Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on SLQF

These Questions are categorized under three main sections as General Principles of SLQF, Qualification Descriptors of SLQF and Level Descriptors of SLQF. 

The SLQF is a nationally consistent framework for all senior secondary level, collegiate level, undergraduate level, and postgraduate level education qualifications offered in Sri Lanka.

In particular, currently the SLQF applies to all higher education institutions (HEIs) both public and private, which provide post-secondary education study programmes.

A study programme is defined as a stand-alone approved curriculum followed by a student, which leads to the award of a qualification.

A qualification is a formally recognized academic award granted (or conferred) on successful completion of a study programme.

It is available in all three languages on the website

SLQF Documents (EN / SN / TM)
  1. All States Universities coming under the University Grants Commission
    (Refer: UGC Circular No. 05/2013 (i) issued on August 25, 2017)
  2. All NSHEIs offering Ministry of Higher Education approved degree programmes
    (Refer: Degree Awarding Status Granted NSHE Institute issued on September 14, 2016)

The aim of the SLQF is to create an integral national framework for learning achievements by recognizing and accrediting qualifications offered by different institutions engaged in higher education and vocational training in Sri Lanka.

The objectives of the SLQF are to offer a uniform framework at the national level to:
  1. enhance the quality of higher education and training at all levels;
  2. facilitate access to higher learning and thereby contribute to full personal development of learners and to social and economic development of the country;
  3. enhance equity in higher education, training and employment opportunities;
  4. assist employers to identify the levels of knowledge, skills and competencies of qualification holders;
  5. develop positive attitudes in qualification holders;
  6. facilitate lateral and vertical mobility, and progression both within higher education /career pathways and between higher education and career pathways;
  7. provide guidance in comparing qualifications offered by different institutions;
  8. assist in developing higher education and vocational training programmes at appropriate levels;
  9. recognize prior learning; and
  10. promote lifelong learning.
(Refer page 5 of the SLQF)

The SLQF will be useful to all stakeholders of higher education including students, parents, employers, as well as education and training providers.

  1. For learners, the SLQF will be useful to recognize and evaluate prior learning and identify the pathways of acquiring higher qualifications. This will enable learners to develop their full potential and thereby contribute to the social and economic development of the country at large.
  2. The level descriptors given in the SLQF will be useful for employers to identify the levels of competencies of qualification holders. It will also help in comparing the qualifications so that the supply and demand for knowledge, skills and competencies could be properly matched. Further, the SLQF will be useful in comparing the qualifications offered by different institutions. This will help the employers to find appropriate qualification holders for their business needs.
  3. The SLQF describes the credit requirements for each qualification level as well as intended learning outcomes. Therefore, for higher education providers, both in the state and private sectors, the SLQF will be useful in designing their academic programmes.
  4. The SLQF enables all stakeholders of post-secondary education to identify the full range of qualifications offered in the higher education system in Sri Lanka and comparable levels of vocational education and training. This helps to understand how qualifications are related to each other and how they contribute to the enhancement of knowledge and understanding, and improvement of intellectual abilities including analytical skills, evaluation skills, problem solving skills and soft skills.
  5. The SLQF will also be useful to the general public to have access to appropriate lifelong education and training, which helps them to fulfill their personal as well as social and economic potential.
  6. The SLQF will be useful to programme approving agencies and quality assurance and accreditation agencies to identify the appropriate levels of qualifications offered by different HEIs. Further, it helps in evaluating different qualifications offered by HEIs, both local and foreign, which will be useful when taking decisions in recruitment and promotion in the academic, technical and professional sectors.
SLQF Levels (Refer FAQ 1.9) and the associated Qualification Descriptors (Refer FAQ 1.10) and Level Descriptors (Refer FAQ 1.11)

The SLQF consists of twelve levels. The demand for learning outcomes and complexity of learning increase with each level. The levels are not necessarily directly related to the years (i.e. duration) of study.


  1. The first two levels (Levels 1-2) are senior secondary level education qualifications.
  2. The next four levels (Levels 3-6) are undergraduate qualifications.
  3. The other six levels (Levels 7-12) are postgraduate qualifications.

Each SLQF level is of a unique qualification 'type'. This type is a component of the name of qualification. That will help recognize a particular SLQF level. The qualification types and respective levels are given below:


Qualification Category SLQF Level Qualification Type Awarded
Postgraduate 12 Doctor of Philosophy / MD with Board Certification/Doctor of Letters/Doctor of Science
11 Master of Philosophy
10 Masters with coursework and a research component
9 Masters by coursework *
8 Postgraduate Diploma *
7 Postgraduate Certificate *
Undergraduate 6 Bachelors Honours
5 Bachelors
4 Higher Diploma
3 Diploma
Senior Secondary and Collegiate 2Advanced Certificate (GCE A/L or equivalent)
1Certificate (GCE O/L or equivalent)
* Refer FAQs 1.17 and 1.18

Qualification descriptors describe the general characteristics of the qualification and the qualification holder for each SLQF level. These characteristics are:

  1. the qualification type associated with a given SLQF level along with its designators and the qualifiers,
  2. the number of credits required at each level,
  3. the purpose and scope, and the generic outcomes and attributes expected for the award of each qualification,
  4. the minimum admission requirements and
  5. the possible progression opportunities to the next stage of learning
(Refer Table 3 of the updated SLQF in pages 18-25)

Level descriptors are a set of specific outcome statements, achievement of which a student should be able to demonstrate (e.g. at an assessment) the fulfilment of requirements of the qualification. This essentially means that the level descriptors are specific broad abilities or learning outcomes* that the graduate should be capable of, for the award of the qualification. Each learning outcome has been further described to suit each SLQF level. Such customised, level-appropriate descriptions of learning outcomes are called level descriptors.

* Learning outcomes are statements that describe what learners should know, understand and can demonstrate upon the completion of a course or study programme. In SLQF, there are 12 learning outcomes. These learning outcomes are derived from the attributes of the qualification holders, as a set of general statements of the wider abilities that the typical student is expected to have developed by the end of the study programme. These attributes are listed under Qualification Descriptors.

(Refer Table 4 of the updated SLQF in pages 26-31)

Qualification descriptors describe the attributes (or qualities) of the qualification holder in broad, general terms. Level descriptors convert those attributes to more specific capabilities expected from the qualification holder in relation to the 12 SLQF learning outcomes. Hence, qualification descriptors should be the precursors to level descriptors. This means, when developing a study programme it is recommended that the graduate profile or attributes (in line with qualification descriptors at the appropriate SLQF level) be developed first, before defining the learning outcomes (in line with the level descriptors at the appropriate SLQF level) of the study programme.

At present there is no authorized body.

It will be based on the documentary evidence showing compliance with the respective Qualification Descriptor and Level Descriptor.

Study programme designers should always consider the SLQF guidelines as minimum requirements. Some study programmes due to various justifiable reasons may have higher expectations than required in SLQF for a particular level.

(Refer Annex I and Annex II)

Qualification Descriptors of a particular study programme are developed at the time of designing it for approval. As a member of the team delivering the study programme, you may have had an opportunity to contribute to the process at this stage. Once the study programme is approved by the authorities, Qualification Descriptors remain unchanged until the next revision that typically happens, usually after several cycles of delivery.

By designing the lessons within the course unit/module/subject that you teach in a manner that they (i.e. lessons) are aligned with the programme learning outcomes, and by facilitating the students (through appropriate teaching and learning, and assessment methods) to achieve (or part-achieve) as many programme learning outcomes as possible that are in turn aligned with the 12 Level Descriptors of the appropriate SLQF level.

Postgraduate Certificates, Postgraduate Diplomas and Masters by course work that are designed to extend students' depth of knowledge in a particular field, by building on an area in which they already have expertise, gained at undergraduate level are defined as extension programmes.

For example, if the Postgraduate Diploma in Sociology is a study programme that is designed to admit only the candidates who have studied Sociology in a Bachelor or Bachelor Honours degree, then that Postgraduate Diploma falls within the extension category.

Postgraduate Certificates, Postgraduate Diplomas and Masters by course work that are intended to those with little or no prior knowledge of the subject, offering an education similar in learning to that of an undergraduate study programme but broadening students' academic abilities and bringing graduates of other subjects to graduate competence in the named subject are defined as conversion programmes.

For example, if the Postgraduate Diploma in Sociology is a study programme that is designed to admit candidates having a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in Chemistry, then such a Postgraduate Diploma falls within the conversion category.

Conversion category study programmes that award Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma or Masters by course work are placed at SLQF Level 6.

There are some study programmes, both at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, designed in such a way that,

  1. a student can enroll in a lower qualification type at the outset, but has the option of continuing on to complete a higher qualification type and
  2. a student can enroll in a higher qualification type at the outset, but has the option of withdrawing after the completion of requirements for a lower qualification type.

Such qualifications are called "Nested Qualifications" and they can be developed to meet the requirements of SLQF. Some examples are graphically presented below:

 

During a study programme, a student may not have the desire to complete the full study programme for which he/she enrolled. If a student chooses to terminate his/her studies during the study programme, he/she may have completed a sufficient number of credits to be granted a lower qualification than the enrolled degree. This is called an early exit award.

However, this is possible only if such exit pathways are designed so that the expected Qualification and Level Descriptor requirements for the award of the lower qualification are clearly specified as per the SLQF guidelines and are approved by the authorities. However, if a student is expelled from the university on disciplinary grounds then he/she may not be eligible for the award.

A student may find himself/herself unable to complete the full study programme for which he/she enrolled within the specified total time period. If he/she has completed a sufficient number of credits to be granted a lower qualification than the enrolled degree, it is called a fallback option award.

However, this is possible only if such exit pathways are designed so that the expected Qualification and Level Descriptor requirements for the award of the lower qualification are clearly specified as per the SLQF guidelines and are approved by the authorities. However, if a student is expelled from the university on disciplinary grounds then he/she may not be eligible for the award.

The only difference is the timing of application by a candidate for the lesser qualification.

The SLQF introduced the concept of credits related to 'notional hours' in keeping with the principles of outcomes-based education (OBE). SLQF equates one credit with 50 notional hours of learning for a taught course, laboratory studies course or field studies/clinical work. In case of industrial training/work place-based learning/internship, including time allocated for assessments and in case of research, including time allocated for literature survey, one credit is considered equivalent to a minimum of 100 notional hours.

The concept of 'notional learning hours' looks at workload from the students' standpoint. It does not look at how much content one would like to teach but considers how much time it takes the average student to achieve the defined set of learning outcomes in a particular course unit.

Notional learning time includes time spent on all learning and assessment methods, such as lectures, laboratories, homework, guided learning, self-study, projects, presentations, assignments, assessments, and time spent in industrial training/work place-based learning/internship if applicable.

The notional learning time should include all learning and assessment activities required for the achievement of the learning outcomes including,

  1. Formal learning, including classes, training sessions, coaching, seminars and tutorials
  2. Doing practical work in laboratories or other locations
  3. undertaking relevant IT activities
  4. Solo/group performance, solo/group exhibitions
  5. Information retrieval, eg in libraries
  6. Private study, revision and remedial work
  7. Work-based activities which lead to assessment
  8. Undertaking all forms of assessment (formative and summative) including preparing for and sitting at mid-semester and end of semester examinations

Development of such guidelines by an HEI is considered a best practice. They can do so by using clearly stated learning outcomes and calculating notional hours in relation to various learning activities practiced. Some local and international examples are given below:

Example 1: Description of Notional Learning Hours (NLH) for Open and Distance Learning (ODL) at Open University of Sri Lanka (OUSL)

Table 1: Type of activity OUSL defined / scheduled unit Number of NLH Comments
Studying self-instructional materials which includes reading and understanding the session, completing the activities in the sessions, preparations for day schools and all other learning activities related to the printed session One session 5 hours Of this, two hours are for direct learning of one study session and three hours are for independent learning
For practical work, including laboratory / field work/ clinical work / micro-teaching / teaching practicum 1 hour 1.5 hours For each 1 hour of laboratory/ field/ clinical studies scheduled by OUSL, half an hour of independent studies is recommended. Notional learning hours include time allocated for conducting practical work, preparation, writing any reports and the time allotted for assessments
Day school 1 hour 1 hour
Assessment/assignment 1 hour 1 hour
On-line support 1 hour 1 hour
Literature search 1 hour 1 hour
Writing dissertation 1 hour 1 hour

Example 2: Benchmarks from other countries -

  1. The 1992 research from Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) gives the following benchmarks for 'study rate times' which include reading, rereading and note-taking (for fairly unskilled readers):
    • Easy: 100 words per minute
    • Fairly straightforward: 70 words per minute
    • A dense/ difficult text: 40 words per minute

      The research was conducted on Physics students and the benchmarks were reduced as follows for Physics texts:

    • Easy: 60 words per minute
    • Fairly straightforward: 40 words per minute
    • A dense/ difficult text: 25 words per minute
    • Difficult mathematical equation/ step: 1 minute per equation.
      (Garg, S., Panda, V. & Panda, S. 1992. A preliminary study of student workload for IGNOU Physics elective courses. In: Indian Journal of Open Learning, 1(2):19-25.)
  2. The Central Queensland University estimates that 'a reasonable study rate ranges from less than 5 pages per hour for conceptually difficult text to about 10 pages an hour for reasonable text'. (Nouwens, F. 1997. Student workload. Cited in S. Dixon, G. Lefoe, F. Nouwens and S. Wills (eds) Teaching at a distance [CD-ROM]. PAGE: Melbourne)
  3. The South African Qualifications Authority uses five to ten pages an hour as a norm and 7.5 pages as the average for a first-year student, for whom English is not a primary language, studying a reading text with comprehension – reading and re-reading, and taking notes. (Kilfoil, W. R. (2008). Determining Workload in relation to Credits and Notional Hours. Internal Report, Unisa, pp1 – 5.)

The following tables show ways to estimate the Notional Learning Hours (NLHs) and calculating the Credit Value for a course unit/module/subject in terms of methods of teaching and learning and methods of assessment at its designing stage. You may only use one method in designing your course unit/module/subject.

Example 1: For a taught course unit

Content of Course Unit/Module/ Subject 1 Programme LOs Course LOs Teaching time (a) Self-learning time (b)* Combined Assessment time (c) Notional learning hours (d) [a+b+c = d]

Topic/lesson1.1

           

Topic/lesson1.2

          
........         

Topic/lesson1.n

        
  Credit Value for the Course Unit/Module/Subject = d/50

* Note: Self-learning time includes time spent on revision of formal teaching (i.e. column 'a'), additional reading, completing assignments/homework/projects/quizzes/other formative assessment and preparation for formal assessment, all carried out during non-timetabled hours.

Example 2: For a taught course unit

Learning Outcomes (LOs) Contact Hours (m) Self-study hours (n) Total hours
(m + n)

Teaching and Learning Activities 1

Lectures

 

 

 

 

2

Tutorials

 

 

 

 

3

Laboratory learning

 

 

 

 

4

Independent Reading/learning

 

 

 

 

5

Projects

 

 

 

 

6

Presentations

 

 

 

 

7

Using LMS

 

 

 

 

8

Industrial Training

 

 

 

 

9

Others

 

 

 

 

Assessment Methods

10

Mid-Semester Examination 

 

 

 

 

11

Class Tests

 

 

 

 

12

Assignments

 

 

 

 

13

Quizzes

 

 

 

 

14

End - Semester Examination

 

 

 

 

15

Others

 

 

 

 

Grand Total Notional Learning Hours (NLHs)

Credit Value for the Course Unit/Module/Subject = (NLHs)/50

Example 3: For a course unit/module/subject involving taught and/or research and/or work place-based learning and/or internship and/or field work components, prepare a table similar to Example 1 or 2 and divide research/work place-based learning/internship/field work notional learning hours by 100 in calculating the credit value.

Questions that relate to interpretation and clarification of the SLQF related matters can be directed to the:

  1. Quality Assurance Council (QAC) through the Director/IQAU for all State Universities
  2. Standing Committee on Accreditation and Quality Assurance (SCAQA) of the Ministry of Higher Education for all Non-State Higher Education Institutes

The general public can contact any of the above two organizations.

National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) Framework, introduced in 2005, is a nationally recognized system of tertiary education awards usually not offered by university-level institutes (both State and Non-State HEIs) but vocational education awards developed by the Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission (TVEC). The NVQ Framework is a seven-level qualification framework.

The comparable NVQ and SLQF levels have been recognised on the basis of significant similarities in the learning outcomes stated under respective level descriptors in the two frameworks by a panel of experts. Degree level qualification (NVQ 7) is benchmarked to internationally accepted standard for a Bachelor's degree (SLQF Level 5). Nonetheless, the proportion of cognitive outcomes and psychomotor outcomes may differ in the two qualifications, especially in qualifications below SLQF 2 (NVQ 4). Further, the attributes of two qualification holders, below the degree level, at comparable SLQF and NVQ levels may differ.

SLQF Level SLQF Qualification awarded Comparable NVQ Level
5 Bachelors 7
4 Higher Diploma 6
3 Diploma 5
2 Advanced Certificate (GCE A/L or equivalent) 4
1 Certificate (GCE O/L or equivalent) 3
2

No. They are not considered equal for academic purposes.

Public Administration Circular: 28/2016 states that "the completion of NVQ Level 3 and NVQ Level 4 as equal to passing the G.C.E. (O/L) and G.C.E. (A/L) examinations respectively, at the instances where the requirement of NVQ Level 3 or NVQ Level 4 along with the G.C.E. (O/L) or G.C.E. (A/L) has been included in Service Minutes and Schemes of Recruitments as professional and educational qualifications for recruitment to posts in technological and technical sectors."

You may use the template given in Annex I: Qualification Descriptor Compliance – Self Evaluation Template to do a self-evaluation in this regard.

You may use the template given in Annex II: Level Descriptor Compliance – Self Evaluation Template to do a self-evaluation in this regard.

Qualification descriptors describe the general characteristics of the qualification and the qualification holder for each SLQF level. These characteristics are:

  1. the SLQF exit level,
  2. the qualification type with designators and the qualifiers,
  3. the number of credits (volume of learning) required at each level,
  4. the purpose and scope, and the generic outcomes and attributes expected for the award of each qualification,
  5. the minimum admission requirements and
  6. the possible progression opportunities to the next stage of learning

(Refer Table 3 of the updated SLQF in pages 18-25)

In Sri Lanka, "MD" is a study programme that is not primarily research based. Considering this unique situation, the University Grants Commission placed "MD with Board Certification" at SLQF Level 12. Accordingly, the Qualification Descriptors (learning outcomes) of "MD with Board Certification" have been appropriately modified.

(Refer Annex III: PGIM MD with Board Certification fulfils the SLQF Level 12 Requirements – Explained, for more information)

Aim of a study programme is an overall specification of the intention or purpose of it. A study programme may state one or more aims. These are generally stated so as to include the purpose and philosophy of the study programme.

Aim of a study programme should meet the requirements stated in purpose and scope of qualification under the respective level.

(Refer Table 3 of the updated SLQF in pages 18 & 22)

Yes, a study programme at SLQF Level 6 must include a research component in the field of specialization carried out under the guidance and supervision of a qualification holder of Level 10, 11 or 12 and reporting in the form of a report/dissertation, which will be assessed. The research component should not be less than a total of at least 6 credits of SLQF Level 6.

There are guidelines developed to interpret the term 'research component' in SLQF Level 6.

(You may refer Annex IV: Guidelines on Undergraduate Research for more information.)

Yes. There are guidelines developed in Annex IV: Guidelines on Undergraduate Research

In general, no. The scope, aims and learning outcomes addressed by the research project and industrial training are distinctly different. However, there could be some overlap between work place training/industrial training/internship and research requirement.

For example, the main learning outcome addressed by research is 'creativity and problem solving', while the main learning outcome addressed by industrial training is 'practical knowledge and application'. Hence, in general, it is inappropriate to use industrial training to fulfil the requirements of research. That said, if a study programme has purposefully designed the industrial training activities in such a way that both the requirements of industrial training and research can be achieved, then such consideration could be acceptable. In this case, industrial training should provide opportunities and time for the student to carry out a research with a suitable supervisor either from the industry or from the home HEI, without compromising the achievement of learning outcomes related to industrial training itself. Since designing industrial training this way is not always feasible, it is best that industrial training and research project are considered and implemented separately.

The scopes of both qualification types Postgraduate Diploma (SLQF Level 8) and Master's Degree by Coursework (SLQF Level 9) require conducting some guided independent studies by students. In particular, SLQF states:

POSTGRADUATE DIPLOMA - This qualification demands a high level of theoretical engagement. It may not require conducting a research project but require conducting some independent studies.

MASTER'S DEGREE BY COURSE WORK - This qualification demands a high level of theoretical engagement and guided independent study equivalent to a minimum of 5 credits.

(Refer Table 3 of the updated SLQF in page 23)

The following guidelines are prepared to explain the above requirements to the programme developers.

  1. Independent Study is a mode of learning in which learners select study materials independently and then work through the said study materials with teacher supervision/ guidance
  2. Guided independent study permits independent learning using learning materials selected with the guidance and feedback of a supervisor. A well-designed guided independent study must include a weekly schedule that will guide the student through learning activities such as reading, writing and personal reflection. Supervisor is required to formally assess academic progress through assessments.
  3. The total notional learning hours consumed for all learning activities should be divided by 100 when calculating credit value.
  4. A good example for independent study is a portfolio learning or reflective writing; i.e. development of a portfolio, as a requirement of the study programme. Once the portfolio material has been independently selected, the learning process (portfolio development process) could be supported by regular pre-identified supervisor-supervisee meetings along the course of the portfolio development.
  5. An example where guided independent study is required would be when a student completes an assignment or a project, during unscheduled (or non-timetabled) teaching/learning time and submits the answer or the report for tutor marking.

SLQF states "this qualification should be earned by completing course work aggregating to a minimum of 30 credits at SLQF Levels 7 to 10 and a research project with notional learning hours totaling to a minimum of 15 credits. The research should be carried out under the guidance of a supervisor holding an equivalent or a higher qualification and should make an original academic contribution to a particular discipline. The candidate should submit a dissertation which is evaluated and accepted".

The possible structures for a study programme at this level are:

  1. 45 credits of course work at SLQF Levels 7 to 10 and a research project of 15 credits.
  2. 30 credits of course work at SLQF Levels 7 to 10 and a research project of 30 credits.

In developing study programmes at this level, 15 credits requirement for research project can be considered equivalent to full-time research of six months and 30 credits requirement to full-time research of 1 year.

Yes, you can. However, the taught programme should represent a 'mix' of Levels 7 to 10. In other words, it cannot only represent Levels 7 to 9, without some part of it also representing Level 10.

There are guidelines developed to explain the research requirement for SLQF Level 10.

(You may refer Annex V: Guidelines for Master's, MPhil and PhD Research

There are guidelines developed to explain the research requirement for SLQF Level 11.

(You may refer Annex V: Guidelines for Master's, MPhil and PhD Research

There are guidelines developed to explain the research requirement for SLQF Level 10.

(You may refer Annex V: Guidelines for Master's, MPhil and PhD Research

Since a PhD is awarded by a university, and not by an individual, there should be university rules defining which academic positions can officially act as PhD supervisors. The appointment process must include the emphasis on proven ability as an active researcher within the field of study and the ability to guide in all professional and/or academic aspects related to the study during the full period.

"Graduate Attributes are the qualities, skills and understandings a university community agrees its students should develop during their time with the institution (Bowden, 2000). These generic graduate attributes outline the overarching capabilities that will be developed by students. This goes across all disciplines/areas of study. These qualities are intended to equip graduates to be global citizens, and effective members of society who can be agents of 'social good' (Barrie, 2004)."

As can be seen from the above quote, graduate attributes are broad abilities; i.e. knowledge skills and attitudes. From these broad abilities, programme learning outcomes for a study programme should be identified. Programme learning outcomes are also broad in scope, but not as broad as graduate attributes. It is helpful to conceptualize that graduate attributes could be (though not a must) even common to the entire university or HEI (i.e. common to all study programmes), while programme learning outcomes are a customization of these attributes to suit a specific study programme.

Programme learning outcomes are the basis of the blueprint for the design and development of an award through its component courses. Typically, programme learning outcomes are shaped by the:

  1. four main domains of learning: knowledge; skills; attitudes; and mind-set and paradigm, of the appropriate qualification descriptors of the SLQF
  2. University's strategic goals and priorities, including Graduate Profile
  3. requirements of the discipline through threshold learning outcomes stated in respective Subject Benchmark Statement (SBS)
  4. relevant stakeholder standards and expectations including professional and industry associations, employers, workforce planning and priorities standards for professional accreditation, where applicable.

When developing a curriculum for a study programme, it is helpful to consider first the graduate attributes. Second, collate all graduate attributes to develop the graduate profile. Third, identify the programme learning outcomes from the graduate profile.

SLQF ensures some minimum standards with regard to the attributes of the qualification holder at each of the qualification levels. Since SLQF is specific to Sri Lanka, it may not be able to cater to all the higher education admission requirements in other countries. It is recommended that the HEI concerned ensures that the entry requirements set by the country that their students wish/need to enter are met by the study programme/s of the said HEI. For this purpose, it would be best that the HEI refers to the qualifications framework of the country that their students wish/need to go for further education. In other words, the HEI may consider addressing other requirements based on the special needs of their graduates.

Completion of NVQ Level 4 followed by a corresponding cognitive bridging programme of minimum 30 credits as determined by the academic authority of the HEI concerned may be considered as equivalent qualification for admission to SLQF Level 3 in a particular field of specialisation.

Most Level 6 qualifications are study programmes having specializations. Some such study programmes like Agriculture, Visual and Performing Arts, Engineering, Management and Medicine would admit students directly into them. On the other hand, there are study programmes, for example in Sciences, and Arts, that students are first admitted to Level 5 programmes and then chosen for specialized study programmes of Level 6 after their first, second or third year.

Note that the term "related subject" appears on page 21 of SLQF under progression in Levels 4, 5, & 6 and the term "relevant subject" appears on page 24 of SLQF under minimum admission requirements for Levels 7 to 11.

Thus, the term 'related' here has been used in the context of the progression of a qualification holder having undergraduate qualifications or below and 'relevant' has been used in the context of admission to postgraduate programmes.

For this particular question, whether a subject is relevant or related for the given context is required to be decided by the concerned HEI with the help of subject experts in the concerned/ related field as per its requirement.

The relevant or related subject area for admission into a particular study programme will be determined by the relevant academic authority of HEI. This must be independently ratified by QAC or SCAQA at the time approval is given for such study programmes. The HEI when claiming the eligibility of a particular relevant or related subject area must justify how the said subject area is linked to the main subject area of the qualification being offered.

SLQF states that a Master's Degree is one of the minimum admission requirements for a PhD. This requirement needs to be interpreted as a Master's Degree of Level 9 or Level 10 in the same or related field.

However, HEIs can add more admission requirements.

SLQF states that a Master's Degree is one of the minimum admission requirements for PhD. This requirement needs to be interpreted as a Master's Degree of Level 9 or Level 10 in the same or related field.

However, HEIs can add more admission requirements.

An academic year is the duration within a period of 12 months when students are studying on a fulltime basis at a Higher Education Institute.

In most countries, the duration of an academic year may be less than 12 months. However, in most Sri Lankan HEIs, an academic year consists of at least 12 months.

A semester is one of the periods into which an academic year is divided at a Higher Education Institute.

In Sri Lanka, the HEIs are operating on academic years of two semesters having a minimum of 15 weeks each inclusive of the examinations.

Credit is a measurement unit used in the expression and calculation of the academic input/ volume of learning demanded by a courses/modules/subjects or the entire study programme taken by a learner. The value of a credit is normally determined by the number of notional learning hours required to provide face to face instructions (e.g. lectures, practicals, clinical classes), non-face-to-face instructions (e.g. assignments, clinical work, research) assessments, and self-study by students.

According to SLQF norms, 1 credit is equivalent to 50 notional hours for a taught course, laboratory studies course or field studies/clinical work. In case of industrial training, including time allocated for assessments and in case of research, including time allocated for literature survey, one credit is considered equivalent to a minimum of 100 notional hours.

Volume of learning is only one criterion to determine the SLQF level. Also, what is specified in the SLQF is the minimum number of total credits. If a degree programme has not satisfied the other criteria (for example, purpose and scope, admission criteria, qualification type, level descriptors) then that programme is not entitled to claim a higher level.

There are guidelines developed in Annex IV: Guidelines on undergraduate research

If a student is admitted to a study programme of Level 9 (or Level 10) based on the minimum admission requirements stipulated in the SLQF, then the volume of learning required to earn that qualification is the same for everyone, regardless of student having Level 5 or Level 6 qualification.

In the case of work place training/internship/industrial training, including time allocated for assessments, one credit is considered equivalent to a minimum of 100 notional hours.

For example, assume that there is an industrial training course unit/module of 6-month duration of a study programme having well-defined learning outcomes. Then notional hours can be first estimated as (8 hours) x (5 days) x (24 weeks) = 960 hours. Then the programme designers should divide this total by a number, not less than 100, to calculate the credit allocation for the course unit/module. This credit value should be proportionate to the specified intended learning outcomes of the course unit/module.

It is important to note that, even though all the taught course units of a study programme are expected to be completed within the semester time, the industrial training requirement may be extended to the entire academic year of 12 months.

In case of research, including time allocated for literature survey, one credit is considered equivalent to a minimum of 100 notional hours.

For example, assume that there is an undergraduate research course unit/module of 6 credits. Then the amount of minimum notional learning hours for it comes to 600 hours. Since the students are expected to spend the entire academic year of 12 months to do the research course unit/module, the number of notional hours for it averages to 12 hours per week. In such a situation, the research project could be conducted in parallel to other courses/modules.

One possible course structure would be:

  1. Year 1: 30 credits of taught courses
  2. Year 2: 15 credits of taught courses and the research component of 15 credits.

Since the research activities by a student is expected to run throughout the academic year of 12 months, in such a situation, the weekly average academic workload of a student in Year 2 would be [(15 x (50 hours)) + (15 x (100 hours))]/(50 weeks) = 45 hours.

Yes. A research component of 30 credits needs to be interpreted as one-year full-time research by the student. Since the students in such study programmes are expected to spend the entire academic year of 12 months to do the research, the number of notional hours for it averages to (30 x 100 hours)/50 weeks = 60 hours per week.

No. Doctor of Letters cannot be considered as of Level 12 even though Table 1 (page 10) of SLQF indicates so inadvertently.

Doctor of Letters is an honorary degree and SLQF clearly states in page 4 that "honorary degrees and certificates of attendance are not included in the SLQF. The honorary doctorate is differentiated from doctoral degrees in the SLQF."

Yes, it is possible that internationally accepted exceptions are permitted.

For example, MBBS abbreviation for the qualification name – Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, and LLB abbreviation for the qualification name – Bachelor of Laws

Yes. The University Grants Commission has approved "the Science of Engineering" as a designator.

(Refer: Naming of Engineering Degree Programmes offered by Universities in Sri Lanka issued on November 02, 2017)

Yes. For example, Bachelor of the Science of Engineering, Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, Bachelor of Dental Sciences, Bachelor of Laws, and Bachelor of Agriculture.

Note that the SLQF requirement for Level 6 qualifiers is stated as 'maximum two". Thus, not having a qualifier for a Level 6 qualification is not a violation of SLQF naming convention.

The engineering degrees can be named in two ways as explained through the following examples:

Without qualifiers: Bachelor of Science, or Bachelor of the Science of Engineering

With qualifiers: Bachelor of Science in Engineering in Civil Engineering, or Bachelor of the Science of Engineering in Civil Engineering

SLQF states:

For Level 9 qualifications: designators are limited to specific areas of study and no qualifier is allowed.

For Level 10 qualifications: designators are specific and limited to broad generic areas of discipline or profession, and maximum of two qualifiers are allowed.

For example, if two study programmes are designed in Economics, one at Level 9 and the other one at Level 10, then the following names are possible for the two qualifications:

  1. Level 9 study programme: Master of Economics
  2. Level 10 study programme: Master of Arts in Economics

No. SLQF does not state such a condition though most of the examples used in it have a single word.

For example, the following names with qualifiers having more than one word are acceptable:

Diploma in Hospitality Management, Bachelor of Arts in Peace and Conflict Resolution, Master of Science in Environmental Science, and Doctor of Philosophy in Applied Linguistics

In addition to the guidelines stated in the SLQF, the following best practices must be observed when determining award abbreviations:

If a national level professional or academic body has specified that a particular abbreviation should be used for an existing qualification, then that abbreviation should be adopted.

The abbreviation for a new qualification must be consistent with any similar abbreviation included in the currently recognized abbreviations lists.

If no precedent can be found, then either an abbreviation should be adopted that minimises potential confusion or should use the complete word.

SLQF states: "Early exit from this level is possible provided that the candidate has completed 25 credits in course work. In such a situation, the qualification awarded shall be Postgraduate Diploma in the relevant field, which is at SLQF Level 8."

This needs to be interpreted as the lowest qualification that can be awarded for a candidate of a Level 10 qualification. If a Level 9 qualification is nested within the said study programme, then even that can be awarded as a fallback/early exit option once the requirements are fulfilled.

Level descriptors are a set of specific outcome statements, achievement of which a student should be able to demonstrate (e.g. at an assessment) the fulfilment of requirements of the qualification. This essentially means that the level descriptors are specific broad abilities or learning outcomes* that the graduate should be capable of, for the award of the qualification. Each learning outcome has been further described to suit each SLQF level. Such customised, level-appropriate descriptions of learning outcomes are called level descriptors.

*Learning outcomes are statements that describe what learners should know, understand and can demonstrate upon the completion of a course or study programme. In SLQF, there are 12 learning outcomes. These learning outcomes are derived from the attributes of the qualification holders, as a set of general statements of the wider abilities that the typical student is expected to have developed by the end of the study programme. These attributes are listed under Qualification Descriptors.

(Refer Table 4 of the updated SLQF in pages 26-31)

Yes. The 12 level descriptors are explained in Annex VI: 12 Learning Outcomes Explained

No, it is not a must to achieve all 12 learning outcomes in a single course unit/module. You must try to introduce different learning activities within the course unit/module to achieve as many such learning outcomes as possible.

However, when the entire collection of course units/modules, which form the study programme, is taken into account all 12 learning outcomes are expected to be achieved by the students.

It depends on whether the student learns the subject area (in general) covered in this first-year course unit/module in subsequent years. If the student learns the said subject area in some related form (not necessarily the same subject matter, but a logical extension of the said subject matter, as agreed by the content experts in this field of study) then this first-year course unit/module need not contain learning outcomes that correspond to Level 6. It could have learning outcomes at a level lower than SLQF Level 6, provided that the curriculum developers could show that the students achieve the learning outcomes in this subject area to the required level (i.e. SLQF Level 6) during a later course unit/module in a subsequent year.

This means that if a curriculum is entirely built on recurring themes or subject areas, then the curriculum developers can plan the curriculum such that the first year course units/modules satisfy SLQF Level 3 descriptors, the second year course units/modules satisfy SLQF Level 4 descriptors, third year course units/modules satisfy SLQF Level 5 descriptors and fourth year course units/modules satisfy SLQF Level 6 descriptors. Such a curriculum will facilitate lateral entry and exit options for students. However, we observe that all curricula cannot adopt this option mainly due to the non-recurring nature of the subject areas learned by a student in different academic years.

A comprehensive set of assessment methods that can be adopted or adapted are given in: "An A–Z of Assessment Methods"

Refer: Annex VII – A: Student-Centred Teaching and Learning Methods in the Subject Areas of Humanities and Social Science. It is done at a lesson level. Course units/modules will automatically fall in line if lessons adopt proper teaching and learning.

It is done at a lesson level. Course units/modules will automatically fall in line if lessons adopt proper teaching and learning.

Refer: Annex VII – B: Student-Centred Teaching and Learning Methods in the Subject Areas of Science.

It is done at a lesson level. Course units/modules will automatically fall in line if lessons adopt proper teaching and learning.

Refer: Annex VII – C: Student-Centred Teaching and Learning Methods in the Subject Areas of Engineering

It is done at a lesson level. Course units/modules will automatically fall in line if lessons adopt proper teaching and learning.

Refer: Annex VII – D: Student-Centred Teaching and Learning Methods in the Subject Areas of Health Sciences

It is done at a lesson level. Course units/modules will automatically fall in line if lessons adopt proper teaching and learning.

Refer: Annex VII - E: Student-Centred Teaching and Learning Methods in the Subject Areas of Management

Since SLQF Levels 8 and 9 do not necessarily require the learner to carry out a research study, this statement should be interpreted as the ability to draft an outline of a research proposal that spells out clearly 'how' a hypothesis would be tested. However, the actual testing of the hypothesis after data collection is not necessary at these levels. It also does not necessarily imply that drafting a research proposal is a must, with the completion of an ethics clearance application. It is the 'ability' of constructing a hypothesis and identifying the methods to test it (which constitutes the core of a research proposal) that is a must (i.e. bare minimum) that the learner should possess. So, instead of developing a research proposal, displaying the ability required to develop a research proposal through an assignment could also be considered sufficient at these two levels.

The term 'hypotheses' should not be narrowly interpreted as a notion confined to the quantitative paradigm. The qualitative equivalent of a hypothesis (i.e. developing a sound research question/s with the necessary justifications using a sound theoretical framework for a qualitative research) should also be considered as an appropriate alternative.

In terms of definitions on research hypothesis, Chigbu (2019) summarises that a research hypothesis is "the statement created by researchers when they speculate upon the outcome of research or an experiment", or a specific situation in that research study. This definition describes what a hypothesis can be when applied in any form of research. With this understanding of a hypothesis, the question that arises is whether it can be used in qualitative research. There is a myriad of scholars who have pushed the notion that qualitative research has little or nothing to do with hypothesis formulation.

According to Chigbu researchers should not deny that the use of hypotheses applies to qualitative enquiries. Hypotheses used in qualitative research can be explained or perhaps questioned because explaining and questioning are the key tools used in carrying out qualitative research. The study conducted by Chigbu considers it is illogical to expect qualitative researchers to strictly follow the rules of quantitative research methods. Qualitative research is a very flexible type of research; it can be either inductive or deductive.

The business of qualitative research with hypotheses goes beyond hypothesis-generation and into hypothesis-testing (in the form of refuting, proving, confirming or verifying). The use of hypotheses in qualitative methods can, therefore, apply "as ingredients of the preconceptions and as reflections, rather than applying procedures for testing them qualitatively" (https://www.mdpi.com)

Since SLQF Levels 8 and 9 do not necessarily require the learner to carry out a research study, this statement should be interpreted as the ability to draft an outline of a research proposal that spells out clearly 'how' a hypothesis would be tested. However, the actual testing of the hypothesis after data collection is not necessary at these levels. It also does not necessarily imply that drafting a research proposal is a must, with the completion of an ethics clearance application. It is the 'ability' of constructing a hypothesis and identifying the methods to test it (which constitutes the core of a research proposal) that is a must (i.e. bare minimum) that the learner should possess. So, instead of developing a research proposal, displaying the ability required to develop a research proposal through an assignment could also be considered sufficient at these two levels.

The term 'hypotheses' should not be narrowly interpreted as a notion confined to the quantitative paradigm. The qualitative equivalent of a hypothesis (i.e. propositions or developing a sound research question/s with the necessary justifications using a sound theoretical framework for a qualitative research) should also be considered as an appropriate alternative.

With regard to SLQF Levels 10 and 11, it is expected that the learner conducts a research. Again, 'constructing new hypothesis and testing them' should not be interpreted literally. The important point is that the research should be carried out at, the level required, in a scientific manner in the qualitative (e.g., interpretivistic/constructivistic) or quantitative (e.g., positivistic) paradigm.

The 21st Century Skills are identified according to the "Partnership 21" framework. Additionally, a few examples of Socio Emotional Skills are mentioned. Both are mapped to the SLQF Level Descriptors in Annex VIII: 21st Century skills and Socio Emotional Skills explained and mapped with the SLQF Level Descriptors