The European Qualifications Framework (EQF) was adopted by the European Parliament and the Council on 23 April 2008 (OJ C 111, 6.5.2008, p. 1–7). The EQF encourages countries to relate their qualifications systems or frameworks to the EQF by 2010 and to ensure that all new qualifications issued from 2012 carry a reference to the appropriate EQF level. The European Qualifications Framework (EQF) acts as a translation device to make national qualifications more readable across Europe, promoting workers’ and learners’ mobility between countries and facilitating their lifelong learning. Individuals and employers will be able to use the EQF to better understand and compare the qualifications levels of different countries and different education and training systems.The EQF applies to all types of education, training and qualifications, from school education to academic, professional and vocational. Currently, 35 countries are developing 39 NQFs (National Qualifications Frameworks). Almost all countries decided to develop NQFs as a way of linking to the EQF. General agreement on the importance and value of a European reference framework for qualifications has encouraged coherent development of NQFs across Europe. [This Library Navigator was created in August 2011 by Giuseppe Iannantuono and comprehensively updated in August 2013]
Recognition of titles is an important instrument to facilitate the free movement of students and of graduates in Europe. A distinction must be made between recognition for academic purposes (i.e.: a title needs to be recognized in order to continue studies) and recognition for professional purposes (i.e. : a title needs to be recognized in order to work in a certain profession). There are no European provisions imposing recognition of diplomas (except for certain regulated occupations). Universities, which are autonomous in establishing the content of their curricula and for awarding diplomas and certificates to students. Diplomas and certificates are recognized by the authorities of the Member State concerned. The European Commission has encouraged mutual recognition (for academic purposes) between the various education systems in Europe. As regards recognition for professional purposes, it is important to distinguish between professions that are regulated and non-regulated professions. A profession is said to be regulated when it is a statutory requirement to hold a diploma or other occupational qualification in order to pursue the profession in question. In that case, the lack of the necessary national diploma constitutes a legal obstacle to access to the profession. It is important to note that the EU Directives did not set up a system of automatic equivalence between diplomas. It is for the person concerned to submit an individual application specifying clearly which occupation they wish to pursue. If that profession is not regulated, the applicant is subject to the rules of the labor market and not to any legal constraints with regard to her or his diploma. The authorities of the host country are in any event obliged, under the articles on freedom of movement of the EC Treaty, to take account of the applicant’s professional diplomas and qualifications acquired in another MemberState.
Legislative overview / General information
European Qualifications Framework / Summary of EU Legislation
Legislation in force
Documentation – European Commission’s EQF portal website
Development Legislation in force – Legislation related to Directive 2005/36/EC of 7 September 2005 on the Recognition of Professional Qualifications
Legislation in preparation
Public Consultation on the Recognition of Professional Qualifications Directive in order to publish a Green Paper on Modernising the Professional Qualifications Directive (COM (2011) 367 fin) of 22 June 2011
Inter-parliamentary meeting “The Internal market for Professionals: how to make it work? Improving the recognition of professional qualifications.” Note to Members. / Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection. 1/12/2010. Summary of the discussions. / Parlement européen, Commission du marché intérieur et de la protection des consommateurs, 1/12/2010
Resolution on the proposal for a recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the establishment of the European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning (T6-0463/2007). The European Parliament adopted its resolution (procedure 2006/163(COD)) on the European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning, aimed at promoting mobility on the labour market and the recognition of (non-formal and informal) vocational / professional qualifications in Europe, the 24/10/2007. The EQF supplements the existing qualifications frameworks for vocational education and training (EQVET) and the higher education qualifications framework. It intends to promote lifelong learning opportunities also for disadvantaged groups. It also adopted a resolution T6-368/2006 on 26/9/2006 supporting the the creation of a European Qualifications Framework (procedure 2006/2002(INI)).
Study on Transposition of the Directive on the Recognition of Professional Qualifications / European Parliament, DG IPol PolDep A, September 2009. The study shows that all MS but one have transposed and implemented the Directive, albeit with severe delays, which have had implications for the enforcement of the Directive in all MS. The MS lack trust in each other’s educational systems, and it is important to establish this trust if the Directive is to work properly. Frequent meetings, common use of IMI, communication from Commission on how to interpret the Directive and assistance from industry organisations are all tools to improve this.d’interpréter la Directive et de l’aide de la part des organisations de l’industrie
State of play of the European Qualifications Framework Implementation / European Parliament, DG IPol PolDep B, March 2012. Analysing the relevance, implementation and first outcomes, one can conclude that although the implementation of the EQF could be assessed as successful, some important issues can be identified, that form a serious test to the full and trustworthy implementation of the EQF.
Further EP procedures on the European Qualifications Framework (EQF). Further related parliamentary procedures on professional qualifications and the recognition of qualifications, European area for education, training and lifelong learning or the recognition of diplomas, equivalence of studies and training.
Conference on the European Qualifications Framework / Hungarian Presidency, May 2011
European trainers want sport qualifications in EQF / Belgian Presidency, 20/12/2010
Qualifications frameworks in Europe: platforms for collaboration, integration and reform / German Presidency, Conference, 2007
Council of the EU
Council Recommendation of 20 December 2012 on the validation of non-formal and informal learning (2012/C 398/01), inviting Member States to put in place validation arrangements which are linked to NQFs and in line with the EQF, by 2018.
Council documents related to the procedure on adopting the European Qualifications Framework (2006/0163(COD)).
Press release (14806/07 (Presse 256)) of the Council Meeting of 15/11/2007 describing the negotiations that led to the adoption (which took place during the meeting on 14 February 2008 (press release 6185/08 (Presse 30))
European Qualifications Framework: Website. The European Commission has launched a website that will give experts a better insight into how qualifications in different countries compare with each other. The European Qualifications Framework (EQF) portal is part of an EU initiative to make national qualifications more transparent across Europe, promoting workers’ and learners’ mobility between countries and encouraging lifelong learning. The site also provides access to most of the publications authored by the Commission below.
Procedure file for the adoption of the European Qualifications Framework in Prelex (2006/0163(COD))
La reconnaissance des qualifications professionnelles en Europe: ce qu’il reste à faire / Speech of Michel Barnier, Commissioner for the Internal Market and Services, 26/10/2010 during the interparliamentary Dialogue Dialogue on the evaluation of the recognition of professional qualifications directive.
European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS): ECTS makes teaching and learning in higher education more transparent across Europe and facilitates the recognition of all studies. The system allows for the transfer of learning experiences between different institutions, greater student mobility and more flexible routes to gain degrees.
Conference Implementing the European Qualifications Framework / European Commission, Cedefop and the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA), June 2008
The Three Cycle System and Qualification Frameworks. Higher Education Reform in Europe, Reader, European Commission, Education and Culture DG. This Reader was prepared for the Bologna Promoters’ Training Seminar on the Three-Cycle System (22-23 June 2006, NapierUniversity, Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom). The training seminar is organised in the framework of the Information Project on Higher Education Reform managed by the European University Association (EUA) on behalf of the European Commission.
Free Movement of Professionals, topical webpage of the European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services presenting the achievements of the European Union in the field of free movement of professionals since the adoption of the Directive on the recognition of professional qualifications (2005/36/EC) and the Green Paper on Modernising that directive (COM (2011) 367 fin)
Newsletters EQF / October 2010 to December 2011
State of Play of the Bologna Process in the Tempus Countries (2009/2010) / EACEA, March 2010 – The aim of this report was to map, for the first time, the state of play of the Bologna Process in the 28 countries participating in the Tempus programme. Two categories of “Bologna tools” were identified, depending on the degree to which they have been implemented in the different countries. The first category consists of the three cycle degree structure and ECTS. The second category contains the introduction of the Diploma Supplement, the development of a National Qualifications Framework and the setting-up of an independent body for quality assurance in higher education. Further publications on Tempus can be found on the EACEA website.
Transparency of qualifications, validation of non-formal and informal learning credit transfer – A focus on project practices / DG Education and Culture, Eurocadres – Leonardo da Vinci Thematic Group, 200
Most of the reports, studies and papers below that have been published by Cedefop can be accessed via Cedefop’s EQF pages.
Analysis and overview of NQF developments in European countries. Annual report 2012, Cedefop, 2013: “Cedefop’s fourth annual report on developments in national qualification frameworks (NQFs) in Europe confirms that these frameworks are considered a key way of making qualifications easier to understand and compare within and between countries. It has also found that such frameworks are increasingly used to encourage changes in education and training. For instance, during 2012 some National Qualifications Frameworks opened up to include qualifications awarded outside the formal public system. Most of the 36 countries working together on the European Qualifications Framework – the 27 EU Member States, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Montenegro, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland and Turkey have now agreed on the overall structure of their national frameworks. In addition to the fully operational frameworks in France, Ireland, Malta and the UK, ten more countries are now entering an early operational phase. The 2012 overview shows that NQFs increasingly interact with and link to arrangements for validating non-formal and informal learning. The recent (December) Council recommendation on the validation of non-formal and informal learning (2012/C 398/01) invites Member States to put in place validation arrangements which are linked to NQFs and in line with the EQF, by 2018. The progress made on NQFs has made it possible for more countries to complete their link to the EQF; 16 countries had linked their national qualifications levels to EQF levels by December 2012.” [authors’ abstract]
Briefing note – Qualifications frameworks in Europe: an instrument for transparency and change. October 2012: “Currently, 35 countries are developing 39 NQFs. Ireland, France and the UK used NQFs prior to 2005, but their development in other countries was stimulated by the European qualifications framework (EQF) as a way to compare qualifications between different countries (Box 1). Although NQFs remain central to achieving this European objective, they are becoming increasingly important for countries to achieve their national aims.” [from note]
National and sectoral qualifications linked to EQF, Study visit reports – Quality assurance mechanism, Study visit reports
Linking credit systems and qualifications frameworks – An international comparative analysis, Research Paper, 2010. The paper analyses development initiatives and reforms of credit systems and qualifications frameworks. The articulation between both tools reveals difficulties and opportunities. This analysis leads to grounded insights in the functioning of credits systems and qualifications frameworks concerning learning pathways (transfer and progression), governance of education and training systems, and qualifications policies, especially qualification designs and awarding procedures
The development of national qualifications frameworks in Europe, September 2009
The development of national qualifications frameworks in Europe, Working Paper n° 8, August 2010
Added value of National Qualifications Frameworks in implementing the EQF, EQF Note 2, Cedefop, Education and Culture DG, European Qualifications Framework, 2010. Further EQF Notes may be found on Cedefop’s EQF pages.
European Commission – UNESCO – Council of Europe
Framework of Qualifications in the Europe and North America Region, ENIC-NARIC: The ENIC Network (European Network of Information Centres) implements the Lisbon Recognition Convention and, in general, develops policy and practice for the recognition of qualifications. The Council of Europe and UNESCO have established the ENIC Network and jointly provide its Secretariat. The ENIC Network cooperates closely with the NARIC (National Academic Recognition Information Centres, founded in 1984) Network of the European Union . The Network is made up of the national information centres of the States party to the European Cultural Convention or the UNESCO Europe Region. The NARIC network provides authoritative advice to anyone travelling abroad for the purposes of work or further education.
Documents related to the Bologna process were hosted on websites furnished temporarily by the different Ministerial conferences (e.g. Flanders in Belgium). Only since 2010 the European Higher Education Area has its dedicated website. Most of the documents referred to below (and further relevant documents) may be found on one of the two mentioned sites.
Qualification framework in the European Higher Education Area. This site has been developed by the Council of Europe, the Bologna Secretariat and the Coordination Group on Qualifications Frameworks to provide important information on qualifications frameworks, which have become an essential instrument in developing the European Higher Education Area
A Framework for Qualifications of the European Higher Education Area / Bologna Working Group on Qualifications Frameworks, February 2005 – A comprehensive study of higher education systems in Europe, and the development of quality frameworks with regard to the different goals. Further, the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) is examined, and the role of quality assurance is established.
European Training Foundation
ETF comments on the European Qualifications consultation document, 2006 – The European Qualification Framework offers countries outside the EU valuable reference points for the exploration of their own policy developments in education and training. The ETF launched a consultation on the European Commission’s working document on European Qualification Frameworks (included in the Annex), involving stakeholders from the candidate countries – Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey and Croatia. The report includes the result of this consultation and the ETF position on the European Qualification Framework.
National referencing reports can be found on the Commission’s EQF pages under the documentation tab or on the Commission’s DG EAC page for the EQF, in some cases also in the country’s language. Furthermore Cedefop’s annual Analysis and overview of NQF developments in European countries. Annual report 2012 (Cedefop, 2013) provides recent information on the situation in the Member States. For a country by country overview you might consult the ENIC-NARIC Network’s website.
Aktuelle EU Dossiers im Bereich Bildung / Bundesministerium für Unterricht, Kunst und Kultur
Lifelong Learning Strategies: Progress and Setbacks In Institutional Practice in Flanders / Adina Timofei. EURASHE, 2009: This research focuses on general aspects concerning the implementation of lifelong learning at European level: the European Qualifications Framework (EQF), Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL), Employability and Lifelong Learning Strategies.
Higher Education Qualifications Framework in Flanders / 2008 – A presentation for compatibility with the Framework for Qualifications of the European Higher Education Area.
European Qualifications Framework – Website of the Danish Ministry for Science, Innovation and Higher Education
Estonian qualifications system – website
Qualifications Framework / National Board Education
The national framework for qualifications and other learning / Report of the Ministry of Education, 20/8/2009
Europäischer Qualifikationsrahmen, Dossier der deutschen Kultusministerkonferenz
Education and Training 2010 Work Programme: National Report – Exploring implementation and progress in Hungary / Judit Lannert et al., April 2009
The European qualifications framework: challenges and implications in the Irish further education and training sector / Lucy Tierney and Marie Clarke, 2008.
European Qualifications Framework, Repercussions of the EQF in Italy
Qualifications Frameworks: Implementation and Impact Background case study on Lithuania / Vidmantas Tūtlys et al., 2008
Differences and Similarities to European Qualifications Framework / B. Jatkauskienė, Lithuania National Qualifications Framework, 2008.
Referencing of the Malta Qualifications Framework (MQF) to the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) and the Qualifications Framework of the European Higher Education Area (QF/EHEA), rev. ed., December 2010.
Malta Qualifications Recognition Information Centre – MQRIC at the National Commission for further and higher education
From the Romanian National Framework of Qualifications to the implementation of Bologna Process – Romanian realities / Mihaela Suditu et al., International Journal od Education and Information Technologies Issue 4, Volume 4, 2010.
Nordic Recognition Network (NORRIC)
Website of the Nordic Recognition Network (NORRIC) – for Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Finland and Denmark
Towards a Nordic Recognitions Strategy, Final Report, May 2007
Unesco’s recognition of qualifications website
Quality Assurance and Accreditation: A Glossary of Basic Terms and Definitions / Lazăr Vlăsceanu et al., Unesco, 2004
Council of Europe
Report on Qualifications Frameworks / Bologna Process Coordination Group for Qualifications Framework, February 2009
Forum on Qualification framework /11-12 October 2007, Qualifications frameworks describe each qualification within a given education system as well as the way in which the various qualifications of that system interact. Qualifications frameworks should emphasize learning outcomes – what learners know, understand and are able to do with a qualification – and how learners can move between qualifications within the same system. At the Ministerial conference of the Bologna Process held in London on 17 – 18 May 2007 the Council of Europe was given responsibility for coordinating the sharing of experience in the development of national qualifications frameworks compatible with the overarching framework of qualifications of the European Higher Education Area
Report based on the analysis of individual country 2007 stocktaking submissions on the implementation of national qualifications frameworks, Report to the Council of Europe Higher Education Forum on Qualifications Frameworks / Stephen Adam, 2007
skills.oecd is an OECD website that presents all the most recent OECD reports, data and videos related to skills. Central to this site is the OECD Skills Strategy, the underlying data visualisations and country-specific data, findings and recommendations.
Qualifications Systems: Bridges to Lifelong Learning, 2007. After reviewing the policies and practice in fifteen countries, the authors present nine broad policy responses to the lifelong learning agenda that countries have adopted and that relate directly to their national qualifications system. They also identify twenty mechanisms, or concrete linkages, between national qualifications systems and lifelong learning goals.
The Role of National Qualifications Systems in Promoting Lifelong Learning. 2005 OECD conference
Research institutes, Think Tanks, Universities
European University Continuing Education Network (EUCEN)
European Qualifications Framework PRO project website
Articulation between vocational and academic learning in University Education, 31/1/2010 – European Qualifications Framework PRO, 31/3/2010. This project aims to test in a lifelong learning perspective the level 5 and level 6 of the European Qualification Framework on 25-30 professional diplomas provided by Higher education institutions to identify potential confusions in the classification of the qualifications at levels 5 and 6 of the EQF framework in different institutions or countries
European Qualifications Framework – State of Play, February 2009
European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA)
Quality assurance and Qualifications Frameworks, 2008. The present report is a product of the “ENQA Workshop on Quality Assurance and Qualifications Frameworks”, hosted by the ENQA member agency HETAC in Dublin in June 2007. The articles have been submitted by the presenters of the workshop. The report gives an overview on recent European developments and examines the implications of the qualifications frameworks for quality assurance in different European countries
Council of European Professional and Managerial Staff (Eurocadres)
Topical website on “Mobility and Recognition of Qualifications
European professional qualifications as recognition of the EU society – Implementing cards for the recognition of professional qualifications – a multi-stakeholder approach to enhance mobility, January 2011. The main objective of this report is to put forward the added value – in terms of information/input – of national seminars in the project “Implementing cards for the recognition of professional qualifications – A multi-stakeholder approach to enhance mobility”. The report sets out a synthesis of opinions related to the potential use of a card devoted to European professionals. This European card is the project’s main concept.
European Credit system for Vocational Education and Training (ECVET)
European Qualifications Framework. Documentation. The European Credit System for Vocational Education and Training (ECVET) is a European instrument to support lifelong learning, the mobility of European learners and the flexibility of learning pathways to achieve qualifications. It was created by a recommendation of the European Parliament and the Council on 18 June 2009 (2009/C 155/02).
Study on the implementation and development of an ECVET system for initial vocational education and training. Final report, October 2007
European Students’ Union (ESU)
The European Qualifications Framework – From a Stakeholders’ Perspective / Final Report, 2008
Deutscher Bildungs Server
European Qualification Framework (EQF) / Dossiers, Reports, Studies
Center for Higher Education Policy Studies (CHEPS) et al.
The extent and impact of higher education curricular reform across Europe, Part 1: Comparative Analysis and Executive Summary, Part 2: Summaries of national reports on curriculum reform in 32 European Countries, Part 3: Five case studies on curriculum reform and Part 4: Curriculum Reform Survey Results. 2006
European Quality Assurance in Vocational Education and Training (EQAVET)
European association of Higher Education Institutions (EURASHE)
EURASHE involvement in projects related to the EQF (EQFPro)
Fundación Laboral del Metal (FLM)
European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC)
The European Qualifications Framework, Resolution, 2006
Lifelong Learning Statistic / Eurostat
Tertiary education statistics / Eurostat
Eurostat Yearbook 2012, chapter 4 on education and training.
Articles and Books
The European Qualification Framework: skills, competences or knowledge? / Philippe Méhaut. in: European Educational Research Journal, vol.11(2012), is. 3, p. 369-381: “Currently adopted as an enabling law by the European Union, the EQF has now operated for several years. In order to secure widespread adoption, however, it will be necessary for it to be anchored at the sectoral and occupational levels in the European labour market as well as at the European and national levels. The article assesses the progress made so far, identifies difficulties encountered and modifications that need to be made and provides an appraisal of the likely evolution of the EQF.” [from author’s abstract]
Quality Assurance in an International Higher Education Area. A Case-Study Approach and Comparative Analysis of Six National Higher Education Systems (Austria, Canada, Finland, Germany, United Kingdom, United States of America) / Andrea Bernhard. Diss. Alpe Adria University, Klagenfurt, 2011. [published by Springer in 2012] Rethinking the purpose and the aim of higher education has led to new and alternative ways to assure the quality of different higher education systems. The case studies of six OECD countries exemplify the ongoing trends and changes of quality assurance systems along peer-reviewed country reports and interviews with national and international experts. The comparative analysis is based on international, descriptive, discursive, and analytical aspects concentrating on the theoretical concepts of massification, diversification, privatisation, and internationalisation.
The referencing of the Norwegian Qualifications Framework to the European Qualifications Framework / Gordon Clark, 1 February 2011
The implementation and impact of National Qualifications Frameworks: Report of a study in 16 countries [England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa ,Mexico, Chile, Malaysia, Mauritius, Botswana, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Lithuania, Tunisia, Bangladesh and Russia] / Stephanie Allais, International Labour Organization, 2010
Stating the Obvious: the European Qualifications Framework is not a neutral evidence-based policy tool. / Pia Cort. in: European Educational Research Journal, vol. 9(2010), is. 3, p. 304-316: “The aim of this article is to denaturalise the EQF discourse through a discursive reading of the EQF policy and a review of research on national qualifications frameworks in a number of primarily Anglo-Saxon countries.” [from author’s abstract]
The European Qualifications Framework (EQF) A tool to describe and compare qualifications / Loukas Zahilas, Cedefop, 2009
National Qualifications Frameworks in an international perspective / Carlo Scatoli, Education and Culture DG, 2009
Reconnaissance des diplômes professionnelles, rapport. / Office des professions du Québec, mai 2009
The EQF – a platform for collaboration, integration and reform / Mike Coles, 19/11/2009
Qualifications frameworks for the European higher education area: A new instrumentalism or much ado about nothing? / Berit Karseth. in: Utbildning & Demokrati, vol. 17 (2008), is. 2, 51-72
The European Qualifications Framework and Tourism Studies: a Comparative Analysis of Tourism Systems of Qualification – Austria, Greece, Italy, Malta, Slovenia and Spain / Malta Qualifications Council (MQC), 2008
Limitations of levels, learning outcomes and qualifications as drivers towards a more knowledge-based society / Alan Brown. in: US-China Education Review, Volume 5 (2008), No.1 (Serial No.38)
Qualifications – Introduction of Concept / Sjur Bergan, Strasbourg: Council of Europe Publishing, 2007. This book provides a systematic overview of the concept of qualifications, discusses its main elements, such as Ievel, workload, quality, profile and learning outcomes, examines generic and subject-specific competences. The author also considers the development of qualifications frameworks and explores the impact of our understanding of the concept of qualifications on recognition.
Coordinating diversity: towards a European qualifications framework for lifelong learning / Lea Katharina Andres, Bachelor thesis Universities of Twente and Münster, 2006: Can the proposed EQF live up to the expectations that have been placed upon it? Based on the EQF proposal and a number of earlier EU documents, a look at Europe’s education and training policies and the goals that have been set out both at EU and at national level provide relevant information to address the question.
Change of degree and degree of change – Comparing adaptations of European Higher Educations Systems in the context of the Bologna Process / Johanna Katharina Witte, Dissertation University of Twente, July 2006. [comparative and historical analysis of the situation in Europe, with a focus on Germany, the Netherlands, France and England. 654 pages and extensive literature list.]
Insight-EU-Keyword – Council conclusions – “Towards social investment for growth and cohesion”. June 20-21, 2013: The Employment Package, a medium-term strategy for job-rich recovery / Fernando Heller, dpa, 21/06/2013
Link-Dossier on Lifelong Learning / Euractiv, 31/10/2008