The Department for Education (DfE) describe Tech level qualifications as follows:
Tech levels are rigorous advanced (level 3) technical qualifications on a par with A Levels and recognised by employers. They are for students aged 16 plus who want to specialise in a specific industry or prepare for a particular job. They cover jobs and careers where employers recruit people at this level or where a level 3 qualification is needed before students can progress to a related higher education course. Tech levels give students an opportunity to develop specialist knowledge and skills to help them get an apprenticeship or job, for example in engineering, IT, accounting or professional cookery, or progress to a higher level qualification. In some cases, a tech level qualification is a ‘licence to practise’ or can exempt someone holding the qualification from a professional exam. Tech levels are recognised by trade or professional bodies or at least five employers. Alternatively, the qualification may be accepted by a national licensed professional registration scheme.
The overall qualifications are graded as follows:
- Foundation Tech Level: P, M, D, D*
- Tech Level (540 GLH): PP, MP, MM, DM, DD, D*D, D*D*
- Tech Level (720 GLH): PP, MP, MM, DM, DD, D*D, D*D*
- Tech Level (1080 GLH): PPP, PPM, MMP, MMM, MMD, DDM, DDD, D*DD, D*D*D, D*D*D*
Individual units are graded P, M, D. The grades for each unit attract points which are added together to identify the final overarching qualification grade.
As noted in Education Context, to be classified as a Tech level qualification the qualification in question must meet certain criteria. This includes:
- A minimum of 30% external assessment
- A minimum of 40% mandatory core content
- An element of synoptic assessment
- There is a single resit opportunity
The above is the minimum requirements set out by the Department for Education.
For AQA Tech Levels, externally assessed units have timetabled two hour examinations in January and June of each year, and externally set and marked assignments (done in class over a specified time period) in January and June of each year. Internally assessed units are assessed by the centre and externally quality assured by AQA on demand.
Centres are also given opportunities to develop internal assignments in a way that encourages both synoptic learning and assessment.
Tech level qualifications are advanced (Level 3) qualifications, mainly taken by 16-19 year old students who want to specialise in a specific industry, occupation, or occupational group. They equip students with specialist knowledge and skills.
There are a number of key considerations for HEPs when reviewing Tech Level qualifications that meet the full DfE criteria from 2018:
- These qualifications are fundamentally different to their predecessors and Applied General qualifications, and are likely to result in students developing different skills and aptitudes. HEPs should review their understanding of these qualifications to ensure it remains up to date.
- The reformed qualifications include both external and synoptic assessment, as well as changes to resit processes. These changes are likely to result in fewer students passing the qualification. Equally, it is likely that grade distributions will change. In light of this, HEPs may wish to review their entry requirements, offer making and decision-making strategies in relation to these qualifications.
- The reformed and interim-reformed qualifications will be delivered by schools and colleges at the same time (see ‘Education context’). Therefore, HEPs may wish to consider their approach to setting and listing entry requirements for the specific qualifications.
- The dual running of the qualification may result in applicants declaring the incorrect version within their application. UCAS will be working to support applicants and advisers in this area.
- A larger mandatory core means that HEPs who require certain levels of achievement in particular units or ask for specific units to satisfy subject knowledge requirements should familiarise themselves with the new content specifications to ensure that these requirements are still valid. It should be noted that not all students will be able choose their optional units and these may be prescribed by the school or college, therefore HEPs should be cautious if requiring achievement in optional modules as part of their entry requirements, offer making and decision-making strategies.
Progression to higher education is generally within the vocational area of the Tech level, and may be to a foundation degree.
Applicants holding reformed Tech level qualifications will have had experience of external and synoptic assessment.
Tech level qualifications are supported by at least five employers from the job sector the qualification is related to. All students have to take part in meaningful activity involving employers in the course of their study. Examples are work placements, taking part in projects, or some of the course being taught by someone who works in the industry.