The project aims to find the link between the comparison and recognition of VET qualifications and learning outcomes, clarify difficulties in this process, analyse the tools used and propose solutions.

Why compare qualifications?

Progress in comparison of VET qualifications has been mixed, athough it has received a lot of attention over the years. While Cedefop has invested heavily in supporting the exchange of information on vocational education and training in Europe since 1975, detailed comparisons of the content of VET qualifications have only been carried out to a limited extent.

At its core, comparison of qualifications is about understanding how programmes and qualifications align or differ, and to what extent similarities can be observed and agreed on. The challenge of comparing - and potentially recognising - qualifications and learning outcomes is crucial for making better use of existing education and training systems and for implementing lifelong learning. Individuals need to build on and combine outcomes of education and training over time and across institutional and national borders.

Challenges in comparing qualifications

The challenge of comparing and recognising qualifications is multifaceted:

  • It is a technical challenge as no standard format is used, and available information differs from one awarding institution to another. While the gradual shift to learning outcomes (Cedefop 200920162017, 2022) provides a better basis for comparison, differences in practise between institutions, sectors and countries create barriers.
  • It is also a challenge linked to mutual trust as education and training institutions and awarding bodies sometimes insist on their own uniqueness and question qualifications delivered by others. While sometimes justified, lack of openness can create barriers.
  • It is finally a political challenge as removing obstacles may require intervention by political authorities.  

The project builds on previous Cedefop work and is closely linked to the ongoing project on the transparency and transferability of learning outcomes as well as the projects related to the EQF and NQFs.

Previous work by Cedefop

  • Between 2015 and 2017, Cedefop carried out a pilot study comparing 10 VET qualifications in 10 European countries. The purpose was to gain insight into the similarities and differences between countries regarding the content and profile of their qualifications.
  • The methodology developed for this study was further tested in cooperation with the ETF and UNESCO where four of the original 10 qualifications were compared in 26 countries worldwide.
  • Cedefop run the ‘Comparing VET qualifications’ project aiming to close the gap and support mutual learning between countries to allow policy makers and stakeholders to evaluate their own solutions. It prepared the conceptual and technical foundation for robust and scalable methodologies allowing for the analysis and comparison of the content (learning outcomes) of qualifications.

The project work was divided into four separate but interlinked themes:

1. Exploring and testing a reference point for VET comparison

Theme 1

2. Exploring, gathering and analysing national qualifications data

Theme 2

3. Analysing the feed-back loop between education and training and the labour market

Theme 3

4. Towards methodologies for analysing and comparing learning outcomes  Theme 4

Events promoting the comparison of VET qualifications

  • Cedefop’s first workshop on comparing VET qualifications (2019) explored the interim findings of the project and looked into the conceptual challenges of such a methodology, as well as the technology opportunities emerging in this area;
  • Cedefop’s second workshop on comparing VET qualifications (2021) presented the final findings of the project and a series of use-cases illustrating how systematic analysis and comparison of learning outcomes can support different purposes and users at international as well as national levels.
  • A 15th Cedefop Brussels seminar (autumn 2023) was organised in cooperation with the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the EU. It focused on the main policy initiatives and developments that have supported the transparency of systems and qualifications, enabling the comparison and recognition of VET qualifications.

Engage in the discussion #VETqualifications

Project contacts

Who is who
Carita Susanne Blomqvist
Expert in Qualifications and credentials - future of VET
Who is who
Zelda Azzara
Expert in qualifications and credentials
Who is who
Anastasia Pouliou
Expert in qualifications and credentials - future of VET
Who is who
Maite Santos
Assistant - information manager