The European Qualifications Framework (EQF) is a common European reference framework whose purpose is to make qualifications more readable and understandable across different countries and systems. Covering qualifications at all levels and in all sub-systems of education and training, the EQF provides a comprehensive overview over qualifications in the 38 European countries currently involved in its implementation. In close cooperation with the European Commission, Cedefop provides analytical and coordination support for the implementation of the EQF and carries out a number of comparative studies and analysis on issues related to the implementation of the framework at EU, national and sectoral level.
European Qualifications Framework - a bridge between national qualifications systems
The core of the EQF is its eight reference levels defined in terms of learning outcomes, i.e. knowledge, skills and autonomy-responsibility. Learning outcomes express what individuals know, understand and are able to do at the end of a learning process. Countries develop national qualifications frameworks (NQFs) to implement the EQF.
Why the EQF is important
The main purpose of the EQF is to make qualifications more readable and understandable across countries and systems. This is important in supporting cross-border mobility of learners and workers, and lifelong learning across Europe. Cedefop’s national qualifications framework (NQF) online tool makes it possible to compare information on NQFs and, for those countries that have finalised their referencing process to the EQF, compare their qualification types. The Europass platform allows searching for qualifications that are part of national qualifications frameworks databases.
How Cedefop supports EQF implementation
Cedefop has played a key role in all EQF activities since initial work started in 2004. It has carried out a number of comparative studies and analysis on issues related to the implementation of the framework at EU, national and sectoral level. It cooperates closely with the European Commission and the Member States and provides technical and analytical support to the EQF Advisory Group - the main body at European level, responsible for providing coherence and transparency of the process of relating national qualifications systems to the EQF.
The implementation of the EQF was based on the Recommendation on the European qualifications framework for lifelong learning, adopted by the European Parliament and the Council on 23 April 2008. Reflecting the success in implementing the 2008 recommendation, a revised and strengthened Recommendation on the EQF was adopted on 22 May 2017. The purpose of this revised recommendation is to ensure the continuity and further development of the EQF.
Reflecting the success in implementing the 2008 recommendation, a revised and strengthened Recommendation on the EQF was adopted on 22nd May 2017 by the Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council. The purpose of this revised recommendation is to ensure the continuity as well as a further deepening of the EQF.
The EQF has been the catalyst for development of comprehensive national qualification frameworks based on learning outcomes. All countries committed to the EQF consider such national frameworks necessary to make their qualifications comparable across sectors and countries.
By September 2021, 35 countries had formally linked (‘referenced’) their national qualifications frameworks to the EQF: Austria, Belgium (Flanders and Wallonia), Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kosovo, Latvia, Lichtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey. The remaining countries are expected to follow in 2021, which means that the first stage of EQF referencing is nearly finished.
The EQF has been a source of inspiration for the development of national and regional qualifications frameworks throughout the world. An increasing number of countries and regions are seeking closer links between their qualifications framework and the EQF.
Pilots comparing third country qualifications frameworks with the EQF have been carried out with the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF), the New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF) and the Hong Kong Qualifications Framework (HKQF).
More information: EQF documentation