OCR Tech levels (interim-reformed)

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The QIP covers all OCR Tech level (interim-reformed) qualifications that do not meet the full requirements set by the Department for Education (DfE) and do not contribute towards performance measures for 2018.

These qualifications meet the interim-reformed requirements for 2016 and 2017 performance tables.

  • England
  • Northern Ireland
  • Wales (Principal Learning in Engineering Wales is the approved qualification for students who study in Wales)

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.

Education context

Some vocational qualifications offered at Level 3 have been reformed as a result of changes to school performance tables. Vocational qualifications must meet the criteria set by the Department for Education (DfE) in order to count towards school performance tables. These reforms mean that 91% of the Level 3 qualifications that previously counted towards school performance tables were removed from performance tables in 2016.

For accountability purposes, vocational qualifications are now be classified as:

  • Tech level qualifications: The purpose of these qualifications is to lead to a ‘recognised occupation’. Examples provided by the DfE include engineering, accounting, construction, manufacturing, agriculture and IT. These qualifications must meet a number of criteria, including the endorsement of five employers registered at Companies House.
  • Applied General qualifications: The purpose of these qualifications is to provide a broader vocational education. They ‘are designed for students wanting to continue their education through applied learning.’ These qualifications must meet a number of criteria, including endorsement by at least three universities and colleges.

The reform to vocational qualifications is being conducted in two stages: an interim stage and full stage. Each of these stages introduced new criteria for vocational qualifications to meet in order to count towards school performance tables.

The first teaching of the qualifications reformed on an interim basis was from 2014 and these counted towards school performance tables in 2016. Only qualifications that meet the full criteria count towards performance tables from 2018. The qualifications listed in this QIP are classified as Tech level qualifications however do not meet the full criteria to count towards performance tables from 2018 in respect of content, assessment and grading. Schools and colleges may offer qualifications that are not included in the performance tables, if the qualifications are approved for teaching by the Secretary of State under Section 96.

Read Section 96.

The 2016 and 2017 OCR Tech levels meet the interim requirements set by the DfE and therefore may be offered in schools and colleges alongside the 2018 fully reformed versions:


Interim Requirement (for qualifications counting in 2016 performance tables)

Full Requirement (for qualifications counting in 2018 performance tables)

A. Declared Purpose



B. Size



C. Recognition



D. Synoptic Assessment



E. External Assessment



F. Grading



G. Employer involvement (Technical Level Qualifications only)



H. Progression



I. Proven Track Record



As noted in the table above, the 2016/17 and 2018 versions of Tech level qualifications are fundamentally different.

For more information on the specific changes to 2018 Tech levels, please refer to a reformed QIP. Please also see ‘Key issues for UK HE admissions’ for some additional considerations when assessing these qualifications.

Further information about Tech level qualifications, and the range of qualifications that meet the 2018 requirements, can be found here

Regulation of Tech level and Applied General qualifications

The regulation of Tech level and Applied General qualifications delivered in England is the responsibility of Ofqual.

The regulatory approach undertaken for Tech level and Applied General qualifications differs to A levels. This is because there are no specific qualification-level criteria for Tech levels, as there are for GCSEs, AS and A levels currently.  Applied Generals is a category introduced by the Department for Education for accountability purposes rather than a specific type of regulated qualification.  To be included in the Tech level category, qualifications have to demonstrate particular features outlined in the table above.

Tech levels must comply with Ofqual’s general rules, as is the case with all regulated qualification.

The OCR Diploma in Business Administration consists of units related to the national occupational standards developed by Skills CfA, the Sector Skills Council for business and administration.

Principal Learning in Engineering is based on the criteria set out for the specialised Diploma qualifications in engineering at Level 3 (November 2006) as developed by the employer-led Diploma Development Partnership (DDP) in engineering.

Awarding organisation
  • OCR
Qualification codes
500/6485/X (OCR Level 3 Diploma in Administration – Business Professional)
500/2400/0 (OCR Level 3 Principal Learning in Engineering)

The specifications are modular in structure and are made up of a series of units. Each unit has a credit value based on its size. One credit is equal to learning outcomes achievable in 10 hours of learning. 

The Diploma in Administration is credit-based and comprises mandatory and optional units; the rules of combination specify the minimum credit to be achieved through mandatory and optional units.

Principal Learning in Engineering (Wales) comprises nine mandatory units; to achieve the qualification the student must achieve all nine units.

For more detailed information on the units/structure of these qualifications, you should review the specification of the individual qualification you are interested in on the OCR website.

Subject areas
  • Engineering
  • Administration (Business Professional)
  • Level 3

These are Level 3 qualifications regulated to the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF).¹

Level 3 is broadly aligned to the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) Level 6 / 7.

¹ The QCF was a credit-based transfer system which recognised qualifications and units by awarding credits. It has now been withdrawn for all new qualifications and replaced by the RQF. The RQF is the new system for cataloguing all qualifications regulated by Ofqual, indexing them by level and size.


The Level 3 Diploma in Administration is graded Pass, Fail.

The Level 3 Principal Learning is graded A* – E.


The qualifications contain units which are internally assessed and externally moderated by OCR.

The qualifications also contain units assessed by OCR though external examination. In the Diploma for Administration the optional text processing units are assessed by external examination. In Principal Learning for Engineering, two of the nine mandatory units are assessed by external examination.

For specific unit information, you should review the specification of the individual qualification you are interested in on the OCR website

Contribution of assessment components to overall grade

For the Diploma in Administration, students who achieve the minimum eligible credit value specified by the rules of combination for the qualification will achieve a pass for the qualification.

For the Principal Learning in Engineering, students must achieve all units to achieve the qualification; grades are calculated by adding students’ points scores for each unit.

Resit arrangements

During the life of the qualifications students may resit the examined and moderated units an unlimited number of times before entering for certification.

Guided/notional learning hours
OCR Level 3 Diploma in Administration (Business Professional): 333 hours
OCR Level 3 Principal Learning in Engineering: 540 hours
Guided/notional learning hours notes

For comparison, the size of one A level is 360 GLH.

UCAS Tariff points

OCR Level 3 Diploma in Administration (Business Professional) (QCF)

Grade Points
P 32

OCR Level 3 Principal Learning in Engineering

Grade Points
A* 84
A 72
B 60
C 48
D 36
E 24


Key issues for UK HE admissions

Tech level qualifications are advanced (Level 3) qualifications, mainly taken by 16-19 year old students who want to develop transferable knowledge and skillsspecialise 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 do not meet the full DfE criteria from 2018:

  • Applicants holding interim-reformed Tech level qualifications may not have had experience of external or synoptic assessment.
  • 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.
  • These qualifications are fundamentally different to the reformed versions and 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. HEPs may also wish to consider their approach to setting and listing entry requirements for the specific qualifications, and any differences should be clearly articulated.

Tech levels are designed to support progression to employment, an apprenticeship, or to higher education.

Progression to higher education is generally within the vocational area of the Tech level, and may be to a foundation degree.

The exact curriculum studied may depend on the choice of optional units taken.

Timing of assessments/results for learners

Students may complete internally assessed units at any time.

For Principal Learning in Engineering there are two examination sessions per year in January and June.

For the Diploma in Administration there are three examination sessions in spring, summer and autumn.

Qualification dates notes

The Diploma in Administration is current.

The Principal Learning in Engineering will be withdrawn from examination in summer 2017.

Reporting and certification information

The results of these qualifications are not reported to UCAS through Awarding Body Linkage (ABL). This does not reflect the validity of the qualification. HE providers will need to ask applicants to provide their own evidence of achievement.

View the results available through ABL.

OCR issues certificates as follows:

  • Diploma in Administration certificates on achievement of the qualification
  • Principal Learning certificates twice a year, in January and June
Progression information

Tech level qualifications differ in size; some may meet the entry requirements for higher education in their own right in a related area and some may need to be offered in conjunction with other Level 3 qualifications, for instance A levels. In addition, some higher education courses may require specific levels of achievement in particular units or ask for additional qualifications to satisfy subject knowledge requirements.

Students achieving these qualifications may progress to:

  • employment at an appropriate level, or into a job requiring higher level training in an appropriate sector
  • other related occupational qualifications
  • to further education (FE) and undertake additional Level 3 qualifications or Level 4 qualifications
  • to an apprenticeship or higher apprenticeship
  • to undergraduate study at a UK higher education (HE) establishment, particularly,  although not limited to, the same subject area

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.