National Framework of Qualifications

Image of National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) Fan from levels 1 to 10

It describes what learners need to know, understand and be able to do to achieve a qualification. It lists the main qualifications awarded at each level and pathways from one NFQ level to the next. 

The NFQ allows you to compare qualifications to help with your choice of programme or course, knowing that it will be recognised at home and abroad. 

All qualifications included on the NFQ are listed in the Irish Register of Qualifications. If your qualification was obtained outside Ireland, NARIC Ireland, the National Academic Recognition Information Centre will help you find out how your qualification is understood in Ireland.

Who does the NFQ help?

  • Individuals

    It provides an understanding of a qualification and can help individuals compare qualifications.

  • Learners

    It provides a pathway for progression through education and training.

  • Employers

    It provides a resource for employers to learn more about the qualifications their employees have obtained.  The levels are also used as a recruitment tool.

  • Education & Training providers

    It provides for clear identification of qualifications achieved by applicants and may help with credit transfer between programmes and accessing new or additional programmes by the recognition of prior learning.

NFQ Awards Standards

QQI oversees the promotion, development, maintenance, and review of the NFQ as a system of levels for relating different qualifications or awards to one another.

These levels are general indicators of a person’s knowledge, skill and competence; or the standards that they have attained for their learning achievements.

NFQ award-type descriptors state general learning achievements for all types of awards recognised on the NFQ. QQI issues NFQ guidelines to providers to support the interpretation and implementation of the NFQ and its award-type descriptors in their programme development.  

We also set awards standards for our own QQI awards and for providers who have been given authority to make their own awards.

Comparing your qualifications internationally

The NFQ is aligned with the European Qualification Framework (EQF) and the Qualifications Framework of the European Higher Education Area (QF-EHEA). Alignment with these two frameworks makes it easier for you to compare qualifications across Europe. 

A single updating report re-referencing the NFQ to the EQF and re-confirming compatibility of the NFQ with QF-EHEA was completed in 2020.


Fan image comparing the Irish National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ), European Qualifications Framework (EQF), and Qualifications Framework for the European Higher Education Area (QF-EHEA).

Global Fan

The Global Fan includes the NFQ, EQF and the QF-EHEA frameworks which show how the levels on each relate to each other.

The European Qualifications Framework (EQF) is a European initiative to support mobility within the EU.  It allows qualifications gained in any European country to be classified and organised into an eight-level system.  It enables learners, learning providers and employers to compare qualifications between different countries' national qualifications systems.  

Qualifications that are included within the Irish NFQ also have an EQF reference level. Visit the Irish Register of Qualifications for more information.  The register helps make Irish qualifications visible in Europe as the IRQ is linked to the Qualifications Dataset Register on the upgraded Europass platform.


The QF-EHEA, commonly known as the Bologna Framework, is based on a three-cycle system (bachelor, master and doctorate). It is focused on higher education and facilitates recognition of study periods and qualifications earned abroad, building trust across the 49 member states included in the Bologna Framework.

As learners and workers move between the UK and Ireland regularly, QQI know how important it is to be able to quickly compare and understand qualifications in both countries.

Although the UK is no longer a member of the EU, collaboration between the UK and Ireland is supported and in line with the Common Travel Area (CTA) Memorandum of Understanding. The qualifications authorities in the UK and Ireland have agreed the correspondence between qualifications frameworks in operation across the five jurisdictions. 

Our joint publication, Qualifications Can Cross Boundaries offers a short guide to the broad comparable levels of UK and Irish qualifications.