WALES is to introduce a single credit framework for post-16 qualifications by April 2003, the National Assembly has announced.
The new framework aims to simplify education in Wales and make learning opportunities more attractive under one qualification system based on nine stages from entry level to PhD.
All existing qualifications, including GCSEs, A-levels, GNVQs, NVQs and degrees, will come under one system using the currency of credit. It will include existing credit-based provision, such as Open College Network awards designed for adults.
A new Welsh baccalaureate qualification and a new modern skills diploma for adults are currently being developed to fit within this new framework.
Announcing the move at a conference of post-16 professionals in Cardiff, Jane Davidson, the National Assembly's Minister for Education and Lifelong Learning, said she wanted to see the framework "progressed and progressed quickly".
"No-one, including the public, should be surprised when the credit-based framework becomes an operational reality," she said. "It will form the central plank of all education and training in Wales, and needs to be the result of strong collaboration between all partners."
Steve Martin, chief executive of Education and Learning Wales (ELWa), the joint body for further and higher education, said the new system would offer "parity in the recognition of learning, whether it is in the workplace, community, school, college or university".
Implementing the new credit framework will mean new management information requirements for FE colleges, private and voluntary sector training providers.
ELWa has pledged "a substantial sum of money" to help institutions adapt, but has not disclosed a figure.
Credit equivalences will be available for all curriculum 2000 qualifications from this autumn, said Dr Sonia Reynolds, director of the Credit and Qualifications Framework for Wales project.
A system operating across all post-16 providers will be in place by April 2003, though it will not be fully formed. "We are anticipating an evolving situation with awarding bodies," said Dr Reynolds.
Wales has been at the forefront of a movement towards a credit-based system. It has worked with the Learning and Skills Development Agency, formerly FEDA, and post-16 bodies in Northern Ireland, to establish a common credit currency for a range of qualifications.
The project is backed by a host of colleges, universities, national training organisations and awarding bodies. But despite developments in devolved Wales, the idea of a credit-based framework has met with scepticism in Westminster.
The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority has been asked to look at the feasibility of a unitised credit-based system in its development of a national qualifications framework.
A spokeswoman said: "As regards unitisation, advice has gone to ministers already and we're waiting for a response. With regard to credit the advice is due to go out this summer. We can't comment on the actual advice that'll be given."