The Member States and the European Commission are establishing a European Quality Assurance Reference Framework (EQAVET) to promote and monitor continuous improvement of national systems of vocational education and training (VET).
EQAVET, which was adopted by EU Member States in June 2009, is a reference tool for policy-makers based on a four-stage quality cycle that includes goal setting and planning, implementation, evaluation and review. It respects the autonomy of national governments and is a voluntary system to be used by public authorities and other bodies involved in quality assurance.
Member States are encouraged to use the framework, and develop, by mid-2011, a national approach to improving quality assurance systems that involves all relevant stakeholders. This approach should include the establishment of national reference points for quality assurance, as well as active participation in the relevant European-level network.
The European Commission supports Member States in this process, particularly through initiatives that support co-operation and mutual learning, testing and by developing and providing guidance material and other information. The Commission will also ensure follow-up through a report every four years to the European Parliament and the Council.
EQAVET forms part of a series of European initiatives aiming at to better recognise skills and competencies acquired by learners in different countries or learning environments, including Europass, the European principles for the identification and validation of non-formal and informal learning, ECVET and the European Qualification Framework for lifelong learning (EQF).
EU-level discussion on quality assurance started formally in 2000 with the launch of the European forum on quality.
The Copenhagen Declaration in November 2002 called for enhanced cooperation in VET quality assurance. In 2003 a Common Quality Assurance Framework for VET (CQAF) was established proposing common principles, guidelines and tools. The CQAF was endorsed by the Council in May 2004. The Helsinki Communiqué in December 2006 underlined the need to progress from the CQAF to a culture of quality improvement and to strengthen cooperation on quality improvement in VET.