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National qualifications frameworks in Europe – developments and challenges. Jens Bjornavold, Helsinki 17 June 2010. Cedefop has mapped and analysed (June 2010) NQF-developments in 27 EU member states 2 EEA countries (Iceland and Norway) 2 candidate countries (Croatia and Turkey)

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National qualifications frameworks in Europe – developments and challenges

Jens Bjornavold,

Helsinki 17 June 2010

Cedefop has mapped and analysed (June 2010) NQF-developments in

27 EU member states

2 EEA countries (Iceland and Norway)

2 candidate countries (Croatia and Turkey)

Covers a total of 34 frameworks (2 in Belgium, 3 in the UK)

But NQF developments are global in their character, 120 countries

are currently involved in NQF developments (European Training

Foundation 2010) . This is partly triggered by regional and overarching

frameworks like the EQF and the Bologna framework for higher education

main findings 1
Main findings (1)

The analysis confirms the importance and priority attributed to NQFs across Europe;

31 EU/EEA countries are now developing and introducing NQFs;

Countries agree on need for European comparability and comparison and NQFs are seen as key instruments to achieve the link to EQF;

A clear trend towards comprehensive NQFs covering all levels and types of qualifications – EQF and QF Bologna goes together at national level;

The ambitions and degree of coherence/integration vary between countries – some ‘pro-forma’ frameworks.....

main findings 2
Main findings (2)

An increasing number of countries are moving from early conceptualisation and design stage to consultation/testing and implementation stage;

The learning outcomes approach is increasingly being accepted and used;

Countries put much effort into developing NQFs descriptors reflecting their national traditions and structures;

Several countries (Belgium Flanders, Estonia, Lithuania, Malta and Portugal) have now formally adopted NQFs ;

The ‘first generation’ NQFs (UK, Ireland France) are being reviewed and further developed.

main findings 3
Main findings (3)

NQF implies more than agreeing on technical features – for

example a hierarchy of levels and level descriptors – it is first

and foremost about creating a platform for dialogue involving

a broad(er) group of stakeholders;

NQFs, if taken seriously, will influence existing

structures, practises and interests;

The level of involvement and ownership the strongest indicator

of success!

roles and functions of nqfs
Roles and functions of NQFs

Most NQFs in Europe are presented as communication frameworks;

Communication frameworks increase the transparency of the existing qualifications system - they do not suggest to change them;

Communication frameworks tends to represent a first step - in some cases opening up towards reforms;

The reforming role of NQFs will depend on their ability to influence the way qualifications are designed and awarded.

NQFs may operate according to different objectives and ambitions in different E&T sub-systems;

nqfs triggering national reforms
NQFs triggering national reforms

NQFs are increasingly becoming instruments for national

reform. Examples are:

reforms in upper secondary education in Italy and Iceland linking programmes to learning outcome based levels and designing new pathways;

revising methodological framework for qualifications development in line with EQF principles in Rumania or Estonia;

developing implementing outcome-based standards and curricula in Croatia and Lithuania ;

facilitating the introduction of arrangements for recognition of non-formal learning in a number of countries; Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany etc.;

shaping arrangements to improve access from VET to HE in Germany.

nqfs between integration and specialisation the role of higher education
NQFs between integration and specialisation –the role of higher education

NQFs promote stronger integration between sub-systems, in particular

between vocational and academic education and training. Different

solutions emerge:

Coherent level descriptors covering all levels and types of qualifications; vocational qualifications can be placed at all levels ; Universities have no monopoly of higher qualifications;

A clear distinction between levels 1-5 and levels 6-8 (the latter restricted to the three cycles of Bologna);

Parallel qualifications strands are introduced at levels 6-8, one covering academic qualifications and the other opening for vocationally oriented qualifications awarded outside the traditional HE institutions.

Need to carefully balance the need for integration/permeability with the need of subsystems (general, vocational, academic) to address specific needs;

To further strengthen learning outcomes based approaches – implementation is uneven and sometimes slow;

How to further develop quality assurance relevant to learning outcomes based frameworks?

The visibility of the NQFs to end-users, individuals and employers, need to be given priority and is crucial for ownership and trust!

Challenges ahead

The link between NQFs and validation of non-formal learning and credit transfer arrangements will influence their relevance to individuals and their learning careers;

NQFs must become embedded in the broader national skills and competence development strategies –they should not be taken forward in isolation

The relevance of NQFs depend on their ability to include sector and branch qualifications, national as well as international;

Systematic monitoring and evaluation strategies and indicators must be developed;

Challenges ahead


National Qualifications Frameworks - the future potential?

  • We observe a snowball effect
  • the number of NQFs is
  • growing rapidly, potentially
  • impacting
    • international cooperation
    • national education and
    • training policies
    • the learning and
    • employment of
    • individuals
    • How to avoid NQFs becoming a passing - resource demanding - fashion....?