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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 2018

  • 39 countries are cooperating on the European qualifications framework implementation.
  • 35 countries have officially established or formally adopted their national qualifications frameworks (NQFs); 4 countries are still working on the design and/or  the formal adoption of their NQFs;
  • Cedefop considers 21 NQFs to have reached operational status; Austria, Belgium (FL), Czech Republic (partial framework for vocational qualifications - NSK), Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.
  • 35 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 qualifications awarded outside formal education and training (e.g. Austria, Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia, Sweden)  
  • 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, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom (England, Scotland and Wales). The remaining countries are expected to follow in 2018, which means that the first stage of EQF referencing is nearly finished. 
  • 29 countries  participating in the EQF implementation have also self-certified their framework against the Bologna framework (QF-EHEA), 20 jointly with the EQF referencing;
  • 23 countries have introduced NQF/EQF levels in national qualifications documents: Austria, Belgium (fl) Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Montenegro, Norway, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Switzerland;  17 in their national qualifications databases (Austria, Belgium (fl) Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Lithuania, Latvia, Malta,  the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Slovakia, Switzerland and UK). 


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:

  • In 2013, the global inventory contains thematic chapters and national case studies, covering over 100 frameworks developed and introduced over the past decade;
  • In 2015, the global inventory contains thematic chapters and national and regional cases, which were presented at the 5th Asia-Europe Education Ministers’ Meeting (ASEM ME5) in Riga, Latvia;
  • In 2017, the third edition of the Global Inventory was finalised giving an update on the national qualification frameworks around the world. Volume 1 provides information on 8 thematic chapters and volume 2 on national and regional cases.
  • The fourth edition of the global inventory of national and regional qualifications framework, published in 2019, captures, records and analyses progress in establishing and implementing qualifications frameworks since 2017. It includes thematic chapters (volume 1) and national and regional cases (volume 2). The results and key messages were presented at the 7th ASEM education ministers' meeting, in Bucharest, on 14 May.

Project contacts

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