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What is EQF?

The EQF is a common European reference framework which links countries’ qualifications systems together, acting as a translation device to make qualifications more readable and understandable across different countries and systems in Europe. It has two principal aims: to promote citizens’ mobility between countries and to facilitate their lifelong learning.

With this framework a company of a certain EU country could understand clearly the qualification of a worker when hiring a person from another EU country. Likewise a worker could move to another EU country to work resting assure that his/her experience, training background and professional level could be recognized properly in the other country.


Why is the EQF important? In what way are companies and workers affected by it?

Because it is important that the EU population behaves as a unified country as far as the labor market is concerned among other social/economic aspects. In this sense mobility of workers and companies around the EU territory plays a key role. A worker from Slovenia should have his/her qualification and professional level clearly understood when applying to a job in Portugal for instance. In the same way a company from France could easily understand qualifications and professional level of CV´s received from Poland. If this doesn´t happen this Slovenien worker will not move to work in Portugal and this French company will hardly hire these Polish candidates.

But why is this important? "World Competitiveness" EU faces and will face even harder a serious constrain as far as workforce availability is concerned due to its demographic shortage (
old population and ageing workforce) and can´t afford having unemployed people in one of its countries whereas a company in another country is facing difficulties in finding qualified workforce.

These unbalances effect directly EU productivity and competitiveness in the word which in the long run compromises EU citizens welfare state and economy’s strength.


How is it structured?

The EQF will relate different countries’ national qualifications systems and frameworks together around a common European reference – its eight reference levels. The levels span the full scale of qualifications, from basic (Level 1, for example school leaving certificates) to advanced (Level 8, for example Doctorates) levels. As an instrument for the promotion of lifelong learning, the EQF encompasses all levels of qualifications acquired in general, vocational as well as academic education and training. Additionally, the framework addresses qualifications acquired in initial and continuing education and training. The eight reference levels are described in terms of learning outcomes. Also non formal learning can take into account as it is recognized internally by the education framework of a country which qualifications are related to EQF.

The EQF recognises that Europe’s education and training systems are so diverse that a shift to learning outcomes is necessary to make comparison and cooperation between countries and institutions possible.


What does "learning outcome" mean?

In the EQF a learning outcome is defined as a statement of what a learner knows, understands and is able to do on completion of a learning process. The EQF therefore emphasises the results of learning rather than focusing on inputs such as length of study. Learning outcomes are specified in three categories – as knowledge, skills and competence. This signals that qualifications – in different combinations – capture a broad scope of learning outcomes, including theoretical 
Knowledge, practical and technical skills, and social competences where the ability to work with others will be crucial.


Who invented this? Is it in use?

The development of the European Qualifications Framework started in 2004 in response to requests from the Member States, the social partners and other stakeholders for a common reference to increase the transparency of qualifications. The Commission, with the support of an EQF Expert Group, produced a blueprint proposing an 8-level framework based on learning outcomes aiming to facilitate the transparency and portability of qualifications and to support lifelong learning. The European Parliament and 
Council successfully negotiated the proposal during 2007, leading to the EQF’s formal adoption in February 2008.

Currently many EU countries are working on referring their national qualification systems and qualification levels to EQF levels, so when a worker acquire a qualification and/or an accreditation in Spain, for instance, this qualification has automatically assigned an EQF level which would facilitate its recognition when this worker decide to work in Austria. Many countries have this referring process concluded.


What are the EQFs benefits?

This closer relationship between countries’ qualifications systems will have many beneficiaries:

  • The EQF will support greater mobility of learners and workers. It will make it easier for learners to describe their broad level of competence to recruiters in other countries. This will help employers interpret the qualifications of applicants and so support labour market mobility in Europe. At a very practical level, from 2012 all new qualifications should bear a reference to the appropriate EQF level. The EQF will thus complement and reinforce existing European mobility instruments such as Europass, Erasmus, and ECTS.

  • The EQF should benefit individuals by increasing access to, and participation in, lifelong learning. By establishing a common reference point, the EQF will indicate how learning outcomes may be combined from different settings, for example formal study or work, and from different countries, and can thus contribute to reducing barriers between education and training providers e.g. between higher education and vocational education and training, which may operate in isolation from each other. This will promote progression so that learners do not have to repeat learning for example.

  • The EQF can support individuals with extensive experience from work or other fields of activity by facilitating validation of non-formal and informal learning. The focus on learning outcomes will make it easier to assess whether learning outcomes acquired in these settings are equivalent in content and relevance to formal qualifications.

  • The EQF will support individual users as well as providers of education and training by increasing transparency of qualifications awarded outside the national systems, for example by sectors and multinational companies. The adoption of a common reference framework based on learning outcomes will facilitate the comparison and (potential) linking together of traditional qualifications awarded by national authorities and qualifications awarded by other stakeholders. The EQF will thus help sectors and individuals take advantage of this growing internationalisation of qualifications.


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