Principles for supporting flexible VET pathways

The ECVET Recommendation was introduced in 2009 and it was evaluated in 2014. The external evaluation of ECVET concluded that ECVET helps to enhance the quality of mobility, and it supports reforms towards flexible vocational learning pathways. It also highlighted the understanding of ECVET as a framework to support flexibility of VET provision (including mobility), rather than a European ‘credit’ system.

From June 2016 to February 2017, a Working Group composed of ECVET Users’ Group members from 11 countries (AT, CZ, DE, FI, FR, IE, NO, NL, PL, SE and the UK) and European stakeholders (Cedefop, EfVET, ETUC and UEAPME) developed a set of principles for supporting flexible vocational learning pathways in VET. These were based on the practical implementation of the ECVET Recommendation as well as considering the outcomes of the external evaluation. The Working Group developed a set of eight principles, and these are often referred to as the ‘ECVET principles.’  



Qualifications should be composed of clearly defined groups of learning outcomes.

  • This principle refers to the design of qualifications.
  • The term ‘groups’ is used instead of ‘units’ of learning outcomes to reflect a broader notion.

Groups of learning outcomes within a qualification should be capable of independent assessment.

  • This principle refers to the design of groups of learning outcomes.
  • Groups of learning outcomes can be assessed separately from the whole qualification.

The assessment of each group of learning outcomes should be properly documented.

  • This principle refers to the assessment process of groups of learning outcomes.
  • This links to principle 6.

Provision of learning opportunities should be arranged to facilitate individuals to achieve groups of learning outcomes.

  • This principle refers to the arrangements that are to be put in place to enable individuals to achieve groups of learning outcomes (components of qualifications). For instance, programmes should be delivered in modules based on coherent groups of learning outcomes that can be completed separately to each other.
  • Note that ‘provision’ encompasses all the different aspects of offering learning opportunities. Specific individual situations should be considered, where possible.
  • Learning opportunities includes traditional courses, online resources and any other form of delivery.

Individuals should have the opportunity to have their learning outcomes validated, irrespective of how and where they have acquired them.

  • The principle refers to learning outcomes from all learning contexts, including formal, non-formal and informal learning.
  • ‘Validated’ also implies assessment in this context.

Individuals should have the opportunity to accumulate their assessed groups of learning outcomes towards a qualification.

  • The recording of assessed learning outcomes is a pre-condition for this principle to be actioned, for example under principle 3.

Individuals should have the opportunity to transfer their groups of learning outcomes validated in one context to other contexts (such as programmes, qualifications, national/regional system or countries).

  • The recording of assessed learning outcomes is a pre-condition for this principle.

Processes for development, assessment, validation and recognition of sets of learning outcomes should be transparent and underpinned by quality assurance.

  • In this context, development refers to the process of identifying learning outcomes, clustering them into coherent groups as well as formulating and writing learning outcomes.
  • Quality assurance should be considered in all processes, from development and design of qualifications and groups of learning outcomes, to the provision of flexible learning opportunities, transfer and accumulation of learning outcomes to certification.
  • Quality assurance has an overarching role and needs to be taken account in all other principles.


ECVET principles and the ECVET and EQF (European Qualifications Framework) Recommendations 

The principles developed by the Working Group are not defined in the ECVET Recommendation and they do not replace the ECVET Recommendation, however they are used in the ECVET context on the understanding that:

  • ECVET has the objectives to facilitate the transfer, recognition and accumulation of assessed learning outcomes; it supports flexible and individualised pathways; and it promotes lifelong learning and mobility.
  • ECVET pursues its objective by applying the following ‘principles’:
    • Qualifications are composed of units of learning outcomes that can each be assessed and validated;
    • Assessed units of learning outcomes can be accumulated towards a full qualification and transferred to another country or setting;
  • ECVET envisages practical ‘tools’ and methodologies to implement the principles:
  • The transfer of learning outcomes is supported by specific tools, including the Memoranda of Understanding and the Learning Agreement, as well as the Personal Transcript.

The principles were developed by the Working Group with the EQF Recommendation in mind, particularly Annex 5. Future developments to support flexible vocational learning pathways will need to consider, and ensure coherence with, the principles on credit systems included in the EQF Recommendation.

Have questions?

Find out how projects and initiatives across Europe are using ECVET principles to enhance flexible learning pathways for VET learners or check out our Frequently Asked Questions to find out more. If you still have questions why note explore our expert support – tailored, free support to help you understand and implement ECVET principles.