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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
National qualifications framework


2.Organisation and governance

2.5National qualifications framework

Last update: 26 March 2024


The development of the German Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning (Deutscher Qualifikationsrahmen für Lebenslanges Lernen – DQR) is part of a European process based on the Recommendation of the European Parliament and the Council on the establishment of the European Qualifications Framework (EQF), which entered into force in 2008 and was revised in 2017. To implement the EQF, 38 European countries have now decided to develop national qualifications frameworks (NQFs). These NQFs can have a different number of levels and pursue different objectives. In the meantime, 36 countries have referenced their national qualifications frameworks to the EQF. The updating of referencing and the associated referencing reports is also still on the agenda. The implementation process is closely monitored by the European Commission. The new Europass portal provides information on the current status of developments.

The EQF, as a reference framework for lifelong learning, maps the learning outcomes of the respective European national education systems in eight levels. It serves as a translation device between the education and qualifications systems of the EU member states and is intended to make learning outcomes from all educational sectors internationally more comprehensible and more comparable, thus promoting the mobility of employees in Europe.

Like the EQF, the DQF describes eight levels that describe learning outcomes that are bundled into competences independently of the degree. In principle all DQR levels should be accessible via various educational pathways. In levels 5 to 8 the DQR opted for parallel descriptions allowing the allocation of academic and vocational qualifications. Compatibility with the Qualifications Framework for German Higher Education Qualifications (Qualifikationsrahmen für Deutsche Hochschulabschlüsse – HQR) adopted in 2005 is guaranteed in DQR levels 6 to 8.

The allocation of the DQR levels to the EQF levels was carried out in the so-called referencing process. The German Referencing Report was successfully presented to and approved by the EQF Advisory Group, the advisory body at European level, in December 2012.

The signing of the Joint Resolution on the DQR by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung – BMBF), the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Klimaschutz – BMWK), the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (Kultusministerkonferenz) and the Conference of Ministers of Economics of the Länder (Wirtschaftsministerkonferenz – WMK) in May 2013, laid the foundation for the introduction of the DQR.

The aim of the DQR is to make the German qualification system more transparent, to support reliability, permeability and quality assurance and to increase the comparability of qualifications. The Federation and the Länder agree that the assignment of qualifications and degrees to levels does not replace the existing system of entrance qualifications. The allocation takes place in accordance with the principle that each qualification level should always be accessible via various educational pathways. The achievement of a level does not provide automatic entitlement to access the next higher level and is not considered in conjunction with the implications for collective wage agreements and laws relating to remuneration. The EU Directive on the Recognition of Professional Qualifications remains unaffected by the EU Recommendation.

The DQR was the first framework to cover all qualifications of the German education system across all educational sectors. In the Annex to the Joint Resolution, the qualifications of the formal sector assigned by consensus are presented in a tabular overview. A learning outcome-oriented justification is attached in each case. In most cases, an anchor qualification stands for a qualification type. The exemplary reason is then followed by a list of qualifications that correspond to this type and are assigned in the same way.

In 2017, the Standing Conference decided on the allocation of general education degrees. The Hauptschulabschluss (HSA) was assigned DQR level 2, the Mittlere Schulabschluss (MSA) DQR level 3 and the Fachhochschulreife (FHR), the Fachgebundene Hochschulreife (FgbHR) and the Allgemeine Hochschulreife (AHR) DQR level 4. An allocation to two levels was confirmed for initial vocational education and training: Level 3 for two-year training programmes and level 4 for three-year and three-and-a-halfyear training programmes. This ensures the equivalence of vocational and general education and training in the assignment process to the DQF.

The indication of the EQF/DQR reference level on new certificates issued for qualifications is being carried out by the respective authorities (vocational schools, chambers, etc.). In higher education, the EQF/DQF level is shown in the Diploma Supplement. A uniform formulation is used in all areas of education. The DQR level is not shown for qualifications obtained before the Joint Resolution came into force. The assignment is only noted on certificates of qualifications that are listed in the annually updated "List of Assigned Qualifications".

In principle, all assignments of qualifications from the formal area are also shown bindingly in the DQR Qualifications Database in German (partly also in English).

As well as qualifications from the formal sector, in future the qualifications of the non-formal sector are also to be allocated to the DQR – i.e. from the area that works with regulatory means that are not regulated by laws or ordinances. A new procedure for assigming these qualifications is currently being introduced. 

The DQR Manual explains the DQR to all interested persons. It serves as a guide for authorities which are responsible for allocating qualifications to the DQR. It specifies the criteria and procedures for the description of qualifications for the DQR and is intended to ensure that the allocation of newly developed qualifications always follows the same criteria and procedures. It lays down binding allocations which indicate the competences acquired through a particular qualification, thereby making the allocations comprehensible, and also describes the competences and sources of information. A glossary explains the terms which are important to understand the DQR.

More detailed information on the DQR is available on the DQR website.