What are principles of descriptors?

2. What are the principles behind the EQF descriptors and what is the meaning of their wording?

The descriptors have been written to cover the full range of learning outcomes, irrespective of the learning or institutional context from basic education, through school and unskilled worker levels up to doctoral or senior professional levels. They cover both work and study situations, academic as well as vocational settings, and initial as well as continuing education or training, i.e. all forms of learning formal, non-formal and informal.

In addition, the descriptors reflect both specialisations and generalisations. Thus, reaching a higher level does not necessarily imply that the required skills and knowledge will be more specialised, although this might be the case in many academic and research contexts. Moving from a lower to a higher level, in some study or work contexts, can also mean becoming more of a generalist.

The descriptors have been written to sufficiently distinguish between descriptors from the level below or the level above and show, from the previous level, distinct progress in dimensions of change (e.g. complexity of knowledge, see also question 8). Each level builds on and subsumes the levels beneath. However, in order to keep the table and the text as clear as possible, repetitions are avoided and the descriptors of the respective previous levels are implicitly included. To achieve, at the same time, continuity, as well as discreteness, key words have been used to characterize levels (e.g. “factual and theoretical knowledge”, in contrast to “basic knowledge” on the lower levels or “specialised knowledge” on the higher levels; or “supervision” of the work/study activities of others which come in at level 4 and 5, but are not relevant at levels below). These key words can also be under stood as indicators of threshold levels. A full understanding of one particular level therefore requires a “horizontal as well as vertical reading” where lower and higher levels are taken into account (see question 7).

Further criteria for formulating the descriptors were: to use only positive statements; to avoid jargon; to apply definite and concrete statements (e.g. avoiding terms like “appropriate”) and at the same time to be as simple and generic as possible. Thus, the descriptors of the present EQF table are deliberately rather generic, e.g. in comparison to previous versions (see also question 1 and 9). The column titles were pragmatically chosen to use simple and comprehensible terms, instead of possibly more precise, technical terms used by a small group of experts (see question 3).