The European Qualifications Framework

The European Qualifications Framework (EQF) is an overarching eight-level European reference system, which is aimed at promoting lifelong learning and fostering the cross-border mobility of inhabitants. 

By providing a common reference points for the national qualifications of the European countries, the EQF assists in ensuring better comparison and understanding of the various European national qualifications.


The EQF system
The EQF system


Starting in 2008 all European Diplomas, Degrees and Transcripts released from any institution must refer its levels to the European Qualifications Framework.



Learning outcomes:

The EQF levels are not necessarily related to any specific qualifications or education programmes, but they indicate the extent, to which a learner has acquired relevant knowledge, skills and competences during their learning.

In this case, it is unimportant how the particular level has been achieved, i.e. whether the learner has participated in a formal or informal/non-formal learning, in vocational or general education programme, as the emphasis is placed on learning outcomes.

Learning outcomes are applied to describe the EQF levels because the comparison and explanation of qualifications awarded in various national education systems on the basis of educational process features, e.g. duration, would be inappropriate, since the national education systems and their contexts are quite different.

In terms of the EQF, learning outcomes are defined as statements of what a learner knows, understands and is able to do after a certain period of learning. Learning outcomes are expressed in three categories or dimensions: knowledge, skills and competence.

The goal of EQF in education:

Thus the EQF levels cover all education sectors (vocational, general and higher education), all education levels (basic, secondary and higher education, continuing education), as well as all education forms (formal, non-formal and informal learning). The EQF development process began in 2004 with the aim of promoting transparency and portability of qualifications, as well as supporting lifelong learning. Experts from 32 European countries and the European social partners were involved in the framework consultation process. The descriptors of framework levels (The recommendation of the European Parliament and Council on the EQF for lifelong learning) officially came into force in April 2008. This document recommended that by 2010 the Member States should reference their national qualifications systems to the EQF; and by 2012 the Member States should ensure that diplomas awarded include a reference to the appropriate EQF level.

National Qualifications Framework (NQF) is a reference system of national scale, in which qualification awarded in a certain national education system are arranged by levels. The NQF structure, composition and functions should be developed according to EQF, but the details and the actual meaning of the NQF in the qualifications system are discussed and agreed on by the national social partners, taking into account the national education traditions and context, as well as interests of the involved parties.

E.C.T.S. What is it?

The E.C.T.S. makes it easier to understand and compare study programmes for both local and international students. It also facilitates international mobility and academic recognition.

A numerical value that reflects the overall amount or work to be provided by the student in order to meet the programme’s objectives is attributed to each Teaching Unit.
Each degree requires that a specific number of credits be obtained and the duration of studies is expressed in E.C.T.S. credits:

  • 180 E.C.T.S. credits for a European Bachelor’s degree
  • 60 E.C.T.S. credits for a Level I European Master’s degree – admission requirements: Bachelor’s degree
  • 120 E.C.T.S. credits for a Level II European Master’s degree – admission requirements: Bachelor’s degree

These credits are registered throughout the year and are recorded at the end of each year on an annual Transcript of Records.
With respect to ongoing studies, the annual Transcript of Records that each student receives enables an easier future recognition of their degree, regardless of the country they choose to continue their studies in.

Credit Transfer

The European Credit Transfer System (E.C.T.S.) is a student-centred system based on the workload students have to undertake in order to meet the objectives of the programme, which are defined in terms of learning outcomes and skills to be acquired.