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The European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning was formally adopted by the European Commission in 2008 as an overarching qualifications framework which links different countries’ qualifications frameworks together. Acting as a translation device to make qualifications easier to understand across different countries and systems in Europe, its main aim is to help people moving from one country to another for work, or to continue their education or training.

The EQF is made up of 8 levels. Each country’s national qualifications framework (NQF) levels are linked to EQF levels and this allows the EQF to “translate” how qualifications within the different education systems in the member states relate to each other. It applies to all types of qualifications from those achieved at school, to academic, professional or vocational qualifications awarded at the highest levels. This means that employers and education / training providers have additional information to assist them to understand qualifications from other countries

EQF Implementation in the UK

Implementation of the EQF is voluntary for each country but all EU member states have chosen to proceed. Each member state is asked to nominate a National Coordination Point for EQF implementation. In the UK, because several qualifications frameworks operate, the EQF National Coordination Points (NCPs) are:

There are two main stages to implementation of the EQF. The first is to reference national qualification levels to EQF levels. The UK presented its report on referencing the Credit and Qualifications Framework for Wales (CQFW), the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) to the EQF in January 2010. It was one of the first reports to be accepted by the EQF Advisory Group

Since 2010 the referencing process has evolved considerably and is currently being re shaped on the basis of the national experiences and, to a lesser extent, the more prominent position of the EQF in the world. In their 2015 work programme, the UK EQF NCPs undertook a project to scope out what needed to be done in the UK to update all three of the UK referencing reports (Scotland, Wales and England & Northern Ireland). This report ‘The position of the UK qualifications framework’ can be accessed here. Based on this work, a pilot exercise was undertaken to update the SCQF referencing report. This research report is not being submitted to the EQF Advisory Group but will be used to demonstrate to the other UK NCP’s the amount and type of work involved in carrying out such an exercise for submission of the updated UK referencing report to the EQF Advisory Group.

The current state of play with the EU reference process

Of the 39 countries involved with the EQF referencing, 31 have undertaken the referencing process and have endorsed referencing positions. Some of these have produced updates to their reports following developments in their qualifications systems. Most of the remaining countries are expected to have referenced by the end of 2017. The UK EQF NCPs aim to update the UK referencing report within the 2017 UK EQF work programme.

The second main stage to implementing the EQF is to ensure that stakeholders across the UK understand the EQF and are aware of its potential uses and benefits. To this end from 2010 the UK EQF NCPs (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) have collaborated in a programme of EQF implementation activities using EU grant money.  Funding has been secured for the fifth year and the 2016 work programme has included projects under the themes of: the international sectoral qualifications (ISQs) situation in the UK; communications; and European liaison

The second main stage to implementing the EQF is to ensure that stakeholders across the UK understand the EQF and are aware of its potential uses and benefits. To this end from 2010 the UK EQF NCPs (England, Wales, Scotland and N.I) have collaborated in a programme of EQF implementation activities using EU grant money.  Funding has been secured for the fourth year and the 2015 work programme, in addition to the work on UK re referencing, includes projects under the themes of communication and European liaison.

Joint portal on learning opportunities and qualifications. 

Further information on the EQF is available at the Learning Opportunities and Qualifications in Europe Portal. This is a joint European Union Portal on learning opportunities and qualifications.  The qualifications portal provides information on the EQF, NQFs and how they compare as well as information on qualifications in Europe with the facility to search by subject field, level of education or country. The learning opportunities portal provides information and links on opportunities to learn or study in another EU country with the facility to search by subject field, level of education or country.

The next stage of development for the Portal will be to link national framework qualifications databases to the portal to provide a further level of details about the qualifications contained in each national framework.

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