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Prior to 1990 the former Council for National Academic Awards (CNAA) CAT scheme served as a model for many of the higher education institutions for which the CNAA had responsibility. The CNAA CAT scheme was based on two 'benchmarks', the honours and master's degree. Each full-time academic year was deemed to involve 1200 hours of study, thus 120 credits was awarded for a full-time year. One credit, at any particular level, was equal to 10 hours of study. Under the CNAA CAT scheme a full-time honors degree (based on three years full-time) was 360 credit points.
The 1990s saw a rapid expansion of CAT schemes and by 1996 eighty percent of HEIs had introduced a form of CATS. In many cases, however, the schemes were not always applicable throughout the institution but restricted to combined studies programmes, many of which were part-time and adult orientated (Credit in Higher Education, 1997).
The transfer of degree awarding powers from the CNAA, to what became the post - 1992 universities, and the traditional autonomy granted to universities in the UK, led to a lack of uniformity between the various CAT schemes. The absence of a national UK focal point for credit has meant that the initiative for credit developments has, since around 1992, passed to regional and national credit consortia.
Credit consortia are voluntary groups of educational institutions, mainly operating in the higher education sector, which collaborate on the development and use of credit based systems. Within the HE sector, a number of credit consortia have been established.
In 1994 two credit consortia, SEEC (Southern England Consortium for Credit Accumulation and Transfer), and HECIW (Higher Education Credit Initiative Wales) were separately funded by the DfEE to produce guidelines for the operation of credit systems. The outcome of the SEEC project was the publication of the Credit Guidelines, Models and Protocols (1996) while HECIW published the Welsh Higher Education Credit Framework Handbook (1996).
The credit bodies - NUCCAT, SEEC, CQFW and NICATS- have responded to a QAA invitation, and have published a set of credit guidelines - 'Guidance to support the use of credit within the Higher Educations Qualifications Framework' (November 2001). The Summary Edition and Background and Recommendations circulated with the Credit Guidelines give further information.
The SEEC consortium still exists and includes some 37 establishments of various types in the HE sector. It is funded by contribution from the member institutions. It services the network, undertakes research and development projects and organises conferences and other staff development activities.
The Northern Universities Consortium for Credit Accumulation and Transfer (NUCCAT) is another major HE credit consortium which was developed from a group of university registrars formed in the early 90s to collaborate on 'modularisation'. NUUCAT acts as a forum for universities in Northern England and Northern Ireland to meet on a regular basis to discuss issues relating to credit and assessment. The consortium now includes 37 universities with almost equal membership and involvement of new and traditional universities.
The work of the main UK credit consortia was developed and refined by the Inter Consortium Credit Agreement (InCCA) Project (Sept. 1996 - Sept. 1998), funded by the Department for Education and Employment (DfEE). This project was led by SEEC, HECIW and NUCCAT (Northern Universities Consortium for CAT) with the additional involvement of NICATS and the Scottish Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (SCOTCAT). The aim of the InCCA project was to obtain agreement on a set of principles which would form the basis for a common framework for the use of credit in Higher Education. The InCCA final report, 'A common framework for learning' (September 1998) includes agreed guidelines for a national HE credit framework. [Top]
The Scottish Credit Accumulation and Transfer (SCOTCAT) framework is the national credit framework relating to higher education in Scotland. Although the SCOTCAT framework was derived from the CNAA model it has always differed in one important aspect, it has four, not three, undergraduate levels of credit to reflect the Scottish four-year degree.
SCOTCAT was established in 1991/2 and was the first national credit framework for higher education in the United Kingdom. It is supported through the QAA Scottish Office and overall policy is steered by the Scottish Advisory Committee on Credit and Access (SACCA). The model consists of an agreement between higher education institutions to work together on the development of credit-based learning and to adopt a common tariff of levels and points. [Top]
In the early 1990's The Further Education Unit (now the Further Education Development Agency/FEDA) developed specifications and guidelines for a credit framework based on Robertson's 'compositional' or 'bottom up' approach to credit (1994).
Within the FEU credit framework model, learning programmes are specified in terms of learning outcomes and assessment criteria which indicate with precision what is expected of the learner and the achievements to which any award of credit is related. The learning outcomes and assessment criteria enable small blocks of learning (referred to as units of assessment) to be assigned both a correct level and credit value. Credit value refers to the number of credits a learner achieves for successful completion of a unit of assessment at a specific level. It is determined by estimating the amount of notional learning time required, on average, for a learner, at a particular level, to achieve the learning outcomes identified within a unit of assessment. The notional learning time is then divided by whatever a single credit represents (within the FEU model the award of credit is based on outcomes achievable in 30 hours of notional learning time) to give the credit value.
Both the Wales Further Education credit framework (CREDIS) and the National Open College Network (NOCN) credit framework are based on the FEDA specifications. [Top]
In addition to NICATS, there are other UK FE/HE credit frameworks. These include the Welsh Credit and Qualifications Framework (WCQF), The Scottish Credit and Qualifications framework (SCQF) and the Derbyshire Regional Network.
The Welsh Lifelong Learning green paper on lifelong learning "Learning is for everyone" (April 1998) proposed a single qualifications framework for Wales based on unitisation and credit. The paper proposed that ACCAC (The national qualifications regulatory body in Wales) should advise on how to implement an integrated and seamless single post-16 qualifications framework for Wales by 2001. Consequently, the National Assembly's post Education and Training Committee has decided to adopt a credit-based qualifications framework in Wales (CQFW).
A Director for the CQFW initiative was appointed in August 2000 to drive forward its implementation. In addition, a Strategic Working Group of key stakeholders has been established to foster the development and implementation of the single post 16 credit-based qualifications framework. The group will build on the developments brought about through the CREDIS project involving the FE sector and the Open College Networks; and the work of the HE sector, developed through the Higher Education Credit Initiative Wales (HECIW) project.
The CQFW initiative is currently working in partnership with NICATS and LSDA on a UK Credit Equivalence Project aiming to provide consistent agreed credit equivalences for the National Qualifications Framework (NQF).
In Scotland, an integrated post-16 credit and qualifications framework (SCQF) is currently being developed. The SCQF will embrace all Scottish qualifications from all sectors of education, will be based around a single system of levels extending from standard grade to postgraduate, and employ a common system of credit. SCQF will build on the principles and definitions of the SCOTCAT framework which the higher education sector has used to varying extents since its inception in 1995.
The framework is being developed and managed by the Joint Advisory Committee, a joint committee of Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), and the Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals (COSHEP), with the involvement of the Scottish Office Education and Industry Department (SOEID).
The Derbyshire Regional Network (DRN) is a partnership of five Further Education colleges and the University of Derby which has been formed to establish a regional credit framework and a CAT system. The DRN is an example of a single credit system across the FE/HE divide and is also based on guidelines and specifications developed by the FEU. [Top]
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