Recortes de prensa

Council of the European Union issues Recommendation on Microcredentials

June 17, 2022

The Council of the European Union has published a Recommendation on a European approach to micro-credentials for lifelong learning and employability. The recommendation represents a step forward in defining the reference framework for the design and implementation of micro-credentials in the European context and is of great relevance for the impact of the CertiDigital project.

The text names a series of previous considerations that help to understand the needs identified around micro-credentials, among which we highlight:

  1. One of the main challenges facing European businesses and employers is the insufficient supply of relevant skills in the EU labor market. Continuous upskilling and reskilling is essential for workers to respond to the needs of their current job or to transition to new jobs and expanding sectors, such as the green and digital sectors, particularly in the context of an aging population.

  2. An effective lifelong learning culture is critical to ensure that all individuals have the knowledge, skills and competencies they need to thrive in society, in the labor market and in their personal lives.

  3. Micro-credentials could help certify the outcomes of small, tailored learning experiences. They enable targeted and flexible acquisition of knowledge, skills and competencies to meet new and emerging societal and labor market needs.

  4. The Council Conclusions on the European Universities Initiative underline that “without deviating from or undermining the basic principle of full degree programs, micro-credentials could contribute to broadening learning opportunities to accommodate atypical learners and the demand for new skills in the labor market, make the learning experience more flexible and modular, facilitate access to higher education, and motivate learners, regardless [of their qualifications or previous experience, by promoting opportunities for further education and retraining], while still ensuring quality education.”

  5. Decision (EU) 2018/646 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 April 2018 on a common framework for providing better services for skills and qualifications (Europass) and repealing Decision No. 2241/2004/EC19 lays the foundation for providing web-based tools to enable individuals to manage their career and lifelong learning with credential authentication services that allow for the portability of micro-credentials.

The Recommendation also includes clarifying definitions for key concepts in this area, such as the definition of “micro-credential” (Art. 5a):

the record of the learning outcomes that a learner has achieved as a result of a small amount of learning. These results will have been assessed according to transparent and clearly defined criteria. Learning experiences leading to micro-credentials are designed to provide the learner with specific knowledge, skills and competencies, which respond to social, personal, cultural or labor market needs. Micro-credentials are owned by the learner, can be shared and are portable. They can stand alone or accumulate into broader credentials. They are backed by quality assurance against agreed standards in the relevant sector or field of activity.

Another definition relevant to the CertiDigital project is the definition of “portability” (Art. 5g):

the ability of a credential holder to store their micro-credentials in a system of their choice, to transmit them to an entity of their choice (national or transnational) and for all participants in the exchange to be able to understand the content of the credentials and verify their authenticity. This allows portability between and within education and training sectors, within the labor market and between countries.

The European Council also recommends that Member States adopt and encourage the use of European standard elements to describe a micro-credential, which will be included in a European data model specifying a common format for describing micro-credentials. The data model will be available as an open standard for use by micro-credential providers, and could support interoperability and facilitate the exchange of micro-credential data. The mandatory model elements are (Annex I):

  1. learner identification
  2. microcredential title
  3. country or region of issuance (can be several)
  4. entity or entities issuing the microcredential
  5. date of issuance
  6. learning outcomes
  7. theoretical workload required to obtain the learning outcomes (in the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System – ECTS, where possible);
  8. level (and cycle, if applicable) of the learning experience leading to the micro-credential (European Qualifications Framework, European Higher Education Area qualifications frameworks), if applicable;
  9. type of assessment;
  10. form of participation in the learning activity;
  11. type of quality assurance used to support the micro-credential.

The European principles for the design and delivery of micro-credentials provide guidance to Member States, public authorities and providers that can enhance the reliability and quality of micro-credentials. These 10 principles are: quality, transparency, relevance, assessment validity, learning pathways, recognition, portability, learner-centered approach, authenticity, information and guidance. A detailed description of each principle is included in Annex II.

The CertiDigital project aligns with this recent recommendation both in the points outlined above, and more specifically in the experimental creation of a micro-credential ecosystem through:

  • The exploration by higher education institutions of the role of micro-credentials in offering learning opportunities to different learners, in particular by expanding an attractive, accessible, inclusive and learner-centered offer of lifelong learning activities (Art. 7a).

  • The technical implementation of the Recommendation by exploring the innovations introduced in the Europass platform to provide authentication through European digital credentials for learning; and support for portability, accumulability, interoperability, exchange and sharing of information on micro-credentials (Art. 18b,c).

The definition and implementation of micro-credentials in Higher Education, and the incorporation of digital credentials that allow verifying their validity in platforms such as Europass, are areas in constant evolution that will continue to develop in parallel – and in close coordination and dialogue – with the main actions in the implementation of the CertiDigital project. The confluence of these developments will determine the success of this commitment to a European approach to micro-credentials.