On April 23rd 2008, the European Parliament and the Council enacted the Recommendation on the establishment of the European Qualification Framework for Lifelong Learning (European Qualification Framework, EQF), a European reference framework which enables linking the qualifications of the Member States around a common reference and calls upon them to set their own national qualification frameworks.
In 2011, Article 73.6 of Law 2/2011 on Sustainable Economy stated that the Government would establish the new National Qualifications Framework, linked to the European Framework, in order to favour and increase the mobility of students and workers.
Subsequently, on 17 May 2017, the European Parliament Resolution on the European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning was adopted. This resolution recalled the commitment of Member States to review both national legislation that complied with the Lisbon Convention on the recognition of qualifications and national qualifications frameworks that facilitate the understanding of training systems and the recognition of prior learning. In turn, the Council Recommendation on the European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning was adopted on 22 May 2017, repealing the Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2008 on the establishment of the European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning.
Royal Decree 1027/2011 establishes the Spanish Qualifications Framework for Higher Education, and Royal Decree 272/2022 defines the Spanish Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning (MECU).
Both share the objectives of informing society, promoting international mobility and recognition throughout the European Higher Education Area.
MECU covers the qualifications of compulsory education, up to the higher level of professional training, artistic education, sports education and university education. In this way, the Spanish Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning (MECU) completes the general framework of qualifications in Spanish, incorporating programmes not yet developed at the time of publication of Royal Decree 1027/2011.
The Spanish Qualifications Framework (MECU) is a national qualifications framework (degrees, diplomas and certificates) that includes lifelong learning. It is a structure that organises qualifications according to levels and comprises from the most basic to the most complex learning. It therefore covers general and adult education, vocational education and training, and higher education.
- qualifications obtained outside the education system through in-service training, work activity, collaboration with non-governmental organisations, etc.;
- qualifications obtained in the education system.
The proposed framework has eight levels and the level descriptors, defined in terms of knowledge, skills and competences, and are inspired by the level descriptors of the European Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning, but adapted to the national context.
The MECU aims to correlate and coordinate the different subsystems of education and training and include the qualifications obtained in compulsory, post-secondary and higher education, as well as integrate the validation of non-formal and informal learning.
Main objectives of the Spanish Qualifications Framework
Among the main goals of the MECU the following may be highlighted:
- to make qualifications more understandable by describing them in terms of learning outcomes;
- to improve citizens’ information on national qualifications, as well as facilitate and promote mobility;
- to support lifelong learning and correlate initial vocational training and vocational training for employment, as well as improve access and participation in this type of training, especially of people with some kind of disability;
- to facilitate the identification, validation and recognition of all types of learning outcomes, including those related to non-formal and informal learning;
- to facilitate transition and progression between the different training subsystems;
- to develop procedures for the recognition of non-formal learning;
- to reduce early school leaving.
The Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (MEFP), through the General Secretariat for Vocational Training, coordinates the development and implementation of the MECU in cooperation with the Ministries of Labour and Social Economy, of Industry, Trade and Tourism, and of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation.
Other social actors are also involved in the development of the MECU are:
- companies, through the Spanish Confederation of Business Organisations (CEOE) or the Spanish Confederation of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (CEPYME);
- institutional bodies, such as the Sectoral Committee for Education or the General Committee for University Policy;
- consultative bodies, such as the State Council for Education, the Council for Vocational Training, the Council for Artistic Education and the Council for Universities;
- educational evaluation agencies and other professional associations and corporations;
- the departments of education of the different autonomous communities.
Although the MEFP is in charge of the drafting and coordination of the actions and the necessary regulations for its implementation, as well as the body responsible for guiding its successful implementation through the National Coordination Point, its actual implementation is the responsibility of public authorities and the different social actors.
Structure of the Spanish Qualifications Framework: levels and learning outcomes
The eight levels of the framework cover all types of qualifications in Spain. Level descriptors are defined in terms of knowledge, skills and competences.
The four upper levels are compatible with the levels of the Spanish Qualifications Framework for Higher Education (MECES), based on the Dublin descriptors.
The establishment of learning outcomes constitutes an essential part of the development and implementation of the MECU and the MECES. The term ‘learning outcome’ represents a considerable change in the education and training system in Spain. The level of implementation of learning outcomes varies depending on the training subsystem, vocational training being the one where they are currently most developed.
Development and implementation of the Spanish Qualifications Framework
A Royal Decree that will establish the foundations for its implementation is currently under preparation.
In such project, it is recommended the establishment of a committee including social actors, ministries, trade unions and the most representative employers’ associations, as well as experts in vocational qualifications of different sectors. This committee would be in charge of deciding on the assignment of qualifications to the MECU levels, which should be based on three criteria:
- comparability between the descriptors of the qualifications, defined as learning outcomes, and the MECU level descriptors;
- implementation of a common quality assurance system in higher education and vocational training;
- public consultation with the bodies and organisations involved in the design of qualifications in their respective sectors.
In addition, the intention is to assign formal education qualifications to the MECU levels. The assignment of qualifications related to the validation of non-formal and informal learning is expected to be more complicated.