The European Qualifications Framework (EQF) serves as a translation tool for making national qualifications understandable across Europe and in so doing supports the mobility of employees and learners as well as their lifelong learning. It is the reference framework for comparing the different national qualifications systems. The basis of the EQF is its eight reference levels. They describe the learning outcomes, i.e. what learners know, understand and are able to do. Learning outcomes are described at each individual level and in three columns: “knowledge”, “skills” and “responsibility and autonomy”. Adopted by the European institutions in 2008 and revised in 2017, the EQF is being implemented across Europe. Member states develop their own national qualifications framework to support this. Their levels are referenced to the EQF levels. The EQF therefore serves as a European meta framework.

Like the EQF, the DQR has eight levels, however these are structured differently to those of the EQF. A greater number of categories were used for their definition. In a sense, the categories and competence descriptions of the DQR expand on and specify the EQF in more specific terms, which – in keeping with the nature of a meta framework – exhibits a high level of abstraction. The DQR has four (instead of three "columns") consisting of (knowledge – skills – social competence – autonomy) in order to adequately represent the intended learning outcomes in the German education system. Thus, it makes clear that a holistic understanding of competence is central to the German education system. In contrast to the EQF, each level is preceded by a short text which provides a summary of the requirements structure of the respective level (“level indicator”). The four-column structure was selected in order to appropriately describe a comprehensive ability to act (“Umfassende Handlungskompetenz”) in all its aspects.

As an overarching tool for transparency which must be able to show how different national education objectives relate to one another, the EQF focuses on the abstract category of learning outcomes, divided in knowledge, skills, responsibility and autonomy.

The eight levels of the DQR were referenced to the eight EQF levels within the so-called referencing process. The results of the referencing process can be found in the referencing report. German qualifications which have been allocated to the DQR are therefore simultaneously referenced to the relevant EQF level. Please refer to the German referencing report for details. A referencing report is prepared by all countries involved in the implementation of the EQF in order to document how the respective national qualifications frameworks are linked to the EQF.

To date, 39 European countries have opted to develop national qualification frameworks (NQF) to support implementation of the EQF. These NQFs may have a different number of levels and may pursue different objectives. In addition to Germany, 35 other countries have referenced their NQF as part of the referencing to the EQF. The EQF portal provides information on the current status of the development.