A higher education qualifications framework
Since the Decree of 9 May 2008, the French Community has had a Higher Education Qualifications Framework. The framework offers a generic description of three levels of higher education, corresponding to a specific set of knowledge, skills and competencies. Academic degrees are awarded at each level. They are the only academic degrees recognised in the French Community, and are the subject of quality assurance. The Higher Education Qualifications Framework is the result of a consultation process initiated in 2007 by the Minister for Higher Education and Scientific Research, in which all those involved in higher education in the French Community took part (government, administrations, higher education institutions and students). The framework transposes the European Qualifications Framework and is recognised in the European Higher Education Area.
A broader qualifications framework
From 2006 onwards, a High-Level Interdepartmental Group (HLIG) carried out work to prepare for the definition of a qualifications framework and compiled a report. This report set out the basic principles of the European Qualifications Framework (EQF), emphasised a number of precautions that needed to be taken to avoid any misunderstandings during its implementation, stressed the need for a quality assurance system whose principles were affirmed, and finally formulated a proposal for the gradual construction of the framework within the French Community.
In October 2007, the providers of vocational training (IFAPME – FOREM – Bruxelles Formation) and social advancement education came together in a Skills Validation Consortium and continued the work of the HLIG. The Consortium’s Management Committee, relying in particular on the expertise of the Education and Training Council, identified a common methodology with a view to positioning the certificates and qualifications derived from the provision of vocational training and social advancement education with in relation to the EQF. This methodology was successfully trialled on around fifty qualifications covering a variety of fields of employment and professions with various education, training and validation bodies. The methodology consists of four steps:
- checking that the qualification can be positioned according to certain criteria (relevance, competent body, assessment process and qualification awarded);
- positioning the profession/field and the qualification in relation to the generic descriptors;
- gathering any information regarding existing arrangements;
- positioning the qualification in the EQF.
In 2009, the Education and Training Council issued a formal opinion on the creation of a French-Language Qualifications Framework.
In 2010, the governments of the French Community, the Walloon Region and Cocof entrusted the task of creating and managing the French-Language Qualifications Framework to a common scheme by means of a cooperation agreement. An intergovernmental working group bringing together representatives of the ministers concerned was assigned responsibility, with the help of experts, for providing methodological guidance and introducing a working plan according to a rigorous schedule. The idea was to create a dual-entry French-Language Qualifications Framework which would include, for each level, the qualification indicators and descriptors together with both the educational qualifications and diplomas and the vocational training qualifications. This dual-entry common framework has the advantage that it meets the objectives of the EQF while upholding the objective differences between the two types of qualification, and in particular the fact that the education system has objectives that extend beyond gaining employment. A guidance paper for the Government was submitted in December 2010.
In 2012, the governments confirmed those decisions. Further developments have taken place, such as:
- an agreement on the positioning methods, respecting the relevant fields (education or professional training) ;
- the finalised definition of the level descriptors according to the Flemish and European Frameworks ;
- the soon to be finalised definition of rules ensuring the quality of certification granting by each stakeholder, and the quality of positioning in the framework ;
- the creation of the steering and positioning body responsible for technical issues about positioning.
On March 18, 2015 a draft decree was voted, approving the Cooperation Agreement (February 26, 2015) between the French Community, the Walloon Region and the French Community Commission, on the establishment and management of a French-speaking Qualifications Framework, CFC.
The French-speaking Qualifications Framework is a framework of public interest and regulated by the government, which aims:
- at promoting continuity and progression of learning pathways for citizens ;
- at increasing the readability of the qualifications of the French Community, the Walloon Region and the COCOF ;
- at strengthening the intrinsic quality of the teaching process, training and skills validation, ensuring the adequacy of the positioning of each qualification at a given level of the frame ;
- at encouraging mobility of students in the French-speaking, European and Belgian world.
CFC is an eight-level framework that is compatible with the CEC and the VKS (Vlaamse kwalificatiestructuur)
The establishment of the CFC Instance began in May 2016 with the appointment of a coordinator for the executive cell. This year also saw the full constitution of the bodies of the Instance and the creation of rules and regulations for the Management Committee.
The first mission of the Instance is to position the certifications by checking the above-mentioned criteria and the correspondence of the level. Simplified procedures have been developed taking into account the transitional provisions of the cooperation agreement in order to position a large number of certifications quickly.
As of September 1, 2019, the following certifications have been positioned:
- 111 certifications of vocational education and vocational training providers at levels 2, 3 and 4 which are in line with a training profile developed by the SFMQ (Service francophone des métiers et qualifications), bringing together education providers, social partners and public employment services ;
- Bachelor's degree holders at level 6 and Master's degree holders at level 7, in higher education ;
- forty vocational training certifications at levels 2, 3, 4 and 5, not in adequacy with a SFMQ profile, including several titles of the validation of competences ;
- the Certificate of Upper Secondary Education (CESS) at level 4 ;
- twelve certificates of qualification in social advancement education ;
- twelve certificates of seventh year of vocational secondary education (eleven at level 4, one at level 5).