Agree on a qualification



The partnership has to agree on a qualification for the joint micro-credential programme. Successive decisions have to be made:
Justify the award to be recognized;
Align with institutional qualification frameworks for continuing education;
Define the type of qualification to be delivered;
Award a joint qualification;
Design a qualification supplement;
Award a professional qualification.


Justify the award to be recognized

Justify why the joint micro-credential programme should lead to academic recognition by the partner universities and which joint qualification should be awarded. Take into account the content, the EQF level, the volume of the programme and the possible stackability to other programmes.
Also, seek professional recognition from external stakeholders, such as professional organizations and employers, so that learners can valorise their micro-credential programme qualification for professional development credits or accreditation by professional bodies (e.g. related to professions in psychology, IT, medicine/healthcare, accountancy, education, business sector) (Dunn et al., 2020, Micro-HE, 2020).

Align the award with the institutional qualification structures

Participating institutions are likely to have very different institutional qualification structures for continuing and professional development, as can be seen from the study guides. These structures are adopted autonomously by institutions and possibly align with national and evolving European frameworks.
In a joint programme, partners should agree on a common qualification for the joint micro-credential programme, as far as possible in line with the formal requirements of each institution. This calls for careful discussion.
Not all universities have developed a consistent qualification structure, and neither have governments. In fact, many institutional qualification structures are under development and in most cases not yet stable. Institutional structures might converge to the following characteristics and cases:

  • a course with a size of less than 1 ECTS is delivered as a micro-learning unit, possibly provided with a badge of attendance. The course can serve as a unit of learning in a credited course or as a micro-learning unit in a corporate training programme;
  • a micro-credential course comes with a reliable and valid assessment. ECTS points are awarded;
  • a CMF micro-credential programme is delivered as a coherent track of courses with a total volume of 4-6 ECTS, which is awarded with a CMF micro-credential qualification. This qualification can be stacked into a broader programme (European MOOC Consortium, 2018; Antonaci et al., 2021)
  • A microdegree is delivered as a micro-credential programme of 20-40 ECTS, which is awarded with a microdegree qualification;
  • A degree is provided in the form of a bachelor’s or master’s degree (180, rep.60/90/120 ECTS). This degree qualification may be awarded following a modular series of micro- credential qualifications, supplemented by a thesis. In daily practice we see that there is probably a need for an additional standard for mi- cro-credential programmes with a size of 14-16 ECTS.
From learning unit to degree programmeVolume (ECTS)LevelAward
learning unit/micro-learningLess than 1 ECTSundergraduate
EQF level 5, 6
EQF level 7,8
a badge/proof of
attendance (can be part of
a course or stackable to a
a single course
a micro-credential course
a single MOOC with credits
Number of
ECTS credits
awarded to the
EQF level 5, 6
EQF level 7,8
ECTS course credits (stackable
to a programme)
CMF- micro-credential programme
MOOC pathway
4-6 ECTSundergraduate
EQF level 5, 6
EQF level 7,8
CMF micro-credential
(stackable in a micro-
credential programme or a
degree programme)
micro-credential programme
Micro-degree programme
MOOC-based programme
20-40 ECTSundergraduate
EQF level 5, 6
EQF level 7,8
specialisation certificate
expert certificate
certified professional
focus diploma
(stackable to a degree)
degree programme (bachelor/
180 ECTS
60-90-120 ECTS
240 (180) ECTS
EQF level 5, 6
EQF level 7,8
short cycle graduate
bachelor/master degree
doctorate degree
Fig. Outline of possible micro-credential awards, based on existing continuing education programmes

Define the type and name of the qualification to be awarded

Partners must define the type and name for the qualification awarded by the joint micro-credential programme.
In the context of the European Education Area and the European Digital Education Plan, the European Commission issued a Proposal for a Recommendation to the Council of Ministers on micro-credentials in 2021, which is expected to be adopted in 2022 and implemented by Member States in 2024, recognizing these qualifications for continuing education and professional development in the European Higher Education Area (the Bologna Process) (European Commission, 2021).
Current micro-credential practices anticipate on this recognition.
In the Common Micro-credential Framework, launched by the European MOOC Consortium and the universities concerned, a micro-credential qualification meets the following standard requirements, in response to the study time horizon of students who combine work and study:

  • an EQF qualification level 5 to 8;
  • a study load of 4 to 6 ECTS or 100 to 150 hours of study;
  • a reliable and valid assessment;
  • stackability to other programmes.

In France, Spain and Italy, these CMF micro-credentials are called “gradeos”. CMF micro-credentials. CMF micro-credentials are now endorsed by other universities as well.
Current qualifications assigned to wider micro-credential programmes in Europe (20-40 ECTS) have diverse names, for example: “undergraduate/postgraduate certificate”, “undergraduate/postgraduate module”, “expert track Certificate” “specialization in …, “expert in . ..”, “professional certificate”, “focus diploma”.
Some short learning programmes include MOOCs or are fully MOOC-based micro-credential programmes with qualifications such as “MicroMasters” and “Nanodegrees”.
European MOOC platforms and their universities now systematically develop such certified micro-credential courses and programmes, which further can be combined to a bachelor or master degree (EADTU, 2021).

Award a joint qualification

Joint programmes award joint qualifications, signed by all rectors or deans of the faculties involved in the partnership. The award is issued on a single document according to the rules applied in the leading university. Sometimes a joint certificate is bound by national regulations, especially related to the language of the document. In the case of two universities, a certificate signed by both universities is issued on both sides of the document.
When a common certificate cannot be issued for an important reason, a double or multiple certificate is issued. In the case of a joint study programme with two universities, this means that the student receives two certificates, one from each university. This double or multiple qualification is stated on both supplements.
A double or multiple award can also be delivered if a student takes a significant mobility window or course package at another university, usually in a subject-related network. A micro-credential programme can function perfectly as a mobility window. (see eBook collaborative curricula and mobility).
This is different from a joint programme that is wholly co-owned by a university consortium, for which a joint certificate is usually issued. A network programme is owned by the single universities in a network that only exchange mobility windows.

Design a qualification supplement

A qualification for a joint programme is accompanied by a qualification supplement, containing information as detailed by the ECTS Users’ Guide and Europass. This is important for the valorisation of the certificate in academia and by employers. Descriptors are (EHEA, 2018):

  • information on the holder of the qualification;
  • information identifying the qualification;
  • information on the level and duration of the qualification;
  • Information about the programme followed and the results achieved;
  • Information about the function of the qualification (e.g. stackability)
  • information on the national higher education system.

In addition, it must contain:

  • information on the mobility scheme followed in the joint programme;
  • Information about the method of delivery.

Award a professional qualification

In some cases, micro-credential programmes are co-created or accredited by a professional organisation, business sector or public service (healthcare, education,…). These organizations will recognize these programs for their own continuing professional development framework. Micro-credential programmes can therefore be financed by the sector or recognized for a personal learning account. In some cases, they will issue a specific professional certificate in addition to the academic award of the university partnership.

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