF included a broad structural comparison, a technical comparison, contextual matching and social effects matching. The structural and technical comparison provided an initial view, but for some levels, further research was required to make a more robust and comprehensive comparison.

Each framework has a hierarchical structure; both are comprehensive and cover all quality assured learning. The HKQF and the NZQF are based on learning outcomes. The outcome statements that define levels in each framework do not prescribe the learning environment in which the qualification is obtained. The concepts inherent in the level descriptors are similar, although they may be expressed in different domains.

NZQA and EDB have agreed to leave NZQF level 8 unmatched, after considerable effort on both sides to accurately compare the levels. Discussion with Hong Kong and the comments of the international experts have demonstrated that the current NZQF descriptors do not fully capture the distinct nature of qualifications at NZQF level 8.  NZQA and EDB plan to revisit the levelling of NZQF level 8 once NZQA has completed a review of the NZQF in 2018.

Robust engagement and consultation processes ensured that the results of the detailed comparison between the NZQF and the HKQF are endorsed by the relevant stakeholders in New Zealand and Hong Kong, and by international experts.

NZQFHKQF
10 7
9 6
8 No agreement on a comparable level
7 5
6 4
5
4 3
3
2 2
1 1

Principle 3: The NZQF and the HKQF are based on learning outcomes and, where these exist, credit systems and the recognition of credit

The full response to this Principle starts on page 34 of the full draft referencing report (PDF, 1.5MB).

Responses to this principle demonstrate that both qualifications frameworks are underpinned by taxonomies of learning outcomes and clearly identify the respective policies for credit systems and their application.

Summary

The NZQF and HKQF are based on learning outcomes. The learning outcomes of the NZQF and the Generic Level Descriptors (GLD) of the HKQF are expressed objectively, avoiding reference to learning mode or institutional setting and are neutral in relation to specific occupational relevance and to ‘fields of learning’. The two frameworks use different domains to categorise the learning outcomes, although similar ideas are covered in both the NZQF and HKQF. Qualifications are awarded when the learner has met the learning outcomes and any other requirements of the qualification.

The credit value of a qualification relates to the notional amount of learning required to achieve the defined outcomes. Credit is defined and measured similarly in both jurisdictions. In both New Zealand and Hong Kong, one credit (known as QF credit in Hong Kong) is equal to ten notional learning hours. Notional learning hours take into account the total time likely to be spent by an average learner on all modes of learning including attendance in classes, self-study, on-line learning, practical learning, and examination.

The NZQF credit value system is applied to all qualifications on the NZQF. In the HKQF, the use of QF credit to identify the total volume of learning is compulsory for all qualifications at levels 1-4, while the credit system employed for most qualifications at levels 5-7 is based on contact hours.

Policies and mechanisms for credit recognition and transfer are in place in New Zealand and Hong Kong to support lifelong learning.

Principle 4: There are clear and transparent policies and processes for the inclusion of qualifications on the NZQF and the HKQF

The full response to this Principle starts on page 39 of the full draft referencing report (PDF, 1.5MB).

Responses to this principle clearly identify the criteria and processes that are used to include qualifications in the qualifications frameworks.

Summary

The policies and procedures for listing qualifications on the NZQF, recognising qualifications under the HKQF and listing them on the Hong Kong Qualifications Register are clear and transparent.

The policies for the inclusion and maintenance of qualifications on each qualifications framework are set out in legislation or rules, although there are differences in the quality assurance mechanisms used by each jurisdiction.

Similar practices include:

Entry/front end processes for listing qualifications on the NZQF and HKQF such as:

All qualifications on the NZQF must meet the listing requirements for entry on to the NZQF.

In Hong Kong, all qualifications must meet the listing requirements for entry into the Hong Kong Qualifications Register – the online database that provides information on qualifications recognised under the HKQF. Self-accrediting universities have ultimate responsibility for assuring the quality of the qualifications they list on the Qualifications Register subject to cyclical quality audit.

Principle 4 should be considered alongside Principle 5 in referring to the entire quality assurance process that underpins trust and confidence in the ongoing integrity of the qualifications on each framework.

Principle 5: Both qualifications frameworks are underpinned by quality assurance and are consistent with international quality assurance principles

The full response to this Principle starts on page 49 of the full draft referencing report (PDF, 1.5MB).

Responses to this principle clearly identify the organisations and agencies responsible for, and their authority for the development and implementation of quality assurance systems. This principle also explains the processes that are in place to ensure that the education and training system outcomes are relevant, locally/nationally and internationally recognised and consistent.

Summary

The NZQF and the HKQF are underpinned by robust quality assurance systems. The quality assurance principles applied in New Zealand and Hong Kong are consistent with international quality assurance principles, as demonstrated by NZQA, AQA and HKCAAVQ’s membership of the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE) and the Asia Pacific Quality Network (APQN).

Quality assurance processes are not identical in Hong Kong and New Zealand, given the many differences in the two systems. However, similar practices include:

  • Agencies have clear responsibilities/designated responsibility for quality assurance

Both jurisdictions have agencies that operationalise regulatory processes. In New Zealand, NZQA sets the Rules for quality assurance and quality assures the non-university tertiary sector, while Universities New Zealand has delegated authority to quality assure New Zealand’s eight universities.

The HKCAAVQ is the statutory Accreditation Authority for all providers in Hong Kong, except those with self-accrediting status. Providers with self-accrediting status are subject to quality audits by the Quality Assurance Council (QAC) of the University Grants Committee.

  • Entry of educational organisations to national systems is regulated

In New Zealand, universities, Wānanga and Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics are established through legislation. Private Training Establishments must be registered with NZQA. Industry Training Organisations are recognised by the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education) under the Industry Training Act 1992 as standard setting bodies for identified industries.

In Hong Kong, self-accrediting universities are established through legislation. Other institutions/operators are accredited by HKCCAVQ and approved by the HKSAR government for registration under the relevant legislation.

  • Qualifications are maintained and reviewed periodically for relevance and consistency of outcomes

In New Zealand, this is required through the rules covering periodic review of qualifications and programmes, assuring consistency of graduate outcomes at levels 1-6, monitoring qualifications at levels 7 -10, and national external moderation of assessments by recognised standard setting bodies.

In Hong Kong, Learning Programme Re-accreditation and Periodic Review for Programme Area Accreditation by HKCAAVQ and Quality Audit conducted by QAC ensure that programmes continue to meet threshold standards and respond to Hong Kong’s societal and economic needs.

  • Quality assurance of delivery is maintained through ongoing monitoring

In New Zealand, the processes of Academic Audit and External Evaluation and Review assure quality in the university and non-university sectors respectively.

In Hong Kong, QAC quality audit of self-accrediting universities and HKCAAVQ programme reaccreditation and Periodic Review for Programme Area Accreditation also assure institutional quality in their respective sectors.

  • Managing risk

In New Zealand, NZQA has rigorous processes to investigate and manage risk in education quality and provision in the non-university tertiary sector.

In Hong Kong, the Four-Stage Quality Assurance process operated by HKCAAVQ is designed to recognise good practice and track record. The frequency of accreditation activities and associated evidential requirements in Stages 1 and 2 are directly related to an operator’s accreditation record as evidenced in HKCAAVQ’s information system.

Principle 6: The referencing process shall involve external experts

Responses to this principle describe the role of the external experts in the project and presents their comments.

[This section will be written by the international experts once the consultation has been completed].

 
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