Qualifications at EQF level 5: Benefits for career and higher education

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Author(s)Slava Pevec Grm
EQF level 5 qualifications open gates to career advancement and higher education
Cedefop’s contribution will draw on the recent study, which examines key functions and purposes of qualifications linked to level 5 of the European qualifications framework (EQF) in 15 countries.
The study shows that EQF 5 qualifications – at the crossroads between VET, HE and general education – play an important role in providing access to employment and career advancement, as well as enabling further learning and progression to and within higher education. The study found diverse qualification types awarded by a range of VET and higher education institutions linked to EQF level 5. Also, the extent to which level 5 is used varies across countries, ranging from countries with currently no qualifications, countries with short cycle higher education (SCHE) or VET qualifications, countries with SCHE and VET qualifications and finally countries with a diversified qualification landscape including sectoral, private and/or general education qualifications at this level.
Countries differ significantly in the number of programmes, students enrolled and/or qualifications awarded at EQF level 5. Numbers also vary in relation to different types of qualifications within a country. In addition, the availability of data differs across countries and types of qualifications/programmes, making comparisons difficult. Nevertheless, an attempt was made to clusters countries based on the quantitative data available and on an overall qualitative assessment.
EQF level 5 qualifications offer various access and progression routes – depending on the type and purpose of a qualification – from and to employment and to higher education. On the one hand, level 5 qualifications primarily provide access to and advancement in the labour market. Among the thirty-one identified qualification types, fourteen are primarily oriented towards the labour market; twelve qualification types possess a ‘double’ function, valued as entry qualifications for both the labour market and higher education (in some cases with the possibility for credit transfer); some of qualification types are solely seen as a preparation for further studies; eight qualification types provide clearly articulated entry opportunities into bachelor programmes.
Many EQF level 5 qualifications are designed to up-skill individuals already in employment and provide them with advanced technical and/or management skills, as is the case in the Netherlands (an example is the Dutch ‘associate degree management and health care’). Almost all students enrolled in this type of programme are already employed and are seeking to upgrade their management competences to enable them to perform team leader roles in the organisations in which they work.
Level 5 qualifications can help progress to higher education. Half of EQF level 5 qualifications in the researched countries are awarded though short SCHE programmes, which in the Bologna process were dedicated to providing an intermediate step towards a bachelor’s degree. When the qualification is part of, or closely linked to, a bachelor degree programme, progression (including credit transfer), is generally guaranteed. However, the opportunity to progress is used differently, as some cases show. In the case of CVET qualifications primarily oriented towards the labour market, progression to higher education is (often) not an explicit goal.
Learners enrolled in programmes leading to an EQF 5 qualification are a heterogeneous group as regards their prior education, age, and/or work experience. However, in many countries data on student background are unavailable. Indicative data show that EQF level 5 qualifications are especially attractive to students with a VET background, and those already in employment.
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