What is a qualifications framework?

A qualifications framework systemically describes qualifications of an education system by classifying them to different competence levels on the basis of learning outcomes. Each individual level makes it visible what the holder of a qualification knows, understands and is able to do.

The first qualifications frameworks were created in the English-speaking world. The development of a European Qualifications Framework (EQF) was linked with the recommendation to member states to develop national qualifications frameworks and to reference these to the EQF. Today the majority of all countries worldwide are developing a national qualifications framework or already have one in place.

There are two different types of qualifications framework:

  • Qualifications frameworks for regulatory purposes define the educational pathways and progression options which exist within an education system. In this case level allocation is linked to the access regulation within the education system. Regulatory qualifications frameworks are often developed in connection with education and training reforms. Their function is to systematically define qualification types and their relationship to one another and to make this legally binding. Examples of qualifications frameworks for regulatory purposes exist in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
  • Qualification frameworks for orientation purposes are transparency instruments with no regulating effect effect. They are superimposed on an existing classification of the educational system and do not affect this. Their aim is only to more clearly present the similarities and differences between qualifications. This applies in the case of the DQR.

A particular type of qualifications frameworks for orientation purposes are the so-called meta frameworks. The purpose of a meta framework is to show how other (e.g. national) qualification frameworks relate to one another This applies in the case of the EQF. Its role is to increase the transparency of qualifications in light of the huge variety of education systems in Europe.

One further important distinctive criterion is the scope of the qualifications frameworks. They can cover only one education sector, as in the case of the Framework for Qualifications of the European Higher Education Area. Cross-sector qualifications frameworks such as the DQR are being developed in order to comprehensively map an entire education system.