ECVET and Learning Outcomes

What are Learning Outcomes?


Learning outcomes are defined in the Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the establishment of the EQF, and in a similar ECVET Recommendation, as “statements of what a learner knows, understands and is able to do on comple­tion of a learning process, and which are defined in terms of knowledge, skills and competence”. Learning outcomes are usually developed as a part of the process of designing and building qualifications, and can be achieved, by individual learners, through various different learning pathways, modes of delivery and learning contexts (formal, non-formal and informal).


How are Learning Outcomes Described?


Whilst the European definition of learning outcomes uses the terms knowledge, skills and competence, as a common denominator, learning outcomes are often described using terminology or descriptors already in place across different European countries, regions and sectors. Once developed, learning outcomes are usually grouped together to form units, according to one or more common criteria (for example, linguistic, occupational or technical nature; complementary competences; level of learning). Units are then brought together to form whole qualifications. Decisions on the grouping of learning outcomes remain with the competent institutions in each country.


How are Learning Outcomes used for ECVET and Geographical Mobility?


In terms of geographical mobility, ECVET targets the improved recognition of learning outcomes, enabling individuals to fully integrate mobil­ity-related achievements into new or existing learning pathways, recognising and making visible that which they have learned abroad. Successful implementation of ECVET requires that qualifications be described using learning outcomes, with many of the technical components of ECVET underpinned by their use:


  • in some European countries, the achievement of learning outcomes results in credit being awarded, following a process of validation, with such credit often contributing to the achievement of a qualification or award.
  • in other countries, where unit-based qualifications are not in use, or where qualifications systems do not allow for credit accumulation or transfer, learning outcomes can be developed specifically for mobility purposes, with activities recognised as a part of the curriculum, yet with achievements often viewed as extra-credit.

In all cases learning outcomes should be agreed in advance, and communicated to all parties, with direct reference made in the learning agreement.


Additional information on the use of learning outcomes for ECVET and geographical mobility can be found in the ECVET Toolkit.