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Competence and competency in the EQF and in European VET systems

Michaela Brockmann (University of Westminster, London, UK)
Linda Clarke (University of Westminster, London, UK)
Christopher Winch (Kings College London, London, UK)

Journal of European Industrial Training

ISSN: 0309-0590

Article publication date: 25 September 2009




Though the notion of competence is common terminology in European VET policy at national and supra‐national level, understandings vary widely, both across countries and within. The particular conceptions of competence adopted in the EQF are themselves problematic and the framework allows for a variety of interpretations. The purpose of this paper is to clarify those applied in the EQF and the vocational education and qualifications systems of particular European countries and to contribute to the development of a transnational understanding of the term, one which is compatible with a rapidly changing labour market.


Drawing on evidence from work funded by the Nuffield Foundation entitled “Cross‐national Equivalence of Vocational Skills and Qualifications”, the paper explores the various conceptions of competence in the EQF and the national systems – in particular in the sectors of construction, ICT and health – of England, Germany, France and The Netherlands.


Interpretations are located on a continuum from the comprehensive occupational model traditionally found in many European countries to the task‐focused model of the English NVQ system.

Research limitations/implications

Much developmental work involving all stakeholders is necessary to arrive at a commonly agreed conception. A broad understanding of competence would relate to the potential of labour, itself determined through the occupational capacity embodied in the qualification.

Practical implications

Zones of Mutual Trust need to be based on transnational categories of VET.


The value of the paper is in seeking to go beyond identifying differences by developing transnational categories and suggesting the nature of Zones of Mutual Trust for implementing the EQF.



Brockmann, M., Clarke, L. and Winch, C. (2009), "Competence and competency in the EQF and in European VET systems", Journal of European Industrial Training, Vol. 33 No. 8/9, pp. 787-799.



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Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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