This article explores perceptions of barriers to the take-up of higher level NVQs (levels 4/5). The literature on higher NVQ adoption is reviewed together with uptake statistics. Research involving interviews and case studies showed that the most successful higher NVQs are linked to professional qualifying routes, have generic application across a range of sectors or fill gaps where qualifications were not previously established. Higher NVQs suffer from credibility problems and variable delivery quality partly accounts for a tarnished image. Support for occupational standards is strong, but their design is not generally suited to higher qualifications. Awarding bodies need to assess the learning experience on award programmes more closely. Funding mechanisms disadvantage higher NVQs particularly in the university sector. NVQs are perceived to be relatively costly; however, there is little data available to enable objective comparison. Suggestions for overcoming these barriers are offered.