The European Qualifications Framework, or EQF, is one of a series of instruments developed to support European cooperation in education and training (other instruments include
Developed and tested over many years, the EQF was officially launched in 2008 and is now guided by a more recent Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council (2018) in which there is reference to the need to reference and compare all types and levels of qualifications, of the importance of renewed or revised referencing of national frameworks, and of the ambition for incuding references to the appropriate EQF level on all newly issued qualification documents.
Acting as a translation device for existing national qualifications, the EQF aims at promoting the mobility of workers and learners, facilitating lifelong learning and qualifications recognition and increasing understanding, and comparison, of the qualifications levels in different European countries through linking national qualifications systems to a common European reference framework.
The EQF encompasses all levels and all types of learning and centres on eight reference levels, known as EQF levels, that describe what a learner knows, understands and is able to do (learning outcomes descriptors). The EQF does not describe specific qualifications, however, relying instead on the levelling of qualifications and awards against existing National Qualifications Systems and Frameworks (NQFs).
The referencing of different national qualifications systems and frameworks to the EQF is ongoing, with some countries having completed this activity and other countries continuing to work on development and referencing actions. Where referencing has been completed, results have been uploaded to the European Commission's Learning Opportunities and Qualifications in Europe Portal to allow the comparison of different NQFs, to the EQF, and to each other.
The EQF shares common transparency goals with ECVET, with each of these instruments making use of learning outcomes (see section on Learning Outcomes). In ECVET, learning outcomes are used as a basis for credit transfer and accumulation. ECVET does not, however, provide a template or taxonomy for the development of learning outcomes, relying instead on models already in use at national, regional or systems level (for example, as a part of existing NQFs).
What is essential for ECVET is ensuring that learning outcomes are clearly identified and described to enable the mutual understanding of qualifications and judgments on:
- whether the qualifications covered in the framework of a partnership for geographical mobility lead to the same or similar occupation.
- whether learning outcomes, as described in one setting or context, are comparable with those able to be achieved in another setting or context.
With a view to promoting synergy between these two important instruments, many European countries have designated the same body or organisation to act as a national contact point for EQF and ECVET.