A European approach to micro-credentials

A European approach to micro-credentials will help to open up learning opportunities to citizens and strengthen the role of higher education and vocational education and training institutions in lifelong learning.

Flexible, inclusive learning opportunities

A micro-credential is a qualification evidencing learning outcomes acquired through a short, transparently-assessed course or module. Micro-credentials may be completed on-site, online or in a blended format. 

The flexible nature of these qualifications allow learning opportunities to be opened up to citizens, including those in full-time employment.

This makes micro-credentials a highly flexible, inclusive form of learning allowing the targeted acquisition of skills and competences.

Micro-credentials are offered by higher and vocational education and training (VET) institutions, as well as by private organisations.

They can be particularly useful for people want to:

  • build on their knowledge without completing a full higher education programme
  • upskill or reskill to meet labour market needs or to develop professionally after starting work

Public consultation

On 20 April 2021, the European Commission launched a 12-week public consultation on a European approach to micro-credentials for lifelong learning and employability.

The public consultation seeks to collect ideas for the development of a common definition for micro-credentials, European Union (EU) standards for their quality and transparency and the next steps to be taken at the institutional, national and EU levels.

The public consultation will be open until 13 July 2021 at 23:59 Central European Summer Time (CEST).

Take part in the public consultation and share your views today! 

Why a European approach is needed

Within Europe, a growing number of citizens need to update their knowledge, skills and competences to fill gaps between their formal education and the needs of a fast-changing society and labour market. 

The recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to accelerate the green and digital transitions also requires individuals to upskill or reskill.

Maintaining and acquiring new competences is also essential to enable active participation in society, to ensure continued personal, social and professional development and to boost employability and socio-economic innovation. 

However, without common standards ensuring quality, transparency, cross-border comparability, recognition and portability, micro-credentials cannot reach their full potential.

The Commission, therefore, seeks to develop a common definition and European standards for micro-credentials, which are independent from the awarding body, building on existing tools as far as possible. 

The intention to develop a European approach to micro-credentials was announced in:

Micro-credentials consultation group: recommendations

In spring 2020, the Commission established an ad-hoc consultation group formed of experts in higher education, including practitioners, members of quality assurance agencies and guest speakers from across Europe.

The group held three virtual meetings between 26 May and 17 September 2020 and proposed a common European definition, common characteristics and a roadmap of actions.

This roadmap puts forward suggestions for actions needed at the European and national levels to develop and implement a European approach and proposes a timeline.

The roadmap focuses on the following actions:

  • developing common European standards for quality and transparency, together with all involved stakeholders (the education and training community, labour market actors, social partners, youth organisations, civil society, chambers of commerce, employers from all EU Member States and European Higher Education Area countries)
  • exploring the inclusion of micro-credentials in national qualification frameworks with possible reference to the European Qualifications Framework
  • developing a list of trusted providers and fostering quality assurance processes
  • exploring how the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) can be used in the context of micro-credentials at other education levels and in other sectors
  • working on guidelines for more rapid recognition by adapting existing validation and recognition instruments or by developing new ones
  • making it easier for individuals to store and showcase their micro-credentials through Europass and its digital credentials infrastructure, as well as the European Student Card initiative
  • using micro-credentials to improve access to lifelong learning opportunities by ensuring better permeability between education and training sectors and ensuring an informed learner choice by expanding guidance services underpinned by real time labour market data
  • providing EU support through the Erasmus+ Programme and Structural Funds for higher education, VET and other education and training institutions and providers to promote the uptake of micro-credentials

The suggested actions concentrate mainly on higher education, but also address other levels and sectors of education and training.

Next steps

These outputs will feed into wider consultations covering all sectors of education and training contributing to the preparation of a Council Recommendation on micro-credentials for lifelong learning and employability by the end of 2021.


Header image: © European Union, 2020.