Referencing national qualifications to the EQF

In 2000, the European Council adopted the Lisbon Strategy, aimed at making the EU the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, characterised by constant economic growth, creation of new and better jobs and larger social coherence. An important part of this strategy is to develop the common European lifelong learning area, and relevant systems of lifelong learning in the Member States. In the field of higher education, this idea is realized through the Bologna process, and in VET, through the Copenhagen process.
           
An important process in the creation of the common European lifelong learning area is the development and implementation of the European Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning (EQF). The learning outcomes based approach is the core of the EQF. On April 23, 2008, the European Parliament and Council adopted a recommendation on establishment of the EQF. In this context qualification is understood as a result of official assessment and validation of competence. The EQF has 8 qualification levels, in which qualification is described in terms of learning outcomes, expressed in three categories: knowledge, skills and competence (understood as the degree of autonomy and responsibility). The first step in implementing the EQF is referencing national qualifications framework (hereinafter NQF) levels or national qualifications to the EQF levels.
                  
The EQF is a reference framework of different formal education qualifications (general education, vocational education and training, higher education) and occupational qualifications (sectoral qualifications). The EQF links the qualification systems of the EU Member States and makes qualifications of different countries more mutually understandable and comparable. An important objective is also to recognise the results of non-formal and informal learning. Creation of NQF is seen as an important mean in achieving these objectives. Although establishing NQF is not mandatory, most of the EU Member States have chosen this method.

Referencing national qualifications and qualifications frameworks to the EQF is based on the best fit principle. This means reliable decision on what EQF level a particular qualification or NQF level fits best. Because of the structure of the EQF level descriptors the application of this principle has two dimensions:

Implementation of the EQF is a voluntary undertaking based on mutual trust between the member states. The EQF Advisory Group has proposed 10 criteria and procedures for referencing the NQF levels to the EQF levels. These criteria and procedures serve as guidelines for the member states implementing the EQF. Following the criteria and procedures enables to do this in a transparent and coherent way.

To guarantee participation of all important stakeholders in the referencing process member states are advised to establish a steering committee. A broad-based steering committee was established in Estonia with the 4.10.2010 order of the minister of education and research. The steering committee includes representatives of the Ministry of Education and Research, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Social Affairs, the State Chancellery, Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, EstQA, Confederation of Estonian Trade Unions, Public Servants Trade Unions Central Organization TALO, Estonian Association of Student Unions, Estonian Association of Pupils’ Unions, Estonian ENIC/NARIC Centre. 

EstQF-EQF referencing report 2015