Legacy Qualifications vs New QCTO Occupational Qualification in South Africa

Legacy Qualifications vs New QCTO Occupational Qualification in South Africa

As of June 30, 2023, legacy or historical qualifications will be phased out as they expire and make way for occupational qualifications. Legacy qualifications, referring to outdated credentials issued before the establishment of the QCTO and OQSF frameworks, are being replaced by occupational qualifications designed to align with current industry needs, educational practices, and regulatory requirements. 

What does this mean?

Legacy qualifications make room for occupational qualifications, which have been developed based on the OQSF frameworks and standards. These new qualifications aim to address the evolving demands and advancements in industries, ensuring better alignment with the knowledge, skills, and competencies required in various fields. 

Legacy qualifications, due to their outdated nature, may no longer adequately reflect the current needs of specific industries or possess the necessary relevance. The transition to occupational qualifications aims to bridge this gap by offering targeted, industry-specific training and education. 

How will this happen?

Although legacy qualifications expired on 30 June 2023, transitional arrangements have been implemented to ease the shift. The last date for enrolment has been set for June 30, 2024, allowing learners to still pursue these qualifications until that date. Additionally, the last date for achievement has been extended to June 30, 2027, ensuring ample time for learners to complete their studies and assessments. 

The QCTO circular issued in January 2022 clarified the expiration process for legacy qualifications, specifically those known as unit standards-based or pre-2009 qualifications. The circular established a learner registration end date of June 30, 2023, signaling the conclusion of enrolment for these qualifications. It’s important to take note of the following important dates: 

Registration end date

Registration end date: June 30, 2023

Last date of enrolment

Last date of enrolment: June 30, 2024

Last date of achievement

Last date of achievement: June 30, 2027

Continuation of Training, Assessments, and Achievements for Learners

Following the registration end date, the training, assessments, moderations, and achievements associated with these qualifications will proceed as usual. Learners will still have the opportunity to enrol in these qualifications and pursue their unit standards until June 30, 2024. However, it is important to note that accredited Skills Development Providers (SDPs) will no longer be able to enrol new learners beyond this date. 

Moving forward, the training, assessments, moderation, and achievements on these qualifications will only continue for groups of learners who were registered before June 30, 2024. This ensures that learners who have already embarked on their educational journey can complete their studies and assessments without interruption. This period, known as the Teach out period, allows learners enrolled before June 30, 2024, to continue with their assessments, moderation, and achievements until June 30, 2027. 

It is important to be aware that statements of results and certificates for these qualifications will no longer be issued after June 30, 2027. Therefore, learners are encouraged to complete their studies within the designated timeframe to ensure they receive the necessary documentation and recognition for their achievements. 

By providing clarity on the continuation of training, assessments, and achievements, learners can make informed decisions regarding their educational journey, ensuring a smooth transition during this phase of qualification reform. 

What is an Occupational Qualification?

An occupational qualification is a type of credential that is closely connected to a specific trade, occupation, or profession. Its a qualification that can be obtained by participating in work-based learning experiences. This means that instead of just learning in a classroom, learners also get hands-on experience in the field they’re interested in. 

Occupational qualifications are made up of different parts, including knowledge unit standards, practical unit standards, and work experience unit standards. These standards are defined by the Skills Development Act, which is a set of rules and guidelines for developing qualifications that meet industry standards. 

Occupational qualifications focus on practical skills rather than just theoretical knowledge. They’re designed to give learners the specific skills and expertise they need to succeed in a particular job or industry. By participating in work-based learning, learners gain valuable experience and learn how to apply what they’ve learned in real-life situations.
Differences Between QCTO and Legacy Qualifications

There are two significant differences between the curriculum structures of QCTO (Quality Council for Trades and Occupations) and legacy qualifications. Lets explore some of the key distinctions. 

Unit standards

Legacy qualifications consist of multiple individual unit standards, each focusing on practical competencies, theoretical knowledge, and critical cross-field outcomes.

On the other hand, QCTO qualifications divide the legacy unit standards into three distinct modules: Knowledge, Practical Skills, and Work Experience.

Levels and Credits

In the legacy qualification system, each unit standard carries its own National Qualifications Framework (NQF) level and credit value. These unit standards can be offered separately or combined with related ones to form a comprehensive learning or skills program. The credits earned for each competent unit standard are recorded in the National Learner Records Database (NLRD) for each learner. 

In contrast, QCTO units of learning modules are not designed to be standalone components, and they do not receive separate credit allocations. Instead, credits are allocated to the entire qualification or part-qualification as a whole. This means that separate units of learning do not have credits loaded into the NLRD. 

Will the Legacy qualifications still be valid?

CTU made sure that additional current and relevant learning outcomes were added to the legacy programmes as part of the international certification requirements and based on industry needs continuously. Therefore, we equipped our graduates with industry-required competencies as part of the legacy programmes 

After the successful completion of a legacy programme, the achievement of the qualification by the students is recorded on the SAQA National Learner Database. This record will not be removed from the NLRD and will be valid.  

8 Important Facts About the Shift from Legacy Qualifications to Occupational Qualifications

Moving away from traditional academic qualifications, the transition from legacy qualifications to occupational qualifications represents a shift in the education and training system towards industry-specific and job-focused credentials. 

Occupational qualifications are designed to fulfil the specific skills and knowledge requirements of different occupations and industries. Their goal is to bridge the gap between education and employment by equipping individuals with the practical skills demanded by the job market. 

Industry representatives, employers, and professional bodies actively participate in the development of occupational qualifications. Their valuable input ensures that the qualifications remain relevant, up-to-date, and aligned with the skills and competencies needed in the workplace. 

Occupational qualifications emphasise the assessment of practical skills, abilities, and knowledge necessary for effective job performance. They often employ a competency-based approach, where individuals demonstrate their proficiency in real-world tasks and activities rather than relying solely on theoretical knowledge. 

Occupational qualifications take into account an individual’s existing skills and experience. Recognition of prior learning (RPL) mechanisms may be offered, allowing individuals to receive credit or exemptions based on their previous education, training, or work experience. This speeds up the qualification process. 

Occupational qualifications enhance employability. The transition to occupational qualifications aims to enhance individuals’ employability by equipping them with job-specific skills and competencies. Acquiring qualifications directly relevant to their desired occupation empowers individuals to enter the job market with confidence and succeed in their chosen field. 

The shift to occupational qualifications promotes a lifelong learning approach. It highlights the importance of continuous professional development, upskilling, and reskilling throughout one’s career to remain relevant and adaptable in a rapidly changing job market. 

Achieving a smooth transition from education to employment requires close collaboration between educational institutions and industry stakeholders. This partnership ensures that the qualifications offered align with industry needs, provides work-integrated learning opportunities, and supports a seamless transition into the workforce. 

The way forward

Legacy qualifications in 2025 for current (2024) students

CTU students currently enrolled for legacy qualifications will have until 31 May 2024 to register for the next level of legacy qualification to be obtained in 2025. They will have until 31 December 2027 to complete the qualification. 

New Occupational qualifications 2025

Students currently registered for legacy qualifications may also register for available Occupational qualifications in 2025. 

It is recommended that all students currently registered for legacy qualifications make an appointment with their campus Sales Manager or Sales Consultant to discuss their 2025 registration and payment options. 


As South Africa bids farewell to legacy qualifications, a new era of occupational qualifications dawns, ushering in a paradigm shift in education and training. This transition acknowledges the importance of staying relevant to current industry needs and equipping individuals with the necessary skills for success. With defined timelines and transitional arrangements in place, learners have the opportunity to pursue occupational qualifications, embracing a future that aligns with the demands of the modern job market. 

Reference GH Skills Solutions;Empowering your potential; (June 30, 2023) Embracing Change: Expiration of Legacy Qualifications in South Africa (24) Embracing Change: Expiration of Legacy Qualifications in South Africa | LinkedIn