You are here:  About EQF > Glossary


  • Terms of major relevance for EQF implementation
    (Education & Training/ Learning path, Education & Training/ Learning pathway, Employability, EQF knowledge/ skills/ competences, Formal, non-formal and informal learning, Learning outcome, Lifelong learning, Mobility, Mutual Trust, Prior learning, Recognition, Referencing, Validation)

  • Education elements
    (Assessment, Certificate, Curriculum, Occupational profile, Qualification, Qualification framework, Qualification system, Standard/-s)

  • Stakeholders and institutions
    (Awarding/ Competent body, EQF advisory group, European Commission, DG Education and Culture, National coordination point, VET provider)

  • Other European instruments
    (ECTS, ECVET, EQAVET, Europass, ISCED)


Terms of major relevance for EQF implementation

Education & Training/ Learning path

The sum of learning sequences (formal and/or non-formal) followed by an individual to acquire knowledge, skills and competences.

Education & Training/ Learning pathway
A set of related education or training programmes provided by schools, training centres, higher education institutions or VET providers, and that facilitates individual's progression within or between sectors.

The combination of factors which enable individuals to progress towards or get into employment, to stay in employment and to progress during career.

EQF knowledge/ skills/ competences
Knowledge means the outcome of the assimilation of information through learning. Knowledge is the body of facts, principles, theories and practices that is related to a field of work or study. In the context of the European Qualifications Framework, knowledge is described as theoretical and/or factual.
means the ability to apply knowledge and use know-how to complete tasks and solve problems. In the context of the European Qualifications Framework, skills are described as cognitive (involving the use of logical, intuitive and creative thinking) or practical (involving manual dexterity and the use of methods, materials, tools and instruments).
_Competence means the proven ability to use knowledge, skills and personal, social and/or methodological abilities, in work or study situations and in professional and personal development. In the context of the European Qualifications Framework, competence is described in terms of responsibility and autonomy. Sometimes it is pointed out to be the decisive factor in the process of referencing qualifications to a qualifications frameworks level.

Formal, non-formal and informal learning
_Formal learning occurs in an organised and structured environment and is explicitly designated as learning (in terms of objectives, time or resources). Formal learning is intentional from the learner's point of view. It typically leads to validation and certification.
_Non-formal learning is embedded in planned activities not explicitly designated as learning (in terms of learning objectives, time or support). It is intentional from the learners point of view.
_Informal learning results from daily activities related to work, family or leisure. It is not organised or structured in terms of objectives, time or learning support. Informal learning is in most cases unintentional from the learners' perspective.

Learning outcome
Learning Outcomes means statements of what a learner knows, understands and is able to do on completion of a learning process, which are defined in terms of knowledge, skills and competence.

Lifelong learning
All learning activity undertaken throughout life, which results in improving knowledge, know-how, skills, competences and/or qualifications for personal, social and/or professional reasons.

The ability of an individual to move and adapt to a new occupational environment. Mobility can be geographical or 'functional' (a move to a new post in a company or to a new occupation). Mobility enables individuals to acquire new skills and thus to increase their employability. They can take place during all kind of word and learning periods.

Mutual trust
A zone of mutual trust (ZMT) is an agreement between individuals, enterprises and other organisations on the delivery, recognition and evaluation of vocational learning outcomes (knowledge, skills and competences). It offers practical help with decisions about the value of qualification and certification, further learning and recruitment into employment. ZMTs may be dynamic in nature and may become more or less formal in scope and form according to the mutual confidence and needs of the stakeholders involved.

Prior learning
Learning acquired outside the classroom such as in
corporate training; work experience; civic activity; and independent study.

Recognition of learning outcomes
(a) formal recognition: the process of granting official status to skills and competences either through the award of qualification (certificate, diploma, titles) or grant of equivalence, credit units or waivers, validation of gained skills and/or competences;
(b) social recognition: the acknowledgement of the value of skills and/or competences by economic and social stakeholders.

The process of (a) assigning qualifications to a certain qualifications framework level and (b) matching one qualifications frameworks leves with the levels of another one.

Validation of learning outcomes
Confirmation by a competent body that learning outcomes (knowledge, skills, competences) acquired by an individual in a formal, non-formal or informal setting have been assessed against predefined criteria and are compliant with the requirements of a validation standard. Validation typically leads to certification.


Education elements


The process of appraising knowldege, know-how, skills and/or comptences of an individual against predefined criteria (learning expectations, measurement of learning outcomes). Assessment is typically followed by validation and certification.

(also diploma, titel) An official document, issued by an awarding body, which records the achievement of an individual following an assessment and validation against a predefined standard. (Certification of learning outcomes ... The process of issuing a certificate, diploma or title formally attesting that a set of learning outcomes (knowledge, know-how, skills and/or competences) acquired by an individual have been assessed and validated by a competent body against a predefined standard.)

The inventory of activities implemented to design, organise and plan an education or training action, including the definition of learning objectives, content, methods (incl. assessment) and material, as well as arrangements for training teachers and trainers.

Occupational profile
An occupational profile is a description of the knowledge, skills, competences that a professional or worker must have to perform a competently at the workplace.

Qualification means a formal outcome of an assessment and validation process which is obtained when a competent body determines that an individual has achieved learning outcomes to given standards.

Qualification framework
Qualifications Framework means an instrument for the classification of qualifications according to a set of criteria for specified levels of learning achieved, which aims to integrate and coordinate national or sectoral qualifications subsystems and improve the transparency, access, progression and quality of qualifications in relation to the labour market and civil society.

Qualification system
National Qualifications System means all aspects of a states activity related to the recognition of learning and other mechanisms that link education and training to the labour market and civil society. This includes the development and implementation of institutional arrangements and processes relating to quality assurance, assessment and the award of qualifications. A National Qualifications System may be composed of several subsystems and may include a National Qualifications Framework.

A series of elements whose content is defined by concerned actors. This can be
_competence standards: knowledge, skills, competences linked to the practice of a job;
_education standards: statements of learning objectives, content of curricula, entry requirements and resources required to meet the learning objectives;
_occupational standards: statements of the activities and trasks related to a specific job and to its practice;
_assessment standard: statements of the learning outcomes to be assessed and the methodology used;
_validation standards: statements of the level of achievement to be reached by the person assessed, and the methodology used;
_certification standards: statements of the rules applicable for obtaining a certificate or diploma as well as the rights conferred.
According to the system, these standards can be defined separately or be part of one document.


Stakeholders and institutions

Awarding/ Competent body

A body issuing qulifications (certificates, diplomas or titles) formally recognising the learning outcomes (knowledge, skills, competences) of an individual, following an assessment and validation procedure

EQF advisory group
The EQF advisory group brings together representatives from national authorities and other stakeholders to help with the implementation of the framework. Its work is complemented by the EU-wide Learning Outcomes Group which supports debate and peer learning on relevant issues, focusing on the development of national qualifications frameworks and the validation of non-formal and informal learning.

European Commission, DG Education and Culture

European Directorate-General responsible among others for the European Qualifications Framework. (read more)

National coordination point (NCP)
In each participating country an national coordination point has been designed in order to facilitate the process of referencing national qualifications frameworks to the EQF so that all new qualifications issued from 2012 carry a reference to an appropriate EQF level. (list of NCPs)

VET (vocational education and training) provider
Any organisation or individual providing vocational education and training. This includes among others vocational schools, privat training providers but also enterprises offering training to their employees.


Other European instruments

European credit transfer and accumulation system within higher education (read more)

European credit system for vocational education and training, a device in which qualifications are expressed in units of learning outcomes to which credit points are attached, and which is combined with a procedure for validating learning outcomes. (read more)

European quality assurance reference framework for VET (read more)

Europass is a free of charge service offered by the European Union. It supports the transparent documentation of qualifications and competences acquired in different contexts (read more)

International Standard Classification of Education (read more)


Definitions based on/ taken from:

  • Terminology of European education and training policy: A selection of 100 key terms, CEDEFOP
  • Glossary: Quality in education and training, CEDEFOP
  • "First"-project glossary
  • Website of the European Commission, Education & training
  • European Qualifications Framework portal
  • UNESCO Institute for Statistics
  • European reference levels for education and training promoting credit transfer and mutual trust, CEDEFOP

Message to portal editor

contact us
Data privacy

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This portal reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.