The European Qualifications Framework (EQF) acts as a translation device to make national qualifications more readable across Europe, promoting workers’ and learners’ mobility between countries and facilitating their lifelong learning. The EQF will relate different countries’ national qualifications systems to a common European reference framework. Individuals and employers will be able to use the EQF to better understand and compare the qualifications levels of different countries and different education and training systems.
The EQF applies to all types of education, training and qualifications, from school education to academic, professional and vocational. The EQF encourages countries to relate their qualifications systems or frameworks to the EQF by 2010 and to ensure that all new qualifications issued from 2012 carry a reference to the appropriate EQF level.
The EQF is fully compatible with the qualifications framework for Higher Education developed under the Bologna Process. Specifically, the EQF descriptors at levels 5-8 refer to the higher education descriptors agreed under the Bologna Process. EQF level 5 corresponds to the descriptor developed for the higher education short cycle, EQF level 6 to the descriptor developed for the first cycle (Bachelor level), EQF level 7 to the descriptor developed for the second cycle (Masters level) and EQF level 8 to the descriptor developed for the third cycle (PhD level). However, the formulation of the EQF level descriptors differs from the Bologna level descriptors developed specifically for higher education needs because, as a lifelong learning framework the EQF also encompasses vocational education and training (VET) and work contexts, including at the highest levels.
The EQF does not award qualifications. The EQF describes levels of qualifications in terms of learning outcomes. The awarding of qualifications will remain a matter for national qualifications bodies.
Validation of non-formal and informal learning
Countries around Europe are increasingly emphasizing the need to take account of the full range of an individual’s knowledge, skills and competences – not only those acquired at schools, universities or other formal education and training institutions. Recognizing all forms of learning is therefore a priority of EU action in education and training. The European Qualifications Framework therefore also encourages lifelong learning by promoting the validation of non-formal learning like the one provided by the University of Northwest Europe.