Ontario Qualifications Framework (OQF)

Questions and Answers

1.  What is the Ontario Qualifications Framework (OQF)?

The Ontario Qualifications Framework (OQF), developed and produced by the Government of Ontario, is the first complete framework in Canada that includes all postsecondary credentials and apprenticeship certificates. The OQF includes apprenticeship certificates, the qualifications for private career colleges, the qualifications awarded by publicly-assisted colleges of applied arts and technology (CAATs) and degrees offered by publicly-assisted universities and other authorized providers.

The OQF describes the main purposes and features of each credential; it outlines the knowledge and skills expected of holders each type of qualification; and it shows the relationship and differences between qualifications. Each qualification can be seen as a reference point along a continuum.

2.  What is the relationship between the OQF and quality assurance?

The OQF is a key piece of Ontario's strategy to improve the quality, accessibility and accountability of its postsecondary education system. The general knowledge and skills expectations may be seen as standards and taken into account when assessing, selecting or developing programs. The framework helps institutions to study how well their programs are meeting expectations; it assists them in putting into place a quality assurance system; it adds to the credibility of the qualifications within the framework. The framework also makes it easier for students to compare similar programs at different levels.

3.  How do credit transfer, prior learning assessment and recognition (PLAR), and academic requirements fit into the OQF?

The OQF describes normal minimum requirements to enter each credential level. Each Ontario institution will have its own policies and practices for recognizing formal and non-formal prior learning as it may lead to advanced standing within a program. For apprenticeship certificates, the ministry sets academic equivalencies or PLAR in policy.

The OQF provides a tool to compare the learning expectations of different types of qualifications. Postsecondary institutions are responsible for determining the amount of credit that they award for learning achieved at other institutions. Decisions are based on how similar the programs are as well as on the student's performance. The OQF offers institutions a measure against which they can create policies on credit transfer and credential recognition by mapping out both the level and expectations of each qualification, and setting out what knowledge and skills a student may have already achieved before entering a program at a particular level. Because the OQF was developed, where possible, to be consistent with similar frameworks in other areas, it helps institutions compare expectations in Ontario with those set out elsewhere.

4.  Do programs have to meet the typical length listed in the OQF?

The hours or semesters set out in the OQF are the typical length of a program at each level for students who enter with the minimum admission requirements. In some cases, the programs' lengths are a pre-determined minimum so that they comply with legislative requirements. For example, Certificate 1 is a minimum 40 hours to comply with the Private Career Colleges Act, 2005 which requires all Private Career College vocational programs to be at least 40 hours long to be approved by the ministry. As another example, the Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology (CAAT) Credentials Framework is built into the OQF. In this Credentials Framework each program leading to a credential may provide for a range of hours to achieve the learning outcomes. It is the responsibility of the CAAT to design each program's curriculum and decide how it is delivered. Colleges approve programs and credentials, and ensure that they are consistent with the CAAT Credentials Framework.

5.   What is the link between the standards outlined in the OQF and those set by professional/industry associations or employers?

The OQF identifies the qualifications that recognized Ontario postsecondary institutions may award, and the knowledge and skills expected of holders of each credential. For the purpose of licensing or certification, professional associations and/or regulating bodies may identify the knowledge and skills that graduates need to enter practice.

6.  What does the OQF mean for public college (program) standards?

While the OQF describes broad learning expectations, program standards set out the job-related skills (vocational learning outcomes), other workplace skills (essential employability skills) and general education requirements for programs of study in the Ontario public college system.

The OQF does not replace program standards nor does it address content delivery (curriculum); these are the responsibility of each college under the Ontario Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology Act, 2002.

Together, both the OQF and program standards are key parts of the Ontario Government's quality framework.

7.  Where do college degrees in applied areas of study (sometimes referred to as “applied degrees”) fall within the OQF?

Publicly-assisted universities may offer any degree program, including a degree in an applied area of study. Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology may apply for ministerial consent to offer only degrees in applied areas of study. These applied degrees fall into the category of Baccalaureate: Honours.

Degrees in applied areas offered by other providers could fall into this, or other degree categories.

The descriptions of degree categories include the differences between academically-oriented, profession-oriented degrees and degrees in applied areas of study.

8.  Will a graduate diploma credential be added to the framework?

If the Council of Ontario Universities or the Ontario Council on Graduate Studies develops the knowledge and skills expectations for a graduate diploma qualification, the ministry will include it in the OQF.

9.  How can the OQF be used for program design?

The OQF sets out clear guidelines for each credential including its main goals, normal admission requirements and typical length. It also sets out the generic skills that the holder of each qualification should be able to demonstrate. The descriptions in the OQF can assist institutions or program developers when they design new programs and determine which credential will be awarded.

 10.  Who can award each of the credentials (e.g. degree, Ontario College Diploma, apprenticeship certificate)?

Qualifications are not tied to type of institution. If a program from a particular institution meets all legislative and regulatory requirements, that institution may offer the credential. In cases where more than one institution type may offer the same credential, they must meet the same criteria.

Certificate of Apprenticeship/Certificate of Qualification

The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities awards the Certificate of Apprenticeship and Certificate of Qualification as a part of the Trades Qualification and Apprenticeship Act, 1990 and the Apprenticeship and Certification Act, 1998. Approved training delivery providers are authorized to deliver apprenticeship programs.

Ontario College Certificate

Only Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology are authorized to award an Ontario College Certificate or an Ontario College Graduate Certificate.

Ontario College Diplomas

Only Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology are authorized to award an Ontario College Diploma or an Ontario College Advanced Diploma.


Under the Postsecondary Education Choice and Excellence Act, 2000 (PSECE), Ministerial consent or an Act of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario is required to operate a university and/or offer a degree. Currently, Ontario public colleges as well as some private organizations and out-of-province private and public organizations are authorized to grant degrees through Ministerial consent under the PSECE Act.

Publicly-assisted Ontario universities and some private institutions are authorized to award degrees through an act of the Ontario Legislature. All degree-granters in Ontario must meet the same standards.

11.  How does the OQF get reviewed and updated?

The Ministry is responsible for monitoring developments in the postsecondary education system to ensure that the OQF remains current and aligned with changes to legislation and regulation, and reflects any changes in credential names and government policy directives. The OQF will also be updated to include new qualifications as they are established.