The EU Council Recommendation

The importance to Europe of skilled and knowledgeable citizens extends beyond formal education to learning acquired in non-formal or informal ways. Citizens must be able to demonstrate what they have learned in order to use this learning in their career and for further education and training. To do so, they must have access to a system which identifies, documents, assesses and certifies (validates) all forms of learning. This is what the Council Recommendation of December 2012 has called upon Member States to put in place by 2018.

The EQF Advisory Group has a central role in ensuring the follow up to the Recommendation. Regular monitoring by the EQF AG of the implementation of the Recommendation will involve the following:

  • Until 2018 each Member State is invited to present to the EQF AG its one off report on the validation arrangements they have put in place further to the Recommendation;
  • EQF AG Members are invited, on a voluntary basis, to regularly share experiences on the validation arrangements put in place, or under development in their country at any time when validation is part of the EQF AG’s agenda.

European inventory and guidelines on validation of NFIFL

In cooperation with the European Commission and Member States, Cedefop helps to develop validation systems by updating and hosting the European inventory on validation of NFIFL and disseminating and further developing European guidelines on validation.

The European Inventory

A regularly updated overview of validation practices across Europe, this inventory, compiled in cooperation with the European Commission, provides an overview of validation arrangements in European countries.

Recognising that society at large has a vested interest in using all available skills, national and regional authorities and sectoral bodies have introduced many arrangements for validation of non-formal and informal learning in the past ten years. Yet information about how such learning is identified, documented, assessed and certified is, in most countries, not easily accessible.

The European inventory aims to address this weakness by making information on current practices – including examples from selected sectors – available to everyone working in the field. The inventory covers all countries taking part in the EU 2020 cooperation process.

So far the inventory has been updated five times (2004, 2005, 2008, 2010 and 2014).

The European Guidelines  

The European Guidelines identify main challenges facing policy-makers and practitioners – to a certain degree – pointing to possible ways to respond to those challenges. They are intended as a practical tool, providing expert advice to be applied on a purely voluntary basis. A second version of the European Guidelines is currently being prepared for publication.

Implementation of the recommendation on the validation of NFIFL – UK Level

UK country inventory reports (2014)

In the UK each country is responsible for its own Education and Training resulting in devolved systems, with different qualifications frameworks and different approaches to the validation of NFIFL.   The European Inventory therefore includes separate reports on the validation arrangements for England and Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and the most recent country reports (2014) can be accessed at:

Approaches to the validation of NFIFL in the UK countries

Although different approaches to the validation of NFIFL (more commonly referred to as the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) in the UK) exist in the UK countries, it is fair to say that all countries have national arrangements linked to their National Qualifications Frameworks (QCF, SCQF and CQFW).  However the actual implementation of the validation of NFIFL is decentralised and left to individual learning providers and awarding organisations.

Since 2010, there have been positive developments with regard to RPL, perhaps most notably in the HE sector, where RPL has been given a clear place in the QAA’s Quality Code and in Scotland where the SCQF Partnership have prepared supporting tools such as the RPL toolkit and online RPL guide. However, actual application of RPL is ‘patchy’ and relatively low in the UK as there is a perception amongst providers that RPL is expensive and time-consuming and lack of explicit resourcing for RPL is a barrier, particularly in the college sector.  If RPL is to be increased, further support and awareness raising amongst providers and other practitioners involved in working with learners is required.

The UK European Qualifications Framework (EQF) Work Programme for 2012/2013 included a project to explore the approaches to recognising non-formal certificated learning in the UK countries. In addition, the Project identified case studies to demonstrate the approach/es used within each country. The final project report ‘Recognising non-formal certificated learning within and outside qualifications frameworks in the UK, the Netherlands and Finland’ can be accessed at:

How UK countries are responding to the recommendation

Although the UK countries meet some elements of this recommendation to some degree, UK practice in the validation of NFIFL is relatively poor compared to some other European countries such as France, Finland and Estonia where national strategies and legal frameworks exist for the validation of NFIFL.

To date no additional plans or structures have been put in place by UK Governments to address this recommendation however this is currently under consideration.

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