A European approach for micro-credentials

In “Promoting our European Way of Life”

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One of the major challenges facing European businesses and employers is an insufficient supply of the right skills in the EU labour market. Simultaneously, workers face unprecedented changes in how work is organised. In addition, task profiles and skills
requirements are changing fundamentally due to the digital and green transitions. Within Europe a growing number of people need to update their knowledge, skills and competences to fill the gap between their formal education and the needs of a fast-changing knowledge-development society and labour market. Short-term learning opportunities leading to micro-credentials can help to substantially widen learning and skills development opportunities, and further shape the lifelong learning dimension in higher education.

On 20 October 2020, the European Commission has announced in its 'Commission Work Programme 2021', the publication of a non-legislative initiative on 'European approach for micro-credentials', scheduled for the last quarter of 2021.

The topic is also one of the 12 flagship actions of the European Skills Agenda, under the title 'A European approach to micro-credentials', with the following goal: "Empowering workers to up- and reskill throughout their entire lives also means making sure that all learning experiences are properly valued."

In this context, the European Commission has established an ad-hoc consultation group with experts in higher education of Member States and EHEA countries with the aim to explore how an EU approach to micro-credentials could be elaborated within the higher education sector in Europe. The consultation group published its report in December 2020. The report included a shared definition of micro-credentials; common characteristics of a European approach to micro-credentials, as well as a roadmap of actions to be taken at EU level, in full respect of subsidiarity. Wide consultations among the education and training community and labour market actors will follow, involving all Member States and EHEA countries.

On 21 April, the Commission launched a public consultation on a European approach to micro-credentials for lifelong learning and employability. During 12 weeks, the consultation collected ideas for a common definition of micro-credentials – recognition of short, targeted learning courses – and for the development of EU standards ensuring their quality and transparency. The public consultation ended on 13 July.

On 10 December 2021, the European Commission published its proposal on a European approach for micro-credentials for lifelong learning and employability. micro credentials are the validation of learning outcomes related to a small learning event - a short course or training. The main aims of the proposal are:

  • to apply a common EU definition, standards and key principles for the design, issuance and portability of micro-credentials. The Commission invited the EU Council to adopt a clear definition of micro-credentials, to establish the main parameters for their characterisation, and to decide on the conditions under which they should be created and issued;
  • to develop the ecosystem for micro-credentials;
  • to deliver on the potential of micro-credentials to support lifelong learning and employability.

The European Commission indicated that it could provide support to Member States by adapting existing European tools and services - for example, the User’s Guide to the European Credit Transfer System - to include micro-credentials.

The Commission is also prepared to encourage the use of these credentials by European university alliances or by teacher training providers.

The initiative complements several other instruments mentioned in the European Pillar of Social Rights action plan of 26 March 2021, such as the Council Recommendation on individual learning accounts (proposal published on 10 December 2021), the Pact for Skills (launched in November 2020) or the Commission Recommendation on effective active support to employment (EASE) (adopted in March 2021).

The recommendation was adopted by the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council of 16 June 2022.



Author: Marketa Pape, Members' Research Service, legislative-train@europarl.europa.eu

As of 20/05/2024.