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, facilitating their lifelong learning and occupational mobility 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 responsibility and autonomy. This makes it more understandable what a learner with a qualification related to the EQF knows, understands and is able to do. This approach enables to compare all types and levels of qualifications including qualifications from higher education, vocational education and training and general education, but also qualifications awarded by the private sector and international organisations. Level 1 presents the lowest level of proficiency, level 8 the highest. In principle all possible ways of learning can lead to the learning outcomes of a particular level, including the learning taking place in non-formal and informal contexts.
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.
When and who?
The EQF was originally established by the European Parliament and the Council of the EU in the Recommendation of 23 April 2008. On 22 May 2017 the Council adopted a revised EQF replacing the Recommendation of 2008. Under the new Recommendation 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. In addition to the 28 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, Kosovo1 and Switzerland (potential candidate countries).
The EQF Recommendation invites the EU Member States to reference national qualifications frameworks or systems to the EQF in particular by referencing their qualification levels to the eight levels of the EQF. Referencing is based on EQF referencing criteria, which are included in the revised Recommendation. National referencing reports, based on extensive national consultations and reviewed by international experts, are presented to the EQF Advisory Group which endorses them if they satisfy the EQF referencing criteria. After referencing countries publish their referencing reports on this portal, taking into account the comments received from the EQF Advisory Group. After this initial referencing Member States and other countries participating in the EQF 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.
Once national qualifications levels are referenced to the EQF all newly issued qualification documents by the competent authorities (e.g. certificates, diplomas, certificate supplements, diploma supplements), and/or registers of qualifications should in principle contain a clear reference to the appropriate EQF level. This will make it much easier for learners, workers and employers to understand and compare qualifications and will also make cross-border recognition easier.
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 and European representatives of social partners and other stakeholders.
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.
EU Member states and other countries participating in the EQF have the possibility to set up EQF National Coordination Points which coordinate implementation of the EQF at national level. Mostly these coordination points also run the national qualifications framework.
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.
1 This designation is without prejudice to position on status, and is in line with UNSC 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.