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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 has organised various events allowing policy makers and practitioners to compare practises and exchange experiences:

Overall progress in 2019-2020

  • 39 countries are cooperating on the European qualifications framework implementation. EU Member States, EFTA countries (Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein and Switzerland), EU candidate countries (Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Turkey), potential candidate countries (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo), and UK.
  • 36 countries have formally linked (‘referenced’) their national qualification systems or frameworks to the EQF: Austria, Belgium (Flanders and Wallonia), Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kosovo, Latvia, Lichtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Montenegro, the Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom
  • Six countries have updated their referencing reports: Belgium (fl), Estonia, Malta, Latvia, Netherlands, and UK. France and Ireland are planning to present their updated reports in autumn 2020.
  • 33 countries have started tagging their certificates and diplomas as well as qualifications in their databases with NQF and/or EQF levels. Progress has been more visible in VET than in general education. Some countries have set out to label all their new certificates and diplomas for NQF-registered qualifications (e.g. Denmark, Estonia, Malta, Poland and Slovenia).
  • 38 countries have officially established or formally adopted their national qualifications frameworks (NQFs);
  • 36 countries are working towards comprehensive NQFs covering all types and levels of qualification from formal education and training (VET, HE, general education); and increasingly opening towards non-regulated/private qualifications (e.g. Austria, Denmark, France, Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia, Sweden, UK-Scotland). 

 

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 and Unesco Institute for Lifelong Learning to monitor global NQF developments. The four agencies have jointly published 4 editions of the Global Inventory of Regional and National Qualifications Frameworks:

Project contacts

Slava Pevec Grm
Senior expert, project manager
Jens Bjørnåvold
Senior expert, project manager
Anastasia Pouliou
Expert
Else Husa
Expert