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European Qualifications Framework

Summaries of EU legislation: direct access to the main summaries page.
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European Qualifications Framework

A common reference framework will help Member States, education institutions, employers and individuals compare qualifications across the EU’s diverse education and training systems. This tool is essential for developing a European employment market.


Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2008 on the establishment of the European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning [Official Journal C 111, 6.5.2008].


Member States are called upon to create links between the national qualifications systems * and the European Qualifications Framework (EQF).

By making competences and qualifications more transparent, the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) is an instrument for the promotion of lifelong learning.

This framework covers both higher education and vocational training. It will make it easier for individuals in the EU to communicate the relevant information concerning their competences and their qualifications.

Increasing the transparency of qualifications * will enable individual citizens to judge the relative value of qualifications and improve employers’ ability to judge the profile, content and relevance of the qualifications in the labour market. Education and training providers will also be able to compare the profile and content of their courses and ensure their quality.

The adoption of the EQF will increase the mobility of workers and students. The EQF will allow workers to be mobile and at the same time to have their qualifications recognised outside their own country. This tool will facilitate the transition from work to training and vice versa, on a lifelong basis.

Operation and implementation

The EQF is a tool based on learning outcomes rather than on the duration of studies. The main reference level descriptors are:

  • skills *;
  • competences *;
  • knowledge.

The core element of the EQF is a set of eight reference levels describing:

  • what the learner knows;
  • what the learner understands;
  • what the learner is able to do, regardless of the system under which a particular qualification was awarded.

Unlike systems which guarantee academic recognition based on the duration of studies, the EQF covers learning as a whole, in particular learning which takes place outside formal education and training institutions.

In 2010 a system for comparing the national systems and the European framework is to be established in all participating States. In 2012, all new qualifications issued by EU post-secondary institutions will automatically refer to one of the EQF's eight qualification levels.

General tool for cooperation

The EQF is not designed to replace national qualifications systems but to supplement the actions of the Member States by facilitating cooperation between them. This European initiative is based on national qualifications frameworks, although these are themselves not based on any single model.

To implement this shared framework for cooperation between Member States, the Commission emphasises the necessary mutual trust and the level of commitment of the various stakeholders at national, regional and sectoral levels.

The Commission also proposes to designate a national centre to coordinate the relationship between the national qualifications system and the EQF by establishing, by April 2009, an EQF advisory group, composed of representatives of the Member States and involving the European social partners and other stakeholders.

The EQF should also help international sectoral organisations * to bring their own qualifications systems into line with this system shared by the Member States.


The Bologna Declaration of June 1999 promoted mobility and transparency in the European Union (EU) in the field of education. Following the achievements of the Bologna Process in higher education, similar action can now be taken which also covers vocational training.

The EQF meets one of the objectives of the Lisbon Strategy for employment with a view to the transition to a knowledge society. More specifically, it is designed to implement the work programme "Education & Training 2010".

Key terms in the act

  • "National qualifications system" means all aspects of a Member State's activity related to the recognition of learning and other mechanisms that link education and training to the labour market and civil society. This includes the development and implementation of institutional arrangements and processes relating to quality assurance, assessment and the award of qualifications. A national qualifications system may be composed of several subsystems and may include a national qualifications framework.
  • "Qualification" means a formal outcome of an assessment and validation process which is obtained when a competent body determines that an individual has achieved learning outcomes to given standards.
  • "Skills" means the ability to apply knowledge and use know-how to complete tasks and solve problems. In the context of the European Qualifications Framework, skills are described as cognitive (involving the use of logical, intuitive and creative thinking) or practical (involving manual dexterity and the use of methods, materials, tools and instruments).
  • "Competence" means the proven ability to use knowledge, skills and personal, social and/or methodological abilities, in work or study situations and in professional and personal development. In the context of the European Qualifications Framework, competence is described in terms of responsibility and autonomy.
  • "International sectoral organisation" means an association of national organisations, including, for example, employers and professional bodies, which represents the interests of national sectors.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Recommendation of 23.4.2008



OJ C 111, 6.5.2008

Last updated: 16.05.2008