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ANECA presents a framework document for quality assurance of microcredentials in the Spanish University System

September 5, 2022

The National Agency for Quality Assessment and Accreditation in Spain (ANECA) aims to promote and assure the quality of higher education and the Spanish university system, contributing to the development of the European Higher Education Area, as well as to the information and transparency that generates society’s confidence in Spanish higher education and its international recognition.

In ANECA’s strategy to promote the European Higher Education Area, micro-credentials are considered a central element to achieve inclusive, interconnected and innovative learning experiences, open to the whole society. Therefore, the Agency is involved in several initiatives that promote a European approach to micro-credentials for lifelong learning and employability, aligned with the Recommendation of the Council of the European Union. Some examples are the proposal and participation in European Union projects (Erasmus+ program), in working groups of the European Higher Education Area (working group of the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education – ENQA), as well as the promotion of micro-credentials at national and European level, among others.

ANECA has recently published a framework document for the quality assurance of micro-credentials in the Spanish University System. This report indicates that microcredentials will be subject to internal and external quality assurance procedures, in accordance with the European reference framework for the context in which they are developed and offered, if it exists, and whose results are published in European databases on quality assurance. The following are some of the key points and procedures explained in the report.

Internal quality of micro-credentials in Spanish universities

Spanish university legislation is being updated and provides a framework for the lifelong learning programs developed by universities, including micro-credentials, through the entry into force of Royal Decree 640/2021, of July 27, on the creation, recognition and authorization of universities and university centers, and institutional accreditation of university centers, and Royal Decree 822/2021, of September 28, establishing the organization of university education and the procedure for assuring its quality, together with the draft legislation of the Organic Law of the University System (LOSU).

These texts state that the quality assurance of the training offered by universities, including lifelong learning courses and, in particular, micro-credentials, as well as official degrees, will be undertaken jointly by the administrations, the quality assurance agencies and the universities. The capacity of universities to assure the quality of their academic offerings (official and their own) through their Internal Quality Assurance Systems (IQAS) is also recognized.

The internal quality assurance systems should integrate, at least:

  1. the quality of the micro-credential, according to the standards established by the European Union;
  2. the quality of the learning experience;
  3. feedback from learners on the learning experience;
  4. feedback from stakeholders and other providers on the learning experience.

The agreed standards for quality assurance of the micro-credential should be in line with existing quality assurance recommendations, criteria and guidelines for the type of apprenticeship in the relevant sector or field of activity. For example, as proposed in the European Council Recommendation cited above, the micro-credential should be consistent with the principle of portability, whereby micro-credentials are the property of the learner and can be easily communicated by the learner.

Technically, this is possible through secure digital platforms and wallets (wallet) such as Europass, suitable to the European standards EDC (European Digital Credentials) and EBSI (European Blockchain Services Infrastructure) applied for the generation of digital university credentials, based on open standards and open data models, which guarantee in an easy way information accessibility, interoperability, seamless data exchange and authenticity verification, in compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation. As can be seen in the CertiDigital Brochure, EDC and EBSI technologies are key elements in the CertiDigital project roadmap.

External quality of the IQAS of Spanish universities

External quality is mainly based on the evaluation of the internal quality assurance systems of the micro-credential providers, and not on the external evaluation of each micro-credential. This is the purpose of ANECA’s AUDIT-International program. Let us remember that there is a great diversity of micro-credential providers: employers, companies and industries, public employment services, professional associations, civil society organizations and community centers, among others.

In the particular case of universities, the certification of their Internal Quality Assurance System (IQAS) configured in accordance with Royal Decree 640/2021 to ensure the quality of all their academic offerings, including microcredentials, is also a requirement to be met by their university centers in order to achieve institutional accreditation which, in turn, facilitates the quality assurance procedures of university education established in the Royal Decree 822/2021 (verification and modification of curricula of official degrees, monitoring and renewal of the accreditation of official degrees, IQAS report on continuing education masters).

From this perspective, ANECA assumes in the Spanish University System a role of accompaniment and support to the policies of each institution for the integral certification of the quality of the set of academic functions (teaching, research, transfer) with a focus on sustainability (in its social, environmental and good governance dimensions), coupled with the commitment to excellence in areas such as the teaching activity of teachers (linked to teacher training and innovation, and the framework of teaching professional development) or the connection with certain professional profiles (through specific quality seals).

European reference framework and databases

The references that guide how the quality assurance of micro-credentials should be carried out are the following:

  • The principles of quality assurance of qualifications that are part of national qualifications frameworks or systems correlated with the European Qualifications Framework (EQF).

  • The Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG).

  • European Quality Assurance in Vocational Education and Training (EQAVET).

Quality assurance agencies will publish information on micro-credential providers that have achieved the of microcredentials that have successfully certified the implementation of their internal quality assurance system according to international standards in the European Database of External Quality Assurance Results (DEQAR). In the same database, providers will also publish information on the microcredentials they offer, subject to their certified internal quality assurance system.


By way of summary, we can say that ANECA holds that quality assurance, together with learning outcomes, is an inseparable part of the micro-credential concept: quality aims to generate confidence in the micro-credential, without quality there is no micro-credential. The procedures that ensure quality and give confidence in the micro-credential are established in the European Knowledge Space, and combine the internal guarantee that each provider offers on its micro-credentials, with the external guarantee on the provider offered by a quality assurance agency.

In the following video it is possible to access the presentations, reflections and discussions held at the event “Microcredentials. Inclusive education in all formats and for all ages” held last July 20 in Madrid, where ANECA presented its “Study on quality assurance in European University Alliances, European Degrees and Micro-credentials in the Spanish University System” and the “Framework document for quality assurance of micro-credentials.”