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Frameworks of Qualifications: The Irish Experience Azerbaijan Seminar Baku, 12 th June 2007 Stuart Garvie National Qualifications Authority of Ireland. The presentation. the Irish context new legislation, new structures development of a National Framework of Qualifications

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Frameworks of Qualifications:The Irish ExperienceAzerbaijan SeminarBaku, 12th June 2007Stuart GarvieNational Qualifications Authority of Ireland

The presentation
The presentation

  • the Irish context

  • new legislation, new structures

  • development of a National Framework of Qualifications

  • Implementation of the Framework

  • The Framework and international development

The irish context
The Irish context

  • a small state – population 4.5 million (Azerbaijan 8 million)

  • centralised government

    • weak regional / local structures

  • separation of ‘Education’ and ‘Training’

    • across a range of government Departments

  • separation of previous qualifications systems

    • schools

    • further education

    • training: agriculture, tourism, fisheries, labour

    • higher education: institutes of technology, universities

Focus of provision for learning in ireland
Focus of provision for learning in Ireland

  • historically on the needs of young people

    • investment of resources

    • design of systems and structures

  • a childhood-to-young adult, pre-employment experience

  • concentration on school-to-college and school-to-training development routes

  • demographic change: peak age cohort now app. 24 yrs.

A framework of qualifications why
A Framework of Qualifications – why?

  • a coherent national policy approach to qualifications

  • lifelong learning society

    • new kinds of work and career

    • need for a more flexible system of qualifications

    • need for portability of qualifications

  • international comparison and alignment

    • European policy trends and agreements – Lisbon, Copenhagen and

    • Bologna, European Qualifications Framework (EQF)

Towards a coherent but flexible system
Towards a coherent but flexible system….

what is required?

  • a framework for the development, recognition and award of qualifications in Ireland

  • one framework to encompass all awards for all aspects of education and training

  • a simple, transparent frame of reference

New legislation new structures
New legislation, new structures

  • Qualifications (Education and Training) Act, 1999

  • three new organisations, 2001

    • National Qualifications Authority of Ireland

    • Further Education and Training Awards Council

    • Higher Education and Training Awards Council

  • awards Councils bring coherence to the system

    • replace seven previous systems of awards

    • one awarding body for all further education and training (VET)

The new structures
The new structures

  • National Qualifications Authority of Ireland

    • to develop and maintain a national framework of qualifications

    • a system for coordinating & comparing awards

    • awards based on outcomes - standards of knowledge, skill & competence

    • to promote access, transfer and progression – incl. arrangements for credit accumulation and transfer

  • two Awards Councils

    • to develop new systems of awards

    • to make awards at all levels in the Framework

Developing the framework
Developing the Framework

A dual approach:

  • Strong legislative base: Qualifications (Education and Training) Act 1999

    • Sets out and legitimises general basis of framework

  • Consultation and Research

    • Identification of stakeholders: wide-ranging

      • - representatives of all sectors of education and training community; social partners; state agencies; learners

    • consensus-building and involvement of stakeholders:

      • Stakeholder views sought formally and given serious consideration

      • Consultative Group; also extensive series of bilateral and multilateral meetings

    • transparency

      • Communication of research findings, emerging policy approaches, decisions and determinations

The framework blueprint for change
The Framework: blueprint for change

  • a new concept of a ‘qualification’, or an ‘award’:

  • an award is a recognition of learning outcomes

    • not a recognition of participation in a programme or in any particular learning process

    • many programmes may lead to the same award

  • many new awards, new titles, new terminology

  • not a compendium of existing awards

  • not just a mapping of relationships between existing awards

  • no distinction made between ‘education’ and ‘training’

The framework in outline
The Framework in outline

  • a structure of 10 levels

  • each level based on a range of standards of knowledge, skill and competence

  • level indicators

  • Grid of 10 level indicators, defined in terms of 8 dimensions of knowledge, skill and competence

Award types

  • a central element in the Framework concept

  • a class of named awards – e.g. Honours Bachelor Degree, or National Craft Certificate (pre-Framework award)

  • one or more award-types at each level in the Framework

  • an initial set of 16 major award-types defined

Classes of award type
Classes of award-type

  • award-types are defined in four classes

    • major award-types: for a typical range of outcomes at a level

    • also minor, supplemental and special-purpose award-types

  • all 16 award-types in the outline Framework are ‘major’

  • the Framework will eventually have a variety of award-types at each level.

Named awards
Named awards

  • a ‘named award’ is what a learner receives

  • a named award is for achievement in a specific field of learning – e.g. Honours Bachelor Degree in Electrical Engineering, or National Craft Certificate: Electrician (pre-Framework award)

  • a named award is associated with a level in the Framework through the award-type to which it belongs

  • named awards to be developed by the awarding bodies

The National Framework of Qualifications – award-types and awarding bodies

Awards in the framework 1
Awards in the Framework - 1

  • new awards across all 10 levels

    • made by the awards Councils (FETAC and HETAC)

  • school and university awards are accommodated

    • general manner of inclusion is set out

  • policies and criteria published for inclusion in or alignment with the Framework for:

    • professional awards

    • international awards

Awards in the framework 2
Awards in the Framework - 2

  • Major Awards: principal class of award made at a level

  • Minor Awards: are for partial completion of the outcomes for a Major Award

  • Supplemental Awards: are for learning that is additional to a Major Award

  • Special Purpose Awards are for relatively narrow or purpose-specific achievement

Framework implementation i
Framework Implementation - I

  • FETAC has put in place arrangements for Framework awards at levels 1-6

  • Implementation arrangements in higher education announced in July 2004

    • being implemented from autumn 2004 and used in 2005 CAO

  • Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate included in the framework

Framework implementation ii
Framework Implementation - II


    • using interim standards for all award-types

    • delegating authority to make awards to institutes of technology

  • University existing awards aligned with major award-types

    • implemented for Ordinary Bachelor Degree, Honours Bachelor Degrees, Masters Degrees & Doctoral Degrees

    • Policy approach agreed

    • process underway within universities for Higher Diploma & Post-Graduate Diploma

    • process underway for ‘smaller’ award-types

  • DIT implementing all new major award-types; using some smaller ones

Existing former qualifications
Existing & former qualifications

  • many familiar qualifications will no longer be awarded

  • intention is to map these qualifications to Framework levels

  • most existing and former qualifications now placed

Framework and quality assurance i
Framework and Quality Assurance - I

  • An important dimension of Framework implementation: credibility of Framework dependent upon it

  • Statutory quality assurance arrangements in place for the following awarding bodies:

    • State Examinations Commission

    • FETAC

    • HETAC

    • Dublin Institute of Technology

    • Universities

Framework and quality assurance ii
Framework and Quality Assurance - II

  • Authority works closely with stakeholders in developing and enhancing quality cultures across education and training system

    • Statutory quality role in relation to FETAC, HETAC, DIT

    • Consultative role in relation to HEA review of universities QA procedures

    • Encourage common approaches, best practice throughout system, e.g., through Irish Higher Education Quality Network

  • Also relevant to national policies on internationalisation of Irish education and training services

    • use of Framework (including dissemination of information on placement of awards and the associated quality assurance mechanisms) as part of the proposed Education Ireland Quality Mark

Mobility for learners

A key objective in the legislation

lifelong learning implies a more diverse learning community

more diverse needs

to be able to gain an award in different ways, e.g. by accumulating credit for learning outcomes over time

opportunity for entry – transparent, fair and consistent entry arrangements

clarity about relationships between awards, and about transfer / progression routes

accurate and reliable information

task – to maximise opportunities for mobility for learners

Mobility for learners

Improving mobility for learners

need for a cultural shift

need to focus the concept of access on the achievement of an award (not on entry to a programme)

need to focus measurement of success on outcomes rather than inputs (e.g. time spent on a programme)

a comprehensive strategy, published in October 2003

four policy strands: credit, progression routes, entry arrangements, information provision

Improving mobility for learners

The irish experience notable features
The Irish experience: notable features

  • Framework is part of a broad reform of the system of qualifications

  • New structures, new organisations

  • Dual approach – legislation and consultation

  • Framework contains new awards at all levels, but also many existing awards are included

  • Key concepts – level, level indicators, award-type, award-type descriptors, named award,

International or meta frameworks
International or Meta-Frameworks

  • Framework for Qualifications of the European Higher Education Area (adopted by European Ministers, Bergen 2005) - the ‘Bologna Framework’

    • verification of compatibility with the Irish national framework – completed November 2006

    • One of first two countries doing this on a “pilot basis”

  • European Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning, (‘EQF’ - under development)

    • triggered by an Irish EU Presidency conference

    • proposal for basic structure nearing completion

    • 8 levels, based on learning outcomes

  • Key role of the Authority in the development of both meta-frameworks

European meta frameworks
European Meta-Frameworks

  • In both cases

    • Primacy with the National Framework of Qualifications

    • Quality assurance required in national arrangements

    • Qualifications relate to national frameworks and frameworks talk to each other through meta-frameworks

    • Countries self-certify the link of their national frameworks to European frameworks following established criteria and procedures
























Country A


Country B





Further information
Further Information

  • all developments are featured on the website of the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland:

  • Framework website: