Chapter 2 - Definitions

Terms used in the Credit and Qualifications Framework (CQF) are defined as follows:

Academic credit

Credit is awarded to a learner on successful completion of a module.

The minimum academic credit allocated to a module is 5 credits. Subsequent credit allocations shall be in further multiples of 5, with 15, 30, 45, 60 and 90-credit modules being the norm. Also see notional study hours below.


Where academic credit awarded by the University of Exeter is to be converted to European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) credits, this occurs on the basis of one CQF academic credit being the equivalent to 0.5 ECTS credits regardless of the academic level of the academic credit. The academic level and mark are not converted. Incoming ECTS credits are incorporated in accordance with the requirements for the programme, and where applicable, the collaboration.

Further guidance on credit value and ECTS is found within the Approval and Revision of Taught Modules and Programmes Handbook.  

A student cannot take more than the credits required for a programme, stage or award. Any exceptions to this must be reviewed and approved by the Dean for Taught Students, in consultation with the Student Records Data Manager. Approved exceptions include: International Summer School, modules utilised in the MRes Health and Wellbeing programme which forms part of the Economic and Social Research Council South West Doctoral Training Partnership, and Professional Development Experience modules, which do not contribute towards degree progression or award.


Credits gained during study are still awarded if a student fails, and are displayed on the transcript/Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR).

Academic level

Each module or programme has an associated academic level that reflects its depth, complexity, amount of pre-requisite knowledge, and the academic skills required to pass it. The academic level of a module is informed by the subject for that module and remains constant for all programmes within which it occurs.

The academic levels used at the University of Exeter are the national levels as set in the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) for general and vocational qualifications regulated by Ofqual in England:

  • Level 3: Foundation Certificate (FDCert)

  • Level 4: Certificate of Higher Education (CertHE)

  • Level 5: Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE)/Foundation Degree (FD)

  • Level 6: Degree with Honours

  • Level 7: Master’s Degree, Integrated Master’s Degree

  • Level 8: Doctorate

    See Chapter 9 - Academic Credit Requirements for Award within the CQF Handbook for more information on the awards listed above.

Accredited prior learning (APL) Exemption from modules on the basis of certified learning (APCL) or on the basis of non-certified acquisition of relevant skills and knowledge, gained through relevant experience (APEL).
Assessment criteria

Descriptions of what the learner will have to demonstrate in order that learning outcomes specific to a module have been achieved. The purpose of assessment criteria is to establish clear and unambiguous standards of achievement in respect of each learning outcome. Each individual assessment point will have specific assessment criteria. See Chapter 4  - Generic University Assessment Criteria for Taught Programmes within the Learning and Teaching Support Handbook for more information. 

Level descriptors are used as a guide during this process. See Chapter 7 - Academic Level within the CQF Handbook for more information. 

Award Undergraduate and graduate certificates and diplomas, bachelors’ honours and ordinary degrees, postgraduate certificates and diplomas, integrated undergraduate and postgraduate masters’ degrees, and graduate research degrees. The awards offered by the University are detailed in the Calendar.
Condonement The process that allows an Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee to award credit to a student, to permit progression or award, despite failure to achieve a pass mark. See Chapter 8 – Progression of the Assessment,  Awarding and Progression Handbook for more information.
Module A self-contained block of teaching and learning leading to the award of academic credit.
Notional study hours

The number of hours required to complete an academic credit point, module, or programme. One academic credit point is equivalent to 10 notional study hours, therefore a 15-credit module represents 150 notional study hours, comprising scheduled learning and teaching, guided independent study and placements. A year of undergraduate Bachelor's study equates to 1200 hours of full-time study (120 credits) and a year of taught postgraduate Master's study equates to 1800 hours of full-time study (180 credits).

In accordance with the Office for Students definitions, all full-time programmes should normally;

- Require involvement in study* for at least 21 hours per week for at least 24 weeks per year, and;
- Involve modules normally to a value of at least 120 credits per year.

Programmes with a time and/ or credit threshold beneath that stipulated above for full-time study should be considered to be part time programmes.

*This includes guided independent study.

For Degree and Higher Apprenticeship programmes, please see the Special Provisions information for further guidance.

Programme of study (programme) A grouping of modules approved by Senate or its delegated authority, and leading to an award of the University of Exeter. The approved curriculum is typically defined on the programme specification.
Programme Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs) An expression contained within a programme specification of what a typical learner will have achieved on successful completion of the programme. Programme outcomes are related to the qualification level and will relate to the sum of the experience of learners on a particular programme.
Stage The sub-division of a programme of study into major steps of progression; stages are commonly consistent with academic years. (please refer to the Annex for exceptions) Each stage provides a coherent learning experience and may be recognised with an interim exit award. Normally, modules within a stage will be at the same level, but modules at different levels may be taken within the same stage, as specified in the programme specification.
Total credit value The total amount of academic credit required for an award.

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