European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning

In April 2008 the European Parliament and Council adopted the Recommendation on the establishment of the European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning (EQF).

The EQF aims to establish a common reference framework as a translation device between different qualification systems and their levels. This framework comprises general, higher and vocational education and training, and should lead to better transparency, comparability and portability of citizens’ qualifications (e.g. diplomas, certificates etc.)

The EQF recommends that each level of qualification should, in principle, be attainable by way of a variety of educational and career paths. This should foster lifelong learning and increase the employability, mobility and social integration of workers and learners. The recommendation should also facilitate building bridges between formal, non-formal and informal learning.

The EQF neither replaces nor defines national qualification systems nor qualifications. It does not describe any particular qualifications or individual competences, but describes the eight EQF levels via descriptors for the three categories “knowledge”, “skills” and “competences” (see Annex II of the Recommendation).

The Member States are encouraged to develop national qualifications frameworks that rely on and are linked to the EQF. Moreover, it is recommended to the Member States to:

  • Relate their national qualifications systems to the European Qualifications Framework by 2010;
  • Adopt measures, as appropriate, so that, by 2012, all new qualification certificates, diplomas and "Europass" documents issued by the competent authorities contain a clear reference, by way of national qualifications systems, to the appropriate European Qualifications Framework level;
  • Use an approach based on learning outcomes when defining and describing qualifications;
  • Promote and apply the principles of quality assurance in education and training set out in Annex III.

These principles, which include both higher and vocational education and training, are as follows:

  • Quality assurance policies and procedures should underpin all levels of the European Qualifications Framework.
  • Quality assurance should be an integral part of the internal management of education and training institutions.
  • Quality assurance should include regular evaluation of institutions, their programmes or their quality assurance systems by external monitoring bodies or agencies.
  • External monitoring bodies or agencies carrying out quality assurance should be subject to regular review.
  • Quality assurance should include context, input, process and output dimensions, while giving emphasis to outputs and learning outcomes.

The second part of Annex III contains a summary of elements which quality assurance systems should contain (e.g. clear and measurable goals and standards; appropriate resources; consistent evaluation methods, associating self-assessment and external review; feedback mechanisms and procedures for improvement; widely accessible evaluation results etc.)

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