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Introducing NQA

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has established a National Qualifications Authority (NQA). A federal decree to establish the Authority was issued by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan in late 2010. The authority will be affiliated to the Cabinet, have independent legal status and full legal capacity to act in accordance with the Federal Decree No. 1 for the year 2010.

The establishment of a national qualifications authority is a response to the vision for learning in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and articulated through a range of Federal and Emirate strategies. To meet this vision, a project "called the Qualifications Framework Project" was initiated in 2006 by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, "to create an open and inclusive environment in which every individual's learning is valued and recognised, leading to a highly knowledgeable and skilled society in a competitive world".

To this end the Decree gives effect to:

  • the establishment of a National Qualifications Authority (NQA) for the UAE, to cover education and training, including vocational education and training, in the UAE, and its relationship with the economy and labour market
  • the development of a national qualifications framework for the UAE
  • identifying appropriate national mechanisms covering vocational education and training and development of related systems and processes
  • development of a range of quality assurance processes to assure quality of outcomes of education and training and in particular vocational education and training, and its relationship with the labour market in the UAE.

For more information download the Decree's Aims and Objectives which is available in English and Arabic.

The Authority is to work in coordination with other existing concerned authorities to establish and develop a national system of educational qualifications in the state through drawing up plans and policies in this regard within a comprehensive and standardised strategy of the qualifications, which determines regulations and standards of higher, general, technical education qualification and vocational training and how to develop them continuously in order to keep pace with scientific and technological progress and the requirements of economic and social development in UAE.

To give effect to the Decree a NQA Steering Committee has been established, pending the establishment of the Board and appointment of the Director General, to follow on and further the initial research and development work undertaken by the previous Qualifications Framework Project Team to assist in developing the Decree's aims and objectives. The NQA Steering Committee commenced its work in late 2010, charged with the responsibility for establishing the operational arrangements and processes of the new Authority, and prioritising and progressing key initiatives requiring urgent attention.

The Committee convened a public meeting of key stakeholder instrumentalities on Tuesday 21st December 2010 at the Ministry of Presidential Affairs (MOPA) to formally inform them of the initiative and the transitional steps envisaged to full establishment of the Authority. The establishment process includes the appointment of relevant Board members and a Director General by the Cabinet, and the mobilisation of appropriate staff to further aims and objectives of the Decree. It recently endorsed an organisation and classification structure that facilities the process for commencing the start-up recruitment phase. Dr. Thani A. Al Mehairi commenced as Director General in December 2011.

In the ensuing months the Committee will focus its initial attention on recruiting suitable senior personnel to join the NQA with suitable expertise and experience to initiate the development of relevant processes and procedures, and coordinate the mobilisation of additional personnel for given operational activities. Further, work is underway to identify suitable premises and related corporate issues associated with the establishment of an authoritative entity.

 

Qualifications Framework for the UAE

A key objective of the Decree is to develop a qualifications framework for the UAE. This is a major priority, as it is to be the centrepiece for the Authority in its consultations and deliberations with a wide range of education and training bodies as well as industry and other key stakeholders in implementing the full array of its aims and objectives. This national framework would be the first major piece of public work to be produced, and in turn presented by the NQA Board, in due course, to the Cabinet for noting.

In light of the above, the NQA Steering Committee resolved to establish a national Qualifications Framework Technical Coordination Group (QFTC-Group) as a mechanism to involve key stakeholders with interest in developing the Framework, as a matter of priority. The Committee considered it important that such an advisory group be formed and truly representative of key stakeholders with particular interest in the development of a qualifications framework for the UAE. Of note is that the Framework is to have regard with international alignments to similar frameworks, including the emerging European Qualifications Framework (EQF).

In December 2011, the NQA released the Qualifications Framework for the Emirates Handbook. The Handbook provides detailed information about the architecture of qualifications in the UAE and also defines the requirements that will enable UAE qualifications to be compared with and valued alongside foreign qualifications.

The Handbook sets out the policies, structures, standards, systems and procedures for a Qualifications Framework for the Emirates, known as the QFEmirates. It enables a coherent, consistent and robust approach to be taken to the design of qualifications for higher education, general education and technical, vocational and professional education and training. It sets out criteria for both the accreditation of qualifications and for those organisations in the public and private sectors which are deliver them. It provides guidance and a reference tool for accreditation and awarding bodies and qualifications designers and developers.

Perhaps most importantly, the QFEmirates is a facilitative tool that aims to promote the concept of lifelong learning as the means to enable individuals to plan and access learning in order to fulfill their potential and to contribute to the future growth and prosperity of the UAE.

From the Chairman

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Authority Board Members

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Aims and Objectives

Aims and Objectives of the National Qualifications Authority

(Official Arabic to English interpretation - from the Decree of aims and objectives)
  1. Design plans and policies, and develop a comprehensive and unified national strategy for qualifications.
  2. Establish and continuously maintain standards and regulations for qualifications of higher education, general education and technical, vocational and professional education and training to keep pace with scientific and technological progress, and to meet the requirements of economic and social development.
  3. Develop policies and procedures for qualifications of higher education, general education and vocational, technical and professional education and training so as to obtain national and international accreditation (recognition).
  4. Develop and maintain systems, processes and procedures to assess learning outcomes that serve as the basis for awarding qualifications.
  5. Issue equivalencies for higher education, general education and vocational, technical, and professional education and training qualifications.
  6. Assess and accredit higher education, general education and vocational, technical, and professional education and training providers.
  7. Develop policies and procedures for access, transfer and progression of individuals within higher education, general education and vocational, technical, and professional education and training streams inside and outside the country.
  8. Advise individuals and entities to promote the concept of life-long learning.
  9. Establish and maintain systems, processes and procedures to ensure that the National Qualifications Framework is the national frame of reference for qualifications in the country.
  10. Analyse and provide qualifications-relevant data, and submit proposals to relevant entities, to improve the quality of higher education, general education and vocational, technical and professional education and training systems.
  11. Establish specialised committees to develop national occupational (skills) standards for all jobs in compliance with the National Qualifications Framework levels.
  12. Develop and maintain an integrated system to license assessors of vocational, technical and professional education and training qualifications.
  13. Support the efforts of all entities responsible for assessing and regulating workforce quality.
  14. Establish and maintain a national database for all education and training providers in the country, to include learners, accredited (recognised) national qualifications and national occupational (skills) standards.
  15. Conduct studies and periodic evaluations, so as to improve the overall performance of the national qualifications system.
  16. Implement any other tasks or responsibilities assigned by the Council of Ministers.

For more information download the Decree's Aims and Objectives which is available in English and Arabic.

ORGANISATIONAL STRUCTURE

To further the establishment of the NQA, the NQA Steering Committee recommended an interim organisational structure, pending the appointment of members to the Board and the Director General and Deputy Director General. In this way the Committee initiated the start-up process of giving life to the organisation by mobilising and recruiting of key personnel to assist it secure premises, identify resources and build organisational capability.

The interim organisational structure consists of four core areas:

  1. Qualifications Framework
  2. Vocational Education and Training Awards Commision (VETAC)
  3. Quality and Performance incorporating the Authority's R&D arm
  4. Corporate Services
The NQA intends to maintain the previously established Qualifications Framework Technical Coordination Group (QFTC-Group), which is responsible for a range of activities associated with the QFEmirates and in particular the currency of the Handbook. The Authority will establish QFEmirates Policy and Advisary Committee (PAC) to develop policy, provide advice and produce supporting guidelines for Board consideration and approval.

 

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

Inspired by, and in consistent with, the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces to keep pace with the requirements of strategic plans for human and economic development so as to "create an open and inclusive environment in which every individual's learning is valued and recognised, leading to a highly knowledgeable and skilled society in a competitive world. Accordingly, the Qualifications Framework Project was established in mid-2006, and a project team was assembled, comprising national and international experts. The work of the project team was highly collaborative and focused on developing draft policies, procedures and structures tailored to national needs for the Qualifications Framework and all the associated elements of an Integrated Qualifications System such as Credit Accumulation and Transfer, Recognition of Non-formal and Informal Learning, Qualifications and Information Register, Development of Vocational Qualifications and Units of Learning Outcomes based on Occupational Standards, International Referencing of Qualifications, Quality Assurance of Qualifications, etc. further, the Project engaged in ongoing consultations with stakeholders and many relevant national and international organisations.

Key drivers

Often key drivers underpinning the introduction of a national qualifications framework and related system are:

  • Single framework:
    The need for an enabling mechanism (a unified and singular system and reference point for all national qualifications) that could be used by a country's decision makers to develop relevant strategic educational and training policies and directions (including prioritising targeted areas) to improve the country's economic, social and personal competitiveness, and standing in the world community
  • Common benchmark:
    The need to bring 'national' order (using common nomenclature and outcomes based criteria) to the many and varied qualifications on offer and/or being issued across the country by licensed education and training providers or those considering being licensed, and as an aid in the development of new recognisable and government endorsed national qualifications
  • Qualifications flexibility:
    The need to facilitate adequate flexibility within qualifications' structures to accommodate changing technologies, changing work organisation, learner mobility, and learner career paths, and which include improved opportunities for access and transferability between different licensed educational and training providers
  • A framework of common language:
    The need to provide a framework of common language that can be used as a ready guide for both employers and learners/employees in terms of identifying the level of education required when advertising for jobs. It also serves as guidance to individuals to identify what type of jobs they may be eligible for and what qualifications are needed in order to apply for them
  • Labour market
    The need to address skills shortages/deficits in the economy or increase labour market opportunities for individuals through education and training
  • Quality and consistency
    The need for improved and transparent mechanisms for assuring the quality, consistency and rigour of national qualifications for the country, community, employers and learners/employees
  • International alignments
    The need to establish linkages and alignments with other countries to effect international comparisons leading to improved information for assisting in learner mobility
  • Life-long learning
    The need for more transparent mechanisms that facilitate recognition of 'life-long' learning including formal, non-formal and informal learning and the need to ensure, for the long-term, that all qualifications at least support and recognise life-long learning and are aligned to other international frameworks for mobility.
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