Ján Figel’, European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth, has officially launched the European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning (EQF) at an education
conference in Lisbon, Portugal.
The new system will enable employers and education establishments across Europe to compare and understand the qualifications presented by individuals. The Commission hopes that the EQF will
boost worker mobility and facilitate lifelong learning, both of which are vital if Europe is to create more and better jobs and growth and become a truly knowledge-based economy.
At the heart of the system are eight reference levels. They cover all stages of education, from the most basic to the most advanced qualifications. These levels describe what a learner knows,
understands and is able to do, and shift the focus away from learning inputs (such as the length of the course or the type of institution) and towards learning outcomes. The levels can be
applied to all kinds of education, including adult education, vocational training and higher education.
Levels 5 to 8 of the EQF are aligned with the qualifications framework for higher education set out by the Bologna Process. EQF level 5 corresponds to the descriptor for the higher education
short cycle; level 6 to the Bachelors level; level 7 to the Masters cycle and level 8 to the PhD cycle.
‘The EQF will make different qualifications more easily readable between different European countries, and so promote increased mobility for learning or working,’ said Mr Figel’. ‘Over the next
few years, the EQF will promote lifelong learning, for example by making it easier to gain credit for the learning people have already achieved.’
According to Mr Figel’, many people currently face difficulties when moving from one country to another to study or work, or when moving from vocational education and training to higher
The EQF is a voluntary framework so there is no official date by which countries must have implemented the system. Some countries, such as Ireland, the UK, France and Malta, have already set up
National Qualification Frameworks (NQFs) to implement the EQF, and many more are in the process of developing them. However, it is hoped that countries will relate their national qualifications
systems to the EQF by 2010, and that the first qualification certificates bearing an EQF reference will be issued in 2012.
The European Parliament officially approved the Commission’s proposal on the EQF in October, and the Council reached a political agreement on 15 November. The EQF is expected to be formally
adopted in early 2008.