Differences of the Norwegian qualifications frameworks (NKR) from the European qualifications frameworks
When comparing the NKR with the EQF and the qualifications frameworks in the European higher education area (QF-EHEA), some differences arise:
- the wording and formulations differ slightly, since the European frameworks use generic terms, whereas the NKR uses more specific terms;
- the way they deal with progression and complexity differs. In the NQF, the progression between levels is described with verbs that indicate an increasing degree of knowledge, skills and general competence. Further, levels are described independently, i.e. comparison with levels below and above is avoided. In contrast, the descriptors of the European frameworks are more general, based on the assumption that each level follows from the one below it;
- the NKR for higher academic education (levels 6–8) was initially adopted on the basis of the EQF and the QF-EHEA. When the education ministry developed the remaining lower qualification levels, the qualifications framework for higher education posed some limitations. The processes prior to the development of the NKR have therefore had consequences in the final design of the framework and in the degree of its compliance with the EQF;
- the referencing report of 2012 states that NKR level 5.1 (tertiary vocational qualifications 1), has a weak compliance with the EQF. Level 5.2 (tertiary vocational qualifications 2) and level 6 (partial level qualification, 1st cycle, university/college graduate and bachelor qualifications) are considered as matching only partially. As an alternative, a level system was proposed where levels 5 and 6 occur twice;
- in the referencing process of the NKR to the EQF, it also emerged that the connection and transition between the various parts of the education system and between the education system and working life was considered rather weak in the NKR;
- finally the current NKR includes only formal education.
Reviewing the Norwegian qualifications framework
The past couple of years, vocational colleges (level 5 in NKR), the National Council for Vocational Colleges and the social partners have fought for the possibility for vocational colleges to provide education at higher levels in the NKR. The background is that the EQF allows for parallel sets of qualifications, in which the learning outcomes descriptions within a subject area or a professional field is either research- or experience-based. This makes it possible to have several different qualification types at the same level in the qualifications framework, with different learning outcomes descriptions.
Since the introduction of the NKR, using it has been a prerequisite for conducting an evaluation. In 2020, NOKUT, the Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education, was asked to review the current NKR, while focusing on the following two parts:
- the Evaluation report on the NKR feasibility study of parallel structure was published in October 2020. The report consists of two main parts. Part one includes examples of national frameworks from other countries, where it is possible to place education programmes from vocational colleges, colleges and universities at the same or equal level. Part two describes two possible frameworks if vocational colleges were allowed to develop education at levels six to eight:
- the first model is a parallel structure based on the assumption that learning is different, depending on where and how someone has achieved the results;
- the second model is an umbrella structure based on the assumption that one and the same learning result can be achieved in different ways; in other words, that vocational college, college and university education can all be at the same level.
- preparation for a review of the NKR, by investigating the possibility of parallel sets of learning outcomes descriptions at level EQF5 and above.
The proposals and views in the report are included in the subsequent work of evaluating the entire framework.