The National Qualifications Framework (NQF) is a single integrated system for the "classification, registration, publication and articulation of quality assured national qualifications", as indicated in Section 4 of the NQF Act, 2008 (Act No 67 of 2008). It comprises, as specified in Section 7 of the NQF Act, three co-ordinated qualifications sub-frameworks for:
- General and Further Education and Training, contemplated in the General and Further Education and Training Quality Assurance Act, 2001 (Act 58 of 2001) overseen by Umalusi.
- Higher Education, contemplated in the Higher Education Act, 1997 (Act 101 of 1997) overseen by the Council on Higher Education.
- Trades and Occupations, contemplated in the Skills Development Act, 1998 (Act 97 of1998) overseen by the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations.
The objectives of the NQF, as outlined in Section 5 of the NQF Act, are to:
(a) create a single integrated national framework for learning achievements;
(b) facilitate access to, and mobility and progression within, education and training career paths;
(c) enhance the quality of education and training;
(d) accelerate the redress of past unfair discrimination in education, training and employment opportunities.
The objectives of the NQF are designed to contribute to the full personal development of each learner and the social and economic development of the nation at large. SAQA and the QCs must seek to achieve the objectives of the NQF by:
(a) Developing, fostering and maintaining an integrated and transparent national framework for the recognition of learning achievements;
(b) Ensuring that South African qualifications meet appropriate criteria, determined by the Minister as contemplated in Section 8 [of the NQF Act], and are internationally comparable; and
(c) Ensuring that South African qualifications are of an acceptable quality.
It is against this background that the Minister of Education and Training, in terms of Section 8 (2) (e) of the NQF Act, has determined as policy the three sub-frameworks that comprise the NQF. The Minister's determination (Notice No 1040 of 2012; Government Gazette No. 36003, 14 December 2012) is outlined in the table below.