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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

Overall progress in 2014

  • 33 countries are working towards comprehensive NQFs covering all types and levels of qualifications.
  • 29 NQFs have been formally adopted.
  • 30 countries proposed/adopted eight-level frameworks.
  • 18 countries have reached operational stage. In 7 of these – Belgium (Flanders), Denmark, France, Ireland, Malta, the Netherlands and the UK, NQFs are fully operational.
  • 5 countries have introduced partial NQFs covering a limited range of qualification types and levels or consisting of separate frameworks operating apart from each other. This is exemplified by the Czech Republic,  England/Northern Ireland and Switzerland where separate frameworks for vocational/professional and higher education qualifications have been developed; by France where vocationally/professionally oriented qualifications are included in the framework; and by Italy where the framework is restricted to qualifications from higher education.
  • 23 countries have referenced their national qualifications frameworks to the EQF.
  • 22 NQFs are linked to the Bologna framework, 14 jointly with EQF referencing.
  • 9 countries indicate EQF levels on certificates, diplomas or Europass documents.

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
Jens Bjornavold
Anastasia Pouliou