EQF as a ladder?

8. Does the EQF have to be seen as a ladder and do all steps have to be taken to reach a qualification on a certain level?

The EQF is a ladder in the sense that from level 1-8 the associated learning becomes more complex and makes greater demands on the learner or worker. Increases in level 1-8 relate to different factors such as:

  • the complexity and depth of knowledge and understanding;
  • the degree of necessary support or instruction;
  • the degree of integration, independence and creativity required;
  • the range and complexity of application/practice;
  • the degree of transparency and dynamics of situations.

This list certainly is not comprehensive, as learning has many relevant dimensions, some which we might not even know. It should only indicate what is meant by “increasingly greater demands on learners/workers.” Understanding the EQF as a ladder with 8 steps does not mean that it is necessary to differentiate the same number of levels in all national contexts, fields, sectors or domains. National qualifications systems or frameworks might include more or less levels.

In some fields, sectors or domains there might be no qualifications on a higher level available. In others there might be no qualifications at the lower levels existing or there might even be qualifications which go beyond the level 8. The EQF does not further differentiate between qualifications on level 8 and above.

The EQF is not an instrument for directly documenting individual learning progresses but to provide – in the first stage – a translation device between different national contexts and – on the long run – a reference tool for all qualifications issued in Europe. However, indicating EQF levels for qualifications does not mean that qualifications necessarily have to be acquired in the same sequence as the EQF levels.

Over their lifetime, learners will primarily move from a lower to a higher level, but it is also possible to gain two different qualifications at the same level or to move from a higher to a lower level of qualification, if new learning is taken on and new skills are acquired.