How does the EQF work?

How does the EQF work?

Why the EQF?

The free movement of people in Europe is one of the most important goals of the EU. However, the understanding and the recognition of diplomas and certificates issued in the different national education and training systems of the 28 Member States of the EU is a challenge. For this reason, the EU developed a translation device to make national qualifications more readable in order to promote workers' and learners' mobility and facilitating their lifelong learning across Europe. This is the European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning (EQF).

What is the EQF?

The EQF helps to compare national qualifications systems and enable communication among them The core of the EQF are eight common European reference levels, which are described in learning outcomes: knowledge, skills and competences. This makes it more understandable what a learner with a qualification related to the EQF knows, understands and is able to do. This approach also make it possible to compare qualifications awarded in all types of education, training and qualifications, from school education to academic, professional and vocational at each of its levels.

The EQF initiative is closely related to the qualifications framework for the European Higher Education Area: the two frameworks are compatible and their implementation is coordinated at national and European level.


The EQF was adopted by the Council of the EU and the European Parliament in the Recommendation of 23 April 2008. They committed themselves to put the EQF in practice across Europe. EU Member States, candidate countries, Liechtenstein and Norway – all of whom participate in the Education and Training 2020 cooperation – work towards implementing the EQF.


When implementing ET 2020 countries identify how the national qualifications levels relate to the eight European reference levels of the EQF. This is done through a national referencing process, which is based on a set of criteria agreed at European level. Following extensive national consultations with stakeholders, countries present the results of this referencing process to the EQF Advisory Group and publish their referencing report on this portal.

Once national qualifications levels are related/referenced to the EQF, it will be much easier compare and assess national qualifications in the process of recognition of foreign qualifications when people move to another country. The goal is that all new qualifications, diplomas, certificates and Europass supplements will carry a reference to an appropriate EQF level.

An EQF National Coordination Point is set up in each country that participates in the EQF which coordinates implementation at national level and provides information on how the national qualifications levels relate to the EQF and how the EQF is implemented. 

At European level, the EQF Advisory Group ensures that the EQF is implemented in a transparent, trustworthy and coherent way across Europe. It brings together representatives from national authorities in ET 2020 countries and European representatives of social partners and other European stakeholders.

Minutes and documents of the EQF Advisory Group meetings are published on the Register of Commission Expert Groups.   

For more information on national qualifications framework developments, including the European Inventory on NQF consult Cedefop website.

Shifting focus to learning outcomes

The most important principle of the EQF is the learning outcomes approach. The learning outcomes approach shifts focus to what knowledge, skills and competences the learner has acquired by the end of the learning process.

Implementing the EQF requires that all qualifications that are related to the EQF, via national qualifications frameworks, are described in terms of learning outcomes. All participating countries - Member States, candidate counties and Liechtenstein and Norway - are voluntarily developing  or implementing their own National Qualifications Frameworks (NQFs) based on learning outcomes.