The Danish qualifications framework is a comprehensive, eight level framework covering all types and levels of qualification awarded and quality assured by public authorities (general education, vocational education and training (VET), higher education (HE) and supplementary qualifications). Private and public education programmes not under the remits of the Ministry of Higher Education and Science, Ministry of Children and Education and Ministry of Culture have been included.
Level descriptors are defined by knowledge (viden), skills (færdigheder) and competences (kompetencer):
Knowledge descriptors emphasise the following:
- the type of knowledge involved; knowledge about theory or knowledge about practice; knowledge of a subject or a field within a profession;
- the complexity of knowledge; the degree of complexity and how predictable or unpredictable the situation in which the knowledge is mastered;
- understanding; the ability to place one's knowledge in a context. For example, understanding is expressed when explaining something to others.
Skills descriptors refer to what a person can do or accomplish and reflect the following aspects:
- the type of skill involved; practical, cognitive, creative or communicative;
- the complexity of the problem-solving; the problem-solving these skills can be applied to, and the complexity of the task;
- communication; the communication that is required; the complexity of the message; to which target groups and with which instruments?
Competence descriptors refer to responsibility and autonomy and cover the following aspects:
- space for action; the type of work/study related context in which knowledge and skills are brought to play, and the degree of unpredictability and changeability in these contexts;
- cooperation and responsibility; the ability to take responsibility for one's own work and the work of others, and the complexity of the cooperative situations in which one engages;
- the ability to take responsibility for one's own learning and that of others ( The Danish Evaluation Institute (2011), pp 17-18. ).
These descriptors are used to address both full and supplementary qualifications ( The role of supplementary qualifications is particularly important for adult education and for continuing vocational education and training. A supplementary qualification can be a supplement (addition) to a qualification, a part (module) or an independent entity not related to any other qualification.) and for level assessment of non-formal qualifications.
As some other NQFs, the Danish framework draws a clear distinction between levels 1 to 5 and levels 6 to 8. The latter are identical to the level descriptors in the Danish qualifications framework for higher education and contain explicit references to research-related outcomes. A broader descriptor has been drawn up for level 5 in the DK NQF than for the corresponding level descriptor in the national NQF-HE for short cycle degrees; this makes it possible to include qualifications at level 5 acquired through some vocational education and training and maritime vocational education and training programmes.
Qualifications at levels 1 to 5 are assigned according to a 'best fit' principle, while qualifications at levels 6 to 8 are assigned according to a 'full fit' principle; this means that qualifications at this level have to be accredited ( Hansen, J.B. et al. (2013). Learning outcomes in external quality assurance approaches. Investigating and discussing Nordic practices and developments: https://www.nokut.no/contentassets/a4895de04f3744f0ab9f31330ad12cd8/learning_outcomes_in_external_quality_assurance_approaches_noqa_report_-220413_250613.pdf) as meeting the legal requirements set by national authorities and according to the qualifications framework for higher education.
All current publicly recognised qualifications in the Danish education system at levels 6 to 8 are included in the qualifications framework for higher education.
The learning outcomes approach is widely accepted in all segments of education and training and is increasingly being used to define and describe curricula and programmes. However, the descriptions are often divided according to subject, meaning that there is not always a comprehensive presentation of the overall learning outcome for the entire qualification. In vocational education and training, for example, the student must comply with both defined learning outcomes and competence objectives to gain admission to the main course after the basic course, as well as to be awarded a VET certificate. In higher education all qualifications are clearly described using learning-outcome-based terminology. This shift from input- to output-based steering is supported by the Danish quality assurance approach of accreditation and learning outcome is an important reference point for accreditation of new and existing programmes (Danish Evaluation Institute et al., 2011).
For the vocational training system, it has been decided not to split up vocational education programmes into modules to which the European credit system for vocational education and training (ECVET), or other credit points, might be assigned. For foreign pupils in mobility programmes, the course of study is awarded ECVET points in relation to workload. A full-time equivalent programme corresponds to 60 points (ReferNet Denmark, Cedefop 2019) ( Cedefop; University College Copenhagen (2019). Vocational education and training in Europe: Denmark [From Cedefop; ReferNet. Vocational education and training in Europe database]. https://www.cedefop.europa.eu/el/printpdf/tools/vet-in-europe/systems/denmark ).