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Understanding qualifications

Qualifications – the certificates and diplomas awarded following education, training and learning – are vital in modern societies. They influence our ability to get a job, practise a profession, pursue lifelong learning and move between countries.  They also affect our general social standing and status. Qualifications are also important:

  • for employers, signalling what can be expected from a potential employee;
  • for education and training,  confirming that a candidate has successfully achieved a set of learning outcomes;
  • for policy makers, as a focal point of education and training policies,  providing among others a tangible output of learning processes.

European qualifications are increasingly included in national qualification frameworks linked to the European Qualifications Framework. These frameworks make understanding and comparing qualifications easier within and between countries, while they encourage countries to rethink and reform policy and practice on education, training and lifelong learning. Qualifications can also be awarded by international bodies and organizations, reflecting the internationalization of technologies and labor markets.

Qualifications are increasingly being defined and written based on a learning outcomes  approach, which best expresses what the qualification holder is expected to know, be able to do and understand.  Learning outcomes are also the “glue” holding together the common EU tools and principles that lead to higher consistency in employment, education and training policy across Europe. These include:

These tools and principles are designed to help people progress through education and training at any age, change careers or move abroad for work or for further education. In addition, the terminology developed through ESCO - the European terminology on Skills, Competences, Qualifications and Occupations, supports linking the labour market with education and training.  

Cedefop gives high priority to strengthening synergy and coherence of the EU tools; this is critical both for their further implementation, and for strengthening their relevance and value for end-users. It is in this framework that Cedefop supports the work on the Skills Agenda initiated by the European Commission in 2016.