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What is meant by a level 4 or level 5 course?

International Qualification Frameworks

Qualifications are defined by their levels and credits and various frameworks exist in different countries to categorise courses according to these attributes.

Broadly speaking, the higher the level the more advanced the qualification is and the more the credits the longer the duration of study.

, Qualification Levels


A qualifications framework acts as a reference to help place qualifications within a hierarchy which then allows learners and educational institutions to make comparisons. Having a framework thus facilitates the movement of international students between countries that have different education systems and qualifications.


The levels of qualifications in England have been standardised according to the:

  •  Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF)

  •  Frameworks for Higher Education Qualifications of UK Degree-Awarding Bodies (FHEQ)

In the above frameworks, there are eight levels ranging from entry level courses at level 1 to doctorate qualifications at level 8. More information on this is described below.

Note that Scotland has a separate national qualifications framework.


European countries follow the European qualifications Framework (EQF), which is very similar to the UK framework, with only a small difference at levels 4 and 5.


Australia follows the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) and has 10 levels with Level 6 being equivalent to Foundation and Associate Degrees.


The United States does not use an official classification for its higher education institutions. However, by examining the qualifications at university level it is still possible to make valid comparisons of qualifications. For instance, the Associate Degree in the US, often taken at community college level, is broadly equivalent to the foundation degrees in the UK and Europe, being of 2-year duration and sitting between the exit of High School and a Bachelors degree.

, Qualification Levels


Higher Education Levels (UK)

Level 4

Undergraduate level qualifications start at level 4 in the UK system (RQF and FHEQ), which is equivalent to the first year of undergraduate level study. The Higher International Certificate offered by iLearn Engineering® has been designed to fit in at this level.

Holders of a level 4 qualification will have a sound knowledge of the basic concepts of a subject and will have learned how to take different approaches to solving problems. They will be able to communicate accurately and will have the qualities needed for employment requiring the exercise of some personal responsibility. This level of qualification is often a first step towards obtaining higher level qualifications such as the Higher International Diploma.

Level 5

The second year of university is referred to as level 5 and the Higher International Diploma available from iLearn Engineering® sits at this level for instance.

The so-called Foundation Degree and Associate Degree are examples of level 5 qualifications as well as other qualification such as HNDs and Higher International Diplomas.

Holders of qualifications at this level will have developed a sound understanding of the principles in their field of study and will have learned to apply those principles more widely. Moreover, holders of qualifications at this level will have the qualities necessary for employment in situations requiring the exercise of personal responsibility and decision-making.

Level 6

 Finally, level 6 represents the final year of undergraduate study culminating with a Bachelors degree. Student’s can ‘top-up’ their level 5 qualification at many universities to achieve their degree qualifications.

Students that have completed a Higher International Diploma from iLearn Engineering® can apply to universities that provide online engineering top-ups for BEng and BSc degrees, to achieve Bachelor’s degree qualifications (all online remote). Please contact iLearn Engineering® course support team for further information on these progression routes with universities.

Alternatively, students may opt to study for an equivalent level 6 qualification such as a Professional Graduate Diploma from iLearn Engineering®, which provide an equivalent Level 6 qualification but at a more affordable price.

Level 7 and 8

Masters level programmes sit at level 7 and doctoral qualifications such as a PhD are at the highest level in the UK framework at level 8. Students that have completed the Higher International Diploma from iLearn Engineering® are eligible to apply for online engineering top-ups to MSc level with certain UK universities.

For more information on any of these levels, qualifications and online engineering top-ups, please contact iLearn Engineering® for advice.


What are credits? Find out more information on credits here.

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Furthermore, our courses are available internationally and are accredited by a UK Awarding Body.