But Dr Nick Tate, chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, promised that worthwhile and high-quality awards would not be axed.
He told principals: "The last thing we want to do is remove from publicly-funded provision qualifications which serve a useful and distinctive purpose and which are offered by bodies with adequate quality assurance arrangements.
"But we will want to use the opportunity to weed out less than adequate qualifications and awarding bodies, limit unnecessary proliferation, clarify the relationship between different qualifications and signpost more clearly the routes to progression."
Dr Tate, who will be responsible for accrediting all publicly-funded qualifications, said he wanted to move to a situation where all awards were national or "hallmarked" for national use.
He said the much-criticised system of national vocational qualifications could be retained, but said the idea of a "related qualification" could bring other awards into the national framework, without the need to convert them into full NVQs.
"Whether this is best achieved through allowing more flexibility into the NVQ family, or through accommodating these related qualifications as part of the general vocational family is a mater for further thought and discussion.
"But there is clearly a place for such qualifications without creating a new, separate grouping which destroys the coherence of the emerging national framework."
He said he hoped professional groups would work towards bringing their qualifications into the national framework.
But he said debates about the relative merits of A-levels, general national vocational qualifications and NVQs were sterile, arguing "there is a need for the substantive features of all of these to figure in the provision we offer, though maybe not for ever with the same labels".
And he said there was a need to value all types of educational achievement, arguing society should "avoid the snobbishness which looks down on 'mere vocational attainment' and the corrosive populism which turns its nose up at things that are not obviously utilitarian or that do not slot neatly into current majority cultural tastes".