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home > Qualifications Frameworks: level of qualifications
Qualifications Frameworks: level of qualifications

A Qualifications Framework (QF) is a useful tool for the description of some Sectorial Qualifications Framework or all qualifications within a national/sub-national system. Such Qualifications Frameworks may also be used as tools to compare different national systems though overarching Meta-frameworks. They are transparency tools to promote comparability and compatibility between different systems. Qualifications Frameworks may also be used to understand the overall structure of an education system.


Qualifications frameworks offer a classification of qualifications through a system of levels, each of which is differentiated based on descriptors called 'learning outcomes'. These refer to the outcomes, in terms of skills, knowledge and abilities, which the holders of the qualifications at a given level will have acquired on successful completion of the qualification.


Each higher education system is divided into different cycles/levels: as a result of the Bologna Process, the majority of European countries have adopted a three cycle structure to their education systems. Importantly, the divisions within each cycle, the types of qualifications placed within each cycle, the periods of study associated with these qualifications, and the use of learning outcomes varies within each national system. So while the level or cycle of studies may be a useful indicator for a final assessment of a qualification or period of studies, this should not be taken as the only criteria used to make a full assessment of a qualification.


There are also a number of other classification systems in use in addition to the "Bologna" structure (e.g. ISCED, EQF, NQFs, etc.): for this reason, one must always return the parameter of reference used in case that you indicate a cycle/level to which a qualification belongs.


It should be noted that the qualifications of different systems placed at the same cycle/level are not directly equivalent between them: the level is an element of general classification of the qualification and can therefore be seen as an abstraction, by introducing a neutral reference point for different qualifications.

On European level exist 2 meta-frameworks: the EHEA one and the European Qualifications framework for Life Long Learning. On national level, the NQF could be referred to both or to the 2 meta-frameworks separately. The two European frameworks are compatible as the level 6,7 and 8 of the EQF. LLL correspond partly or totally depending of the countries to the 3 Bologna cycles.


Further information


It is possible to find further details about the development of the National Qualifications Framework in ENIC-NARIC countries on the Qualifications Framework section available on each country page on the right column.

In 2012, the Lisbon Recognition Committee add to the Convention a subsidiary text on the use of QF in recognition of academic qualifications.

See also:


Framework of Qualifications in the Europe and North America Region    


European Qualifications Framework (EQF)


Qualifications Frameworks in the EHEA


UNESCO - International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED)


European Training Foundation (ETF): Transnational Qualifications Frameworks