Flexible, inclusive learning opportunities
Micro-credentials certify the learning outcomes of short-term learning experiences, for example a short course or training. They offer a flexible, targeted way to help people develop the knowledge, skills and competences they need for their personal and professional development.
Given their flexibility, micro-credentials can be designed and delivered by a variety of providers in many different formal, non-formal and informal learning settings.
Shorter forms of learning opportunities than traditional qualifications are being developed rapidly across Europe and the world. These opportunities are made available by a wide variety of public and private providers in response to the demand for more flexible, learner-centred forms of education and training.
Micro-credentials can be particularly useful for people who want to upskill or reskill to meet labour market needs or to develop professionally after starting work.
Why a European approach is needed
Within Europe, a growing number of people need to update their knowledge, skills and competences to fill gaps between their formal education and the needs of a fast-changing society and labour market.
The recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to accelerate the green and digital transitions also requires individuals to upskill or reskill.
Maintaining and acquiring new competences is essential to enable active participation in society, to ensure continued personal, social and professional development and to boost employability and socio-economic innovation.
However, without common standards ensuring quality, transparency, cross-border comparability, recognition and portability, micro-credentials cannot reach their full potential.
The intention to develop a European approach to micro-credentials was announced in:
- the Council Resolution on a strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training towards the European Education Area and beyond (2021-2030)
- the European Skills Agenda
- the Digital Education Action Plan (2021-2027)
Proposal for a Council Recommendation
Building on a wide consultation and evidence-gathering exercises, on 10 December 2021 the Commission adopted a proposal for a Council Recommendation on a European approach to micro-credentials for lifelong learning and employability.
Specifically, the proposal aims to
- Enable individuals to acquire the knowledge, skills and competences they need to thrive in an evolving labour market and society, and to benefit fully from a socially fair recovery and just transitions to the green and digital economy
- Support the preparedness of micro-credential providers to enhance the flexibility and transparency of their learning offer to empower individuals to forge personalised learning and career pathways
- Foster inclusiveness and equal opportunities, contributing to the achievement of resilience, social fairness and prosperity for all, in a context of demographic change and throughout all economic cycles
To achieve these objectives, the proposal sets out a European approach recommending to Member States to
- Apply a common EU definition, EU standards and key principles for design and issuance of micro-credentials, including their portability
- Develop the eco-system for micro-credentials
- Deliver on the potential of micro-credentials to support lifelong learning and employability
As a result, micro-credentials can be developed, used and compared in a coherent way among the Member States, stakeholders, and the different providers (from education and training institutions to private companies) across different sectors, fields and borders.
The European approach aims to support the ongoing work by Member States, stakeholders and diverse groups of providers across the EU on micro-credentials. It offers key resources and guidance for those providers, and others interested in exploring micro-credentials, to support their value, quality, recognition, transparency, portability and uptake in a consistent and coherent way.
In these ways, a European approach to micro-credentials contributes to a lifelong learning culture and increases the employability of people.
The proposal was adopted together with a proposal for a Council recommendation on Individual Learning Accounts that can support the development, use and uptake of micro-credentials.