Qualifications and qualification systems

Qualifications and qualification systems are essential to individuals, the economy and society. They signal the knowledge and skills that people possess, which allows them to obtain a job or pursue a career, access education or training, and move between countries for work or study. No other tool or representation of a person’s capacities fulfils this function so effectively. 

Employers and schools prefer to see applicants’ qualifications before offering them a job or a place on a programme. Parents are ambitious for their children to obtain good qualifications so that they have better prospects in life. Learners and workers feel satisfied when their efforts to acquire knowledge and skills are rewarded with certificates and diplomas. 

The European Training Foundation (ETF), therefore, advises countries on improving their qualification systems so that their people can access learning and find jobs more easily.

How the ETF helps countries develop better qualifications

The ETF works with countries which are undergoing major social and economic change. We advise them on the reforms needed in their education system to adapt to those wider transitions. In qualifications, we consider that countries should prioritise: 


Databases give detailed information about qualifications – enabling learners to find the right programme for them, and employers and schools to understand the qualifications applicants hold. The ETF advises countries on building databases (see our guidelines for establishing national qualifications databases).

Micro credentials have become very popular worldwide in recent years, offering certification to people who acquire new skills in a brief period or learn on short courses. The ETF offers its own guidelines to help providers, credential evaluators, and learners develop and understand them (see our guide to micro-credentials). 

Linking national qualifications frameworks

Countries and regions are responding to the globalisation of technologies, trade and migration by linking their qualification frameworks, so that people’s qualifications can be recognised when they move for study or work abroad. The ETF has, therefore, supported the comparison of the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) with the national qualifications framework (NQF) of Ukraine (see the comparison report of the EQF and the Ukrainian NQF) and Cape Verde.

The ETF also advises the African Union in its development of the African Continental Qualifications Framework, which contributes to the African Union’s agenda in education, trade and free movement in the next decades. 

Validation of non-formal and informal learning and recognition of skills and qualifications

Formal certificates are useful but do not say everything about a person’s knowledge and skills, which they may also acquire in personal life, volunteering or at work. Countries should exploit these valuable experiences for the good of the individual, society and economy, by developing validation systems that acknowledge and confirm their skills. The ETF has analysed some countries’ progress in their validation of non-formal and informal learning systems (see our cross-country reports 2022 and 2024 and find out more about the national validation systems in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, KazakhstanKosovo, KyrgyzstanMoldova, MontenegroMoroccoNorth Macedonia, Serbia, TunisiaTürkiye and Ukraine).

The recognition of foreign qualifications enables migrants to access programmes or be recruited for work in the EU, and for returnees to do the same when they go back to their country of origin. Effective recognition systems can help both the EU fill its pressing labour shortages and third-country citizens to be employed – and paid – at the right skill level. The ETF is supporting the improvement of these systems (see our 2023 mapping of qualifications recognition centres and our article on the mutual benefits of qualifications and skills recognition). 

The ETF has a longstanding partnership with Ukraine, intensified since the current war began. The ETF’s Ukraine Info Hub provides Ukrainians living in the EU with practical guidance, links and contacts on qualifications, programmes, employment and careers guidance. EU schools, colleges and employers can also find information on Ukraine’s education and training systems, including qualifications.

The ETF maintains and updates data on partner country qualifications systems in its NQF inventory. Find out more about the national qualifications system in Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cape Verde, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, KazakhstanKosovoKyrgyzstan, LebanonMoldova, MontenegroMorocco, Mozambique, North Macedonia, Palestine, Serbia, Tunisia, Türkiye and Ukraine.

The ETF also contributes to the Global Inventory of National and Regional Qualifications Frameworksa co-production with Cedefop and UNESCO. See the latest edition: Vol. I. Thematic chapters and Vol. II. National and regional case studies.  

To engage in discussions on qualifications, go to ETF Open Space dedicated page.

Rohkem teavet

Recognition of prior learning: New developments and financing approaches