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National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ)

National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ)

Qualifications frameworks describe the qualifications of an education and training system and how they interlink. National qualifications frameworks describe what learners should know, understand and be able to do on the basis of a given qualification. These frameworks also show how learners can move from one qualification, or qualification level, to another within a system. Over 150 countries are now developing, or have developed, a national qualifications framework.

The Irish NFQ, established in 2003, is a framework through which all learning achievements may be measured and related to each other in a coherent way. The many different types and sizes of qualifications included in the NFQ, are organised based on their level of knowledge, skill and competence. Because all NFQ qualifications are quality assured learners can be confident that they will be recognised at home and abroad.

Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) has responsibility to develop, promote and maintain the Irish NFQ. QQI also facilitates the recognition of foreign qualifications.

To learn more about the Irish NFQ select NFQ – Interactive below.

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Qualifications Frameworks in Europe and beyond

As well as national frameworks, which help reform the qualifications system in a particular country, there are also European and regional frameworks such as the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) and the Qualifications Framework for the European Higher Education Area (QF-EHEA).  These overarching systems link different countries’ qualifications systems together and act as translation devices to make qualifications easier to understand across different countries in Europe and beyond. Their main aim is to help people moving from one country to another to work, or to continue their education or training.

The EQF is an overarching framework that links the qualifications frameworks of different European countries together. It covers qualifications at all levels and in all sub-systems of education and training (general and adult education, vocational education and training as well as higher education). The main role of the EQF is to make qualifications more readable and understandable across different countries and systems. In this way, the EQF supports individual mobility and lifelong learning. European countries are encouraged to develop their national qualifications systems and to link those systems to the EQF.  Ireland, for example, completed the referencing of the Irish NFQ to the EQF in 2009. Find out more about the EFQ by visiting Learning Opportunities and Qualifications in Europe.

To learn more about the relationship between the Irish NFQ and the EQF select Qualifications Frameworks in Europe - Interactive on the right.

The European Higher Education Area (EHEA) aims to facilitate cooperation between systems, institutions, and individuals in its 48 member countries.   While working together to implement the EHEA’s goals for quality and mobility, the member states also hope to raise the international profile and status of European higher education.

The EHEA now includes the concept of a qualifications framework with an emphasis on learning outcomes. The undergraduate/postgraduate degree structure has been modified into a three-cycle system (bachelor, master and doctorate). Ireland’s NFQ has been verified as compatible with that of the EHEA quality framework (QF- EHEA). This means that higher education and training qualifications from Ireland are consistent with the EHEA bachelor, master and doctorate cycles. Find out more on the European Higher Education Area here.

To learn more about the relationship between the Irish NFQ and the EQF and the QF-EHEA click on Qualifications Frameworks – A European View below.

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