Frameworks help make qualifications easier to understand and compare. They can also encourage countries to rethink and reform national policy and practice on skills, qualifications and lifelong learning. By offering information on qualifications through their databases and on certificates, diplomas and supplements, they are extending their outreach to stakeholders and the wider public, ultimately also beyond their borders.
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 for lifelong learning(EQF). 38 countries committed to the EQF are developing or implementing national qualifications frameworks mostly covering all levels and types of qualifications: the 27 Member States, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, 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.
Overall progress by 2022
- 38 countries are cooperating on the EQF implementation. 27 EU Member States, EFTA countries (Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland), EU candidate countries (Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Turkey), and potential candidate countries (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo).
- 36 countries have formally linked (‘referenced’) their national qualification systems or frameworks to the EQF: Albania, Austria, Belgium (Flanders and Wallonia), Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kosovo, Latvia, Lichtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Montenegro, the Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey. Before the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU, its qualifications frameworks were also referenced to the EQF.
- Eight countries have updated their referencing reports: Belgium (fl), Estonia, France, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Malta and the Netherlands. Before the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU, UK-England and Northern Ireland, UK-Scotland and UK-Wales also presented updated referencing reports to the EQF.
- 33 countries have started tagging their certificates and diplomas as well as qualifications in their databases with NQF and/or EQF levels. Progress has been more visible in VET than in general education. Some countries have set out to label with the NQF and EQF levels most of their new certificates and diplomas for NQF-registered qualifications (e.g. Denmark, Estonia, Malta, Poland and Slovenia).
- 37 countries have officially established or formally adopted their national qualifications frameworks (NQFs).
- 36 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 non-regulated/private qualifications (e.g. Austria, Denmark, France, Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia, Sweden).