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The European Qualifications Framework
The EU developed the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) as a translation tool to make national qualifications easier to understand and more comparable. The EQF seeks to support cross-border mobility of learners and workers, promote lifelong learning and professional development across Europe.
What is the EQF?
The EQF is an 8-level, learning outcomes-based framework for all types of qualifications that serves as a translation tool between different national qualifications frameworks. This framework helps improve transparency, comparability and portability of people’s qualifications and makes it possible to compare qualifications from different countries and institutions.
The EQF covers all types and all levels of qualifications and the use of learning outcomes makes it clear what a person knows, understands and is able to do. The level increases according to the level of proficiency, level 1 is the lowest and 8 the highest level. Most importantly the EQF is closely linked to national qualifications frameworks, this way it can provide a comprehensive map of all types and levels of qualifications in Europe, which are increasingly accessible through qualification databases.
The EQF was set up in 2008 and later revised in 2017. Its revision has kept the core objectives of creating transparency and mutual trust in the landscape of qualifications in Europe. Member States committed themselves to further develop the EQF and make it more effective in facilitating the understanding of national, international and third-country qualifications by employers, workers and learners.
Which countries are involved?
In addition to the EU Member States another 11 countries work towards implementing the EQF, namely Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway (European Economic Area countries), Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey (candidate countries), Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo ** (potential candidates) and Switzerland.
Who else is involved?
EQF Advisory Group (AG),established in 2008, is the central forum for discussion between the Commission, countries and stakeholders from the world of education and training, employment and civil society. The role of the AG is to ensure overall coherence and promote transparency, and trust in the process of referencing. Minutes and documents of the EQF Advisory Group meetings are published on the Register of Commission Expert Groups
European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop) and the European Training Foundation (ETF), as European Agencies, play an important role in supporting the implementation of the EQF.
The ENIC/NARIC network is a network of national centres set up to directly support institutions and citizens with the recognition of academic qualifications.
The EQF works together with other European and international instruments supporting the recognition of qualifications.
- The Council Recommendation of 26 November 2018 on promoting automatic mutual recognition of higher education and upper secondary education and training qualifications and the outcomes of learning periods abroad refers to the EQF as a way to foster transparency and build trust between national education and training systems
- Directive 2005/36/EC addresses the recognition of professional qualifications in the EU, enabling professionals to move across borders and practise their occupation or provide services abroad
- The Lisbon recognition convention is an international agreement administered by UNESCO and the Council of Europe that allows for the recognition of academic qualifications in Europe and beyond;
- The EQF is compatible with the Qualifications Framework for the European Higher Education Area and its cycle descriptors. The framework was agreed by education ministers of the intergovernmental Bologna Process in 2005.
What is the referencing process?
The EQF Recommendation invites Member States to reference their national qualifications frameworks or systems to the EQF, in order to establish a clear and transparent relationship between their national qualification levels and the eight EQF levels. Member States are recommended to review and update, when relevant, the referencing of the levels of the national qualifications frameworks or systems to the levels of the EQF.
Each country wanting to relate its national qualifications levels to the EQF has to prepare a detailed referencing report that follows the 10 EQF referencing criteria agreed in Annex III to the revised EQF Recommendation. National referencing reports are presented to the EQF Advisory Group which endorses them if they satisfy the referencing criteria.
Once national frameworks are referenced to the EQF all newly issued qualifications (e.g. certificates, diplomas, certificate supplements, diploma supplements), and/or qualifications databases should in principle contain a clear reference to the appropriate EQF and NQF level.