Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Seventh Report

32 European Qualifications Framework



COM(06) 479

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Draft recommendation on the establishment of the European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning

Commission staff working document — summary of the impact assessment

Commission staff working document — impact assessment of the main options for action

Legal baseArticles 149 and 150 EC; co-decision; QMV
Document originated5 September 2006
Deposited in Parliament13 September 2006
DepartmentEducation and Skills
Basis of considerationEM of 2 October 2006
Previous Committee ReportNone; but see footnote 82 below
To be discussed in Council14 November 2006
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared; further information requested


32.1 In June 2005, the Council adopted a Directive on the mutual recognition of qualifications in regulated professions.[82] It provides for the recognition across national borders of the vocational and academic qualifications which qualify the holders to provide a service or practice a trade or profession.

32.2 But the Directive does not cover the skills and knowledge people learn from the moment they start school; nor does it cover many of the non-professional qualifications which people earn at work, in leisure activities or at educational institutions after they leave school. It is difficult for individuals, employers and others in one country to know how such qualifications equate to qualifications earned in other countries. This can impede the free movement of people within the EU to the detriment of individuals and the economy.

32.3 In July 2005, a Commission staff working document suggested that the difficulty might be overcome if there were a European Qualifications Framework (EQF) with eight levels.[83] These levels would refer not to specific qualifications but to "learning outcomes": that is, the knowledge, skills and personal competences acquired throughout a life-time.

32.4 The document suggested that it would be possible to fit each qualification into one (or perhaps two) of the levels and that this would enable employers, job seekers and users and providers of education in one country to understand how any particular qualification equates to qualifications awarded in other counties. The document also suggested that each Member State should establish its own national qualifications framework, identifying how all the qualifications awarded in the Member State fit into the levels of the EQF. It would also be necessary to set up quality assurance and certification arrangements for the qualifications. Clear links could be established between, for example, the documents in an individual's "Europass" and the levels of the EQF (the Europass contains: a curriculum vitae; a statement of the holder's linguistic and cultural skills; a statement of the holder's vocational qualifications; a statement of the holder's higher education degrees; and a statement of any periods of learning in another country).[84]

32.5 The staff working document set out 14 questions about an EQF system on which comments were invited by the end of December 2005. The Commission would consider the comments and present the Council and the European Parliament with a draft Recommendation for an EQF in the first half of 2006.

32.6 In September 2005, the Department for Education and Skills initiated public consultations on the Commission's document and asked the administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to publicise the consultations and contribute to them. The consultation period ended on 23 November. In the light of the comments it received, the Government sent the Commission its response to the staff working document on 11 January 2006

32.7 The Minister of State for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education at the Department for Education and Skills (Bill Ramell) told us in October 2005 that the Government believes that the EQF has the potential to improve the supply of skills throughout Europe by allowing national qualifications to be equated more effectively across borders.

32.8 When we considered the Commission staff working paper in November 2005, we recognised the potential benefits of a European Qualifications Framework. We asked the Minister to give us progress reports on the consideration of the proposal and cleared the document from scrutiny.

The draft Recommendation

32.9 The Commission received 125 responses to the consultation document. The majority agreed that a common European Qualifications Framework is needed, subject to a number of points which the Commission has taken into account in preparing the draft Recommendation.

32.10 The draft recommends Member States to:

  • use the EQF to compare qualifications using the definitions of the eight reference levels set out in Annex I to the Recommendation;[85]
  • by 2009, relate their national qualifications to the reference levels defined in the Annex I and develop a national qualifications framework;
  • by 2011, ensure that all new qualifications and Europass documents contain clear references to the appropriate EQF level;
  • use an approach based on learning outcomes when defining and describing qualifications;
  • designate a national centre to support and coordinate the relationship between the national qualifications system and the European Qualification Framework (one of the centre's functions would be to apply the principles of quality assurance set out in Annex II to the Recommendation); and
  • ensure that all relevant national stakeholders participate in the process.

32.11 The draft Recommendation also proposes that the Commission should report on the implementation of the Recommendation after five years.

The Government's view

32.12 The Minister tells us that the draft Recommendation fits well with the development of links between the four existing qualifications frameworks in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Government will seek only a few amendments. These include recognition that the UK will need more than one national coordination centre because of the devolution of responsibilities for education and training. The Government will also question whether it is realistic to set 2011 as the date by which all new qualifications and Europass documents contain as reference to the appropriate European Qualifications Framework level.


32.13 We remain persuaded of the potential benefits of the European Qualifications Framework. We also recognise, however, the scale and complexity of the action proposed in the draft Recommendation. Accordingly, we share the Government's reservations about the realism of the proposed timetable for referencing qualifications.

32.14 We see no need to keep the document under scrutiny. But we should be grateful if the Minister would keep us informed of the negotiations on the draft Recommendation.

82   Directive 2005/36/EC. Back

83   (26843) 11189/05: See HC 34-viii (2005-06), para 12 (2 November 2005). Back

84   (25218) 5032/04: See HC 42-xx (2003-04), para 12 (18 May 2004). Back

85   The eight levels are intended to cover the entire span of qualifications from those achieved at the end of compulsory education and training to those awarded at the highest level of academic, professional and vocational education and training. Back

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