Council recommends European approach to micro-credentials

(Source: Council of the EU and European Council)

To strengthen lifelong learning, the Council is recommending member states to adopt a European approach to micro-credentials and in particular to apply a common EU definition, EU standards and key principles for the design and issuance of micro-credentials. Micro-credentials document the learning outcomes that a learner has acquired following a small volume of learning.

The goal is that member states, stakeholders and providers (from education and training institutions to private companies) develop and use micro-credentials in a coherent way. This new tool would allow EU citizens, facing significant demographic, societal and economic changes, to take advantage of personalised learning and career pathways.

Among other things the recommendation contains the following points:

  • A number of standard elements to describe a micro-credential. These include: the learning outcomes, workload needed to achieve the learning outcomes and the type of assessment
  • Guidance to develop an ecosystem for micro-credentials for instance by promoting the development of micro-credentials designed and agreed by employers’ and workers’ representatives and by applying and developing quality assurance mechanisms.

Building trust and enhancing flexibility

Micro-credentials make it possible to certify the outcomes of small, tailored learning experiences – for example a short course or training – and thus support the targeted, flexible acquisition of knowledge, skills and competences. However, the lack of a common definition and standards has so far limited their uptake and risked undermining their potential. With this recommendation the EU wants to support the building of trust in micro-credentials.

The EU also wants micro-credentials to become “portable”. The person who earned micro-credentials should be able to store them in a system of their choice and to share the credential with other parties, in their own country and beyond. All parties involved should be able to understand the content of micro-credentials and verify their authenticity. This would make their portability possible between and within education and training sectors, in the labour market and across countries.

Filling the skills gap

The COVID-19 pandemic as well as the digital and green transitions have heightened the need for people to obtain knowledge, skills and competences critically needed in today’s changing labour markets. On the one hand businesses face the challenge of an insufficient supply of relevant skills. On the other hand workers are confronted with changes in how work is organised.

Background and next steps

The Commission published this proposal for a Council recommendation on a European approach to micro-credentials on 10 December 2021 – alongside another proposal on individual learning accounts (which has also been adopted by the EPSCO Council of 16 June.) Both proposals were part of the twelve flagship actions announced in the European Skills Agenda (July 2020). Micro-credentials and individual learning accounts also feature in the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan (March 2021).

Member states are invited to inform the Commission by December 2023 about measures to support the objectives of the recommendation. The Commission should report to the Council about progress made within five years from the date of its adoption.

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