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Frameworks help to make qualifications easier to understand and compare. They can also encourage countries to rethink and reform national policy and practice on education, training and lifelong learning.  

National qualifications frameworks (NQFs) classify qualifications by level, based on learning outcomes.  This classification reflects the content and profile of qualifications - that is, what the holder of a certificate or diploma is expected to know, understand, and be able to do.  The learning outcomes approach also ensures that education and training sub-systems are open to one another. Thus, it allows people to move more easily between education and training institutions and sectors.

The main catalyst for the development of comprehensive national qualification frameworks in Europe has been the European qualifications framework (EQF). All countries committed to the EQF are developing or implementing national frameworks mostly covering all levels and types of qualifications: the 28 Member States, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Turkey.

The development of national qualifications frameworks in Europe also reflects the Bologna process and the agreement to implement qualifications frameworks in the European higher education area (QF-EHEA). All countries implementing the EQF are participating in this process.

How Cedefop supports implementation

Cedefop’s work on qualifications frameworks dates back to 2003. At the time, the Centre worked mainly on the EQF’s conceptual development. Since 2009, Cedefop has published

Cedefop in cooperation with the European Commission and Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) will organise a conference on the impact of NQFs (9-10th November 2017) allowing policy makers and practitioners to compare practises and exchange experiences.

Overall progress in 2016

  • 39 countries are currently cooperating on the European qualifications framework.
  • 33 countries have officially established or formally adopted their national qualifications frameworks (NQFs); 6 countries are still working on the design and  the formal adoption of their NQFs;
  • 16 countries have got fully operational frameworks: Belgium (FL), Czech Republic partial framework for vocational qualifications - NSK), Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Lithuania, Liechtenstein, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Switzerland and the UK.
  • 35 countries are working towards comprehensive NQFs covering all types and levels of qualification from formal education and training (Vet, HE, general education) (similar with 2015);
  • 31 countries presented referencing reports showing how national frameworks relate to the European qualifications frameworks (26 in 2015);
  • 26 countries linked to the qualifications framework for the European higher education area (QF-EHEA), 17 jointly with the EQF referencing (24 and 15 respectively in 2015)
  • 21 countries have introduced level references in their national qualifications documents or databases. Several other countries have indicated their intention to do so in 2017 e.g. Austria, Belgium (Flanders and Wallonia), Bulgaria and Hungary.

Global dimension of qualification frameworks

Development of national qualification frameworks is a global phenomenon, leading to stronger cooperation between countries and regions.
Cedefop and ETF collaborate with Unesco to monitor global NQF developments.
In 2013, the three agencies jointly published the first global inventory of national qualifications frameworks (thematic chapters and national case studies), covering over 140 frameworks developed and introduced over the past decade.
The 2015 edition of the Global Inventory of Regional and National Qualifications Frameworks (thematic chapters and national and regional) was presented at the 5th Asia-Europe Education Ministers’ Meeting (ASEM ME5) in Riga, Latvia, in April 2015.

Project contacts

Slava Pevec Grm
Senior expert, project manager
Jens Bjornavold
Senior expert, project manager
Anastasia Pouliou