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European Qualifications Framework

The European Qualifications Framework (EQF) is a translation device that enables a European country to read across from its own qualifications levels to qualifications levels in other countries. This will help learners and workers wishing to move between countries, change jobs or move educational institutions. One aim of the EQF is to contribute to creating a European workforce that is mobile and flexible. Note the following:

  • the EQF does not replace existing national qualifications systems or require them to be adjusted in any way
  • the EQF does not include qualifications or describe specific qualifications or an individual's competence
  • implementation of the EQF is a completely voluntary process
  • the EQF has no regulatory function
  • it is not the intention that individual qualifications be referenced to the EQF; it is intended that the levels of a qualifications framework will be referenced to the levels of the EQF.

This official leaflet on the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) acts as a simple introduction to the EQF, whereas the following paper may serve as a useful background to the development of the EQF. Qualifications frameworks in Europe: platforms for collaboration, integration and reform was produced for the German (European) Presidency conference: Making the European Learning Area a Reality, 3-5 June 2007, Munich by Mike Coles (Qualifications and Curriculum Authority). The rationale for the development of national qualifications frameworks is discussed, as are some of the main concepts, such as levels, descriptors, learning outcomes and competence. The mechanisms of influence of the EQF on the national frameworks are examined. Similarly the influence of the EQF on other European level instruments is outlined. The rapid development of frameworks, carried out on the basis of little empirical evidence of the chances of them delivering benefits, raise many issues for the immediate and mid term. The origin and nature of these issues is explained.

A number of European Leonardo projectsd have been studying how to reference national qualifications to the EQF: for example, the Trans-European Qualifications Framework Development project studies Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany, Finland, the Netherlands (with Switzerland participating in the project as an observer). The main outcome of the project has been a set of tools documenting how national qualifications are referenced to different EQF levels, through using EQF as a translation device for promoting transparency and recognition of qualifications.

Mike Coles (2011) has produced an EQF Series 3 Note on Referencing national qualifications levels to the EQF. This document outlines the results of the referencing process for the first group of countries to go through this process and issues to be considered in future based on the debates in the EQF Advisory Group and National Coordination Points on the 10 Referencing criteria.

Another Leonardo project on EQF implementation: impact of national qualifications systems’ processes (EQF-PROQS Project No. 167227-LLP-1-2009-1-LT-KA1-KA1EQF) produced 'Guidelines and recommendations on dealing with diversity of processes of national systems of qualifications in the implementation of the EQF, NQFs and sectoral qualifications frameworks' (2011). The project team consisted of Alan Brown, Warwick University Institute for Employment Research, United Kingdom; Rainer Bremer, Institut Technik und Bildung Universität Bremen, Germany; M'Hamed Dif, BETA Céreq Alsace University of Strasbourg, France; Jean-Alain Heraud, BETA Céreq Alsace University of Strasbourg, France; Tomas Jovaiša, Kompetencijų tyrimo akademija, Lithuania; Jakob Khayat, Camillo Sitte Lehranstahlt, Austria; Borut Mikulec, The Slovenian National Institute for Vocational Education and Training, Slovenia; Andreas Saniter, Institut Technik und Bildung Universität Bremen, Germany; Louis Spaninks, Talentis BV, the Netherlands; and Vidmantas Tūtlys, Centre for Vocational Education and Research, Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania (project co-ordinator).