20 Years of the Irish NFQ - A story of collaboration and co-operation


2023 marked the 20th anniversary of the Irish National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) and this significant milestone was celebrated with a one-day conference and supporting workshops in November 2023. This report reflects the 20-year history of the NFQ and includes stakeholder perspectives, and themes arising from the conference in November.

Firstly, the development and implementation of the NFQ has been a dynamic process and the NFQ’s continuous evolution reflects the commitment of Ireland to quality education and the adaptability required in a rapidly changing world.

The NFQ has been subject to several reviews and reports over the last 20 years with some common themes highlighted repeatedly. Many of these themes continue to be reflected by stakeholders and partners today. On its 20th anniversary it is appropriate to consider how the NFQ can adapt to the changing education and training landscape and continue to serve the needs of learners and wider stakeholders. This includes the need to communicate clearly and consistently with stakeholders about the NFQ, EQF and related services. There is also a need to ensure deeper engagement at a technical level by relevant individuals and organisations. Some of the infrastructure of the NFQ – namely the two major awards at level 6 – needs to be reviewed. However, there is much to celebrate about the implementation of the NFQ, including the success of the fan diagram as an important reference point and a common language, the shift from input to learning outcomes and the meaningful impact of the NFQ on learners.

Additionally, it is not clear that all the opportunities implied in the Framework have been realised, including the full benefits of access, transfer, and progression, a national approach to RPL and seamless transition from FE to HE.

The scope and breadth of the stakeholder perspectives outlined in the report reflects the complexity of the NFQ and the variety and diversity of opinions that need to be considered by QQI as part of any future development of the NFQ. The volume of feedback and engagement by stakeholders with the NFQ 20th anniversary speaks of the embeddedness of the Framework in Irish education and training and wider society, and the commitment to its continued implementation and ongoing use. Although it is positive and heartening to receive such significant tributes to the NFQ and its success, it does point to the challenges associated with making any changes to the Framework.

QQI, its stakeholders and partners, have benefitted from the experience of working together to tackle challenges and find compromises which has ensured the NFQ has become embedded into the fabric of Irish society. The same commitment to collaboration, cooperation and compromise needs to be capitalised on to bring the NFQ forward and remain relevant for the next 20 years and beyond, with QQI demonstrating sustained leadership in the development, implementation, and monitoring of the NFQ.