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Mospan N. National Qualifications Frameworks Development in EU

N. Mospan,
PhD, Associate professor, Kyiv Boris Grinchenko University



National Qualifications Frameworks Development in EU


This article provides an assessment of the current state of plays in the implementation of adaptation policies of National Qualifications Framework (NQF) and how this policy is implemented in the system of higher education worldwide. The result of the study of materials research is that all countries are at different levels of development and implementation of NQF in the national system of higher education – 80% (28 countries) are developing or have developed comprehensive NQF, 40% (14 countries) have officially adopted the NQF (74% 26 countries) have proposed a framework of 8 levels with sub-levels. This difference mainly depends on the national structure of higher education in the EU member states. But in spite of the differences and complications of this process the work on the development and implementation of the NQFs continues.

Key words: Bologna process, the European Qualifications Framework, higher education, member countries, the national qualifications framework.


Many countries have been implementing national qualifications frameworks (NQF) since the Bologna Framework that was first adopted in Bergen in 2005. This process now involves 46 countries. The overview in 2012 shows rapid progress towards establishing and implementing NQFs and linking national qualifications to EQF levels. 28 countries have developed or are developing comprehensive NQFs covering all types and levels of qualification. But different countries have different strategies and are on a different stages of this process.

Statement of the Problem. Thus it’s intresting to analyse the contemporary state of play of implementing NQFs in Europenian Union. Our analysis is based mostly on the gathering data in all member states (MS) by means of researching the study of Directorate General for International Policies (2012), the servey of the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (2012) and the Acts on the NQF prepared by MS. This article provides an assessment of the contemporary state of play of the implementation of the EQF where we’re trying to understand how NQFs are being implemented around the world.

Review of the Literature and Researh. S.Allais in his paper writes about “the popularity of NQFs has grown dramatically in the last five years. Over 100 countries are now implementing, developing, or considering NQFs, or involved in regional qualifications frameworks. Qualifications frameworks have been widely endorsed by influential international organisations and bilateral agencies, often supported by aid money and even loans.” But he evidences not only about the impacts and strengths of NQFs, but it’s “weaknesses, particularly for developing countries”. He also highlights the 'mismatch' between education and training systems and labour markets [1, p.10].

Michael F.D. Young also thinks that “all countries implementing NQF have faced problems. This failure may be expressed in a lack of political support or adequate resources for the agency or authority with specific responsibility for the NQF.” In his research he distinguishes between political, administrative and what he shall refer to as ‘technical’ or professional difficulties. [2, p. 1].

In the mentioned above reports they are also agreed that “in theory the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) and the Qualifications Framework for the European Higher Education Area (QF EHEA) are aligned” but “it needs to be assessed whether in practice the existence of two frameworks does not lead to confusion” [3, p. 6].

  Presentation of the Work. What is the difference between QF EHEA, EQF and NQFs?

The QF EHEA was adopted in the context of the Bologna Process in 2005 (47 European ministers agreed to participate in the Bologna process). It consists of three cycles: Bachelor, Master and Doctorate. Each cycle is described in terms of learning outcomes as defined according to the so-called “Dublin descriptors”. The descriptors for the three cycles within the QF EHEA are comparable to the level descriptors of level 6, 7 and 8 of the EQF. There is a close cooperation between the organisations responsible for the implementation of the two frameworks (Council of Europe for the QF EHEA and the European Commission for the EQF).

The EQF for lifelong learning is an instrument, established within the context of the European cooperation in the field of Education and Training, aimed at promoting workers’ and learners’ mobility and lifelong learning. The Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2008 (2008/C111/01) on the establishment of the European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning invites MS to implement the EQF and to reference their NQF or systems to the appropriate EQF level by 2011 – 2012 [4, p. 24].

Diagrammatically, the relationship between the Bologna Framework and the EQF may be illustrated as follows:



Bologna Framework












First Cycle


Second Cycle


Third Cycle


Individuals and employers will be able to use the EQF to better understand and compare the qualifications levels of different countries and different education and training systems. This leads to increased labour mobility between countries, mobility between education systems and increased opportunities for lifelong learning. See in:

As mentioned, in 2005 already Heads of Government requested the creation of the EQF. Consequently, all countries were involved in the preparatory phase of the EQF before the 2008 Recommendation by means of consultation rounds, studies and national discussions on developing NQFs. The process of linking national qualifications levels becomes complicated. Some countries originally sceptical of the value of NQFs, for example Finland and Norway, have embraced the concept and are now actively involved in their development and implementation [3, p.9].

Although all MS were involved, differences exist between countries concerning the breath and depth of this preparatory political involvement. In most countries the involvement remained at different levels. According to of the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training [4, p.42-43] there are three levels of NQFs implementations:

  • Countries at an advanced stage already having established qualifications frameworks and advanced in describing qualifications in terms of learning outcomes (FR, IE, MT, UK);
  • Countries at intermediate stage not having comprehensive qualifications frameworks, but generally, qualifications are described in terms of learning outcomes (or similar) (CZ, DK, FI, IS, NL, NO, PT, ES, SE);
  • Countries at an initial stage not having comprehensive qualifications frameworks and qualifications are not yet described in terms of learning outcomes (AT, BE, BG, HR, CY, EE, DE, EL, HU, IT, LV, LT, LU, PL, RO, SK, SI, TK). 

This analysis shows that countries have largely completed the conceptualisation/design and consultation/testing stages and are moving into early implementation. Alongside Ireland, France, Malta and the UK – considered as implemented frameworks – ten other countries are now at an early stage.

Short overview of the NQF development


Names of the Countries

Stage of the adoptation



Eight levels are adopted


Belgium (Flanders)

Eight levels have been adopted


Belgium (Wallonia)

Eight levels are proposed



Eight levels are proposed



Eight levels with additional sublevels at 4,5, 7 and 8 are adopted



Eight levels are proposed


Czech Republic

Eight levels are adopted



Eight levels have been agreed



Eight levels are adopted



Eight levels have been agreed



eight-level structure is being considered, possibly towards the end of 2012



Eight levels are proposed



Eight levels are adopted



Eight-level structure is proposed



Seven levels are proposed



Ten levels are adopted



The number of levels has not been defined yet



Eight-level structure was introduced



Not decided yet



Eight levels are adopted



Eight levels have been agreed



Eight levels are adopted



Eight levels are adopted with sublevels at levels 1, 4 and 7


The Netherlands

Eight levels and one entry level has been adopted



Seven levels



An eight-level Polish NQF is proposed



Eight levels are adopted



Eight levels have been proposed



Eight levels were proposed



Ten levels are proposed



Eight levels are proposed



Eight level structure was proposed



Eight levels with a number of sub-levels are proposed



Eight levels are proposed


United Kingdom (England and Northern ireland)

A nine-level structure (including entry levels) has been adopted

35 a


A 12-level structure (including entry levels) has been adopted

35 b


A nine-level structure (including entry levels) has been adopted

Source: Author


European countries are making rapid progress in developing, adopting and implementing national qualifications frameworks. The following figures – reflecting the situation in mid – 2011 – capture these developments:

  • 28 countries are developing or have developed comprehensive NQFs covering all types and levels of qualifications;
  • 4 countries have still to decide the overall scope and architecture of the framework (Czech Republic, FYROM, Italy, Liechtenstein);
  • In four countries (Czech Republic, France, Italy, UK-England/Northern Ireland) NQFs cover a limited range of qualification types and levels or have diverse sub-system frameworks without clearly defined links;
  • 26 countries have proposed or decided on an 8-level framework, the remaining covering frameworks with 5, 7, 9, 10 and 12 levels;
  • All countries use a learning outcomes based approach level descriptors;
  • 14 frameworks have been formally adopted (mainly through ministerial decisions, amendments to existing education and training laws or separate NQF laws, varying according to national systems and traditions). The are Austria Belgium (Flanders), Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Lithuania, Malta, Montenegro, The Netherlands,  Portugal, United Kingdom (England and Northern ireland), (Scotland) and (Wales);
  • Only Ireland, France, Malta and the UK can be described as implemented frameworks, though 10 countries are now entering an early implementation stage [3, p. 8-9].

Conclusion. Thus the paper shows that the two European framework initiatives, the European Qualifications framework and the Qualifications framework for the European higher education area, are working well together. All countries are at different levels of NQFs implementations – 80% (28 countries) are developing or have developed comprehensive NQFs, 40% (14 countries) have formally adopted NQFs, 74% (26 countries) have proposed an 8-level framework with sub-levels. This difference depends on national structure of higher education in member states. But in spite of the differences and complications of this process the work on the development and implementation of the NQFs continues.



  1. Allais S. National qualifications frameworks : what's the evidence of success? (2011). Edinburgh : Centre for Educational Sociology – University of Edinburgh, 55, 10.  Available from Internet :
  2. Michael F.D. Young. Implementing National Qualifications Frameworks : Problems and Possibilities (2009). Institute of Education, University of London. – United Kingdom, 2917-2933. Available from Internet :
  4. Development of national qualifications frameworks in Europe (2011). Available from Internet :
  5. State of play of the European Qualifications Framework implementation (2012). Available from Internet : /2009_2014/ documents/cult/dv/esstudyeurqualifframewimplem/esstudyeurqualifframewimplemen.pdf


Мосьпан Н.В. Розвиток національних рамок кваліфікацій в ЄС

У статті дано оцінку сучасного стану справ у реалізації політики адаптації національних рамок кваліфікацій (НКР) і те як ця політика впроваджуються у системи вищої освіти по всьому світу. Результатом вивчення матеріалів дослідження є висновок, що всі країни знаходяться на різних рівнях розроблення та впровадження НРК у національну систему вищої освіти – 80% (28 країн) розробляють або вже розробили комплексні НРК, 40% (14 країн) офіційно прийняли НРК, 74% (26 країн) запропонували рамки 8-ми рівнів із суб-рівнями. Ця різниця в основному залежить від національної структури вищої освіти в країнах-членах ЄС. Але, незважаючи на нерівномірність і ускладнення процесу впровадження НРК в національні системи вищої освіти, країни, члени ЄС, продовжують діяльність зі створення єдиного європейського освітнього простору.

Ключові слова: Болонський процес, вища освіта, країни, члени ЄС, національні рамки кваліфікацій, європейські рамки кваліфікацій.


Мосьпан Н.В. Развитие национальных рамок квалификаций в ЕС

В статье оценивается современное состояние дел в реализации политики адаптации НРС, то, как эта политика внедряется в системы высшего образования по всему миру. Результатом изучения материалов исследование является вывод, что все страны находятся на разных уровнях разработки и внедрения НРК в национальные системы высшего образования – 80 % (28 стран) разрабатывают или уже разработали комплексные НРК, 40 % (14 стран) официально приняли НРК, 74 % (26 стран) предложили рамки 8-ми уровней с суб-уровнями. Эта разница в основном зависит от национальной структуры высшего образования в странах, членах ЕС. Но, несмотря на неравномерность и осложнения процесса внедрения НРК в национальные системы высшего образования, страны, члены ЕС, держат курс на создание единого европейского образовательного пространства.

Ключевые слова: Болонский процесс, высшее образование, европейские рамки квалификаций, национальные рамки квалификаций, страны, члены ЕС.

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