Frequently asked questions

  1. What is the National Qualifications Framework?

    The National Qualifications Framework (NQF) is a system for describing and classifying qualifications. The NQF distinguishes between eight qualification levels - from basic (Level 1) to specialist (Level 8). These are characterised by descriptors (general/abstract characteristics) that refer to learning outcomes.

  2. What are learning outcomes?

    Learning outcomes are what a learner knows and can do by the end of a training programme/course/in-house training/learning at the workplace, etc. The NQF describes learning outcomes as knowledge, skills and competence. Knowledge comprises theoretical and factual knowledge. Skills enable this knowledge to be used to carry out tasks and solve problems (this includes, for example, the use of methods, materials, tools, instruments, the implementation of processes, etc.). Competence refers to interdisciplinary competences that are required for a qualification. However, the NQF does not refer to the full range of interdisciplinary competences (e.g. ability to work in a team, ability to deal with conflict, flexibility, etc.), but only to the degree of responsibility and autonomy associated with a qualification. The reason for this can be found in the fact that these two interdisciplinary competences can be described by descriptors and are therefore ‘measurable’ (e.g. working under direct supervision, working with a certain degree of autonomy, supervising the routine work of others, etc.).

  3. What is a qualification? What are the general prerequisites for allocating a qualification?

    Not every training programme, every course, every in-house training, etc. leads to a qualification within the meaning of the NQF. This is only the case if there is a test procedure - in the NQF jargon termed ‘assessment procedure’ - as part of the training programme/course/in-house training etc. in which the learners must prove that they have the knowledge, skills and competence associated with the qualification. This knowledge, these skills and this competence are defined by the institution responsible for this qualification (i.e. a ministry, adult learning institution, etc.). Learners who can prove they have acquired these learning outcomes receive the ‘proof of qualification’, i.e. the certificate/diploma. Two aspects are therefore vital for a qualification within the meaning of the NQF: the assessment procedure and the proof of qualification.

  4. Are there any regulations governing the assessment procedure?

    The NQF does not regulate how the assessment procedure is carried out, i.e. whether it is a written exam, an oral exam, a project work or a combination of several exam elements. However, the exam must go beyond a mere confirmation of participation. Where the participants of a course/in-house training are only issued a confirmation of participation, NQF allocation is not possible. It is also important that the assessment procedure is designed in such a way that the acquisition of the learning outcomes can be verified. The elements of the assessment procedure must therefore also be stated and justified in the NQF allocation request. If, for example, a forklift truck licence has been obtained without a practical demonstration of driving skills, this would not be a valid assessment procedure in the NQF sense.

  5. Can all qualifications be allocated in Austria?

    In principle, all qualifications that correspond to the NQF definition of qualification can be allocated. These can be qualifications that have either a general or a vocational focus. These can be qualifications acquired in the formal education system (i.e. in schools, colleges and higher education institutions) or in adult learning institutions. Similarly, the scope of a qualification is not relevant: Qualifications with a broadly defined educational objective can be allocated in the same way as qualifications with a rather narrow but specific profile. Furthermore, both formal qualifications and non-formal qualifications can be allocated. In the case of formal (i.e. legally regulated) qualifications, training curricula and examination standards are laid down in laws, ordinances, decrees, etc. In the case of non-formal (i.e. not legally regulated) qualifications, there are no such legal provisions.

  6. Do all qualifications have to be allocated in Austria?

    No. Allocation is voluntary and takes place exclusively upon application (NQF allocation request). One exception to this is the higher education qualifications of the Bologna structure: The bachelor’s, master’s and PhD degrees have been allocated ex lege to levels 6 to 8.

  7. Can qualifications that can no longer be acquired today also be allocated?

    No. Retroactive NQF allocation is not provided for. It is specified that only qualifications that can be acquired after entry into force of the NQF Act can be allocated.

  8. Who can apply for a qualification to be allocated to the NQF?

    This depends on the type of qualification for which the NQF allocation is requested. If it is a formal (legally regulated) qualification, then the ministry responsible for the qualification is the applicant. If the qualification is non-formal (not legally regulated), the NQF service unit submits the allocation request on behalf of the qualification provider.

  9. What are NQF service units?

    NQF service units are intermediary bodies between providers of non-formal qualifications and the NQF bodies. The reason why such bodies are set up is due to the diversity of the Austrian adult learning and continuing education and training landscape and the high degree of freedom in the design of these programmes. This poses particular challenges for the NQF allocation of qualifications from this area as there are no superordinate responsibilities (regional, institutional, sectoral) or competences for non-formal qualifications. NQF service units are responsible for the quality assurance of the allocation of non-formal qualifications. They support and advise the providers of such qualifications.

  10. How to apply for NQF allocation

    An NQF allocation request must be submitted for each qualification that is to be allocated. This is an electronic form that must be completed and submitted with all enclosures (legal basis, curricula, binding qualification description, etc.). In this request, applicants must provide precise information about the qualification (in particular about learning outcomes) and the assessment procedure. In addition, they need to specify what steps they are taking to ensure the quality of the assessment procedure. They must also give reasons for the NQF level at which the qualification is to be allocated.

  11. Where to apply for NQF allocation

    The NQF allocation request must be submitted by the responsible ministry (for a formal qualification) or by the NQF service unit (for a non-formal qualification) to the NQF Coordination Point (abbreviated to  NCP) in electronic form. The NCP is located at Austria’s Agency for Education and Internationalisation (OeAD). The electronic allocation form can also be obtained there.

  12. How is the allocation procedure carried out and who decides on allocation?

    The NQF Coordination Point (NCP) examines incoming NQF allocation requests regarding form and content and can obtain opinions from experts if required. The results of this review are presented to the NQF advisory council, which is set up at the NCP. Following consultation with the NQF advisory council, a recommendation is submitted to the NQF steering group as to whether or not the applied for NQF allocation should be approved. The NQF steering group can object to the allocation with a two-thirds majority. If there is no objection, the qualification is deemed to have been allocated.

  13. Can an appeal be lodged against this decision in the event of non-allocation?

    The NQF Act does not provide for an appeal in the narrower sense. However, a supplemented/adapted allocation request can be sent to the NQF Coordination Point.

  14. What does the allocation of a qualification to an NQF level mean?

    If the reasons stated in the NQF allocation request for the requested NQF level are accepted by the NQF bodies, the NQF allocation will become effective. This means that this qualification is allocated to one of the eight levels. On the one hand, the allocation is entered in the NQF register. This is a publicly accessible database managed by the NQF Coordination Point. It is intended to provide all interested parties with basic information on allocated qualifications (learning outcomes, assessment procedures, etc.). On the other hand, the NQF allocation is also noted on the proof of qualification (certificate, diploma, etc.). However, only new certificates to be issued are given the NQF number. The NQF number cannot be recorded retroactively on certificates that have already been issued.

  15. What qualifications are created by the NQF allocation?

    The NQF allocation does not result in any professional or other qualifications (e.g. classification in a certain pay grade in the public sector, access to an educational programme, use of titles, etc.). The Austrian NQF is purely a transparency instrument and not a regulatory framework. Putting different qualifications on the same level (i.e. allocating different qualifications to one level) means that these qualifications are ‘equivalent’ but not necessarily ‘equal’, i.e. they can differ in their profile and content.

  16. How long is the NQF allocation valid?

    The NQF allocation is valid as long as the qualification exists in the form in which its allocation was applied for. If the learning outcomes or the assessment procedure are changed significantly, a new allocation request must be submitted.

  17. How much does it cost to allocate a qualification to the NQF?

    Entry in the NQF register is free of charge. The preparation of the allocation request of non-formal qualifications and the preparatory work required are associated with costs. These are caused by the services provided by the NQF service unit.

  18. What effects does the NQF allocation have?

    The NQF allocation has no effect on professional or other qualifications. However, the allocation does have practical implications for learners and professionals and also for companies. The former enjoy freedom of movement on the European education and labour market thanks to the transparent presentation of the qualifications they are acquiring or have acquired. For the latter, the NQF allocation is not only able to provide assistance in personnel decisions (especially relating to foreign job applicants), it can also be important in international job advertisements in order to adequately present the qualification level of employees.