EU: New scheme for vocational education transfers

A voluntary scheme aimed at promoting the transferability of skills and qualifications in vocational education has been proposed by the European Commission in the hope that it will increase the number of students taking training courses in European Union countries other than their own. At present there are more than 30,000 vocational training establishments in the EU.

According to Brussels, "The number of different qualifications and procedures, even within one country, can make it difficult to transfer [qualifications and exam results] from one system, or learning context, to another."

The commission is therefore proposing a Europe-wide credit system in vocational education and training, called European Credit system for Vocational Education and Training (ECVET), to make it easier for citizens to get formal recognition of knowledge, skills and competences they have gained in one member state throughout the union.

This initiative builds on the success of the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) in higher education, introduced in 1989, which has helped improve the EU-wide recognition of degree courses and course component undertaken in individual counties.

The commission said ECVET would help EU citizens move from country to country (a key aim of the EU in general) and give them "better access to lifelong learning, whether in formal, non-formal or informal contexts". '

It said the scheme did not seek to replace the right of national governments to control their own education systems but would facilitate the transfer between them. Thus units of learning outcomes would be defined with an associated number of credit points and this in turn would help qualification-awarding authorities in the EU member states to translate learning outcomes and associated points acquired elsewhere into their own vocational training qualifications system.

The new scheme would be fully compatible with the European credit system in higher education and national systems in vocational education and training.

Announcing the system, Ján Figel, EU Education Commissioner, said ECVET would make it "much easier for individual trainees to complete their training courses in different training establishments and in different countries". The proposal will be submitted for approval to the European Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers. Member states will have considerable autonomy over how to operate the system according to their own rules, but there will be significant political pressure from Brussels for them to implement its broad principles.