NOVA-Nordic: Non-formal qualifications and validation arrangements in the Nordic countries

NOVA-Nordic is about non-formal qualifications, NQFs and validation.

Foto: Scandinav

Nova-Nordic is a two-year project co-funded by Erasmus+, focusing on the links between National Qualifications Frameworks and validation arrangements in the Nordic countries. The project consortium consists of the Swedish National Agency for Higher Vocational Education, (Sweden, the Education and Training Service Centre, Iceland and GlobEdu, Finland.

The aim of NOVA is to examine if and how non-formal qualifications are included in National Qualifications Frameworks (NQF) in the Nordic countries as well as a few Central European countries. NOVA will also examine if these qualifications can be awarded through validation procedures. The working definition of non-formal qualifications within the project is all qualifications that are not part of and awarded through formal education

Non-formal learning/education/training produces a substantial amount of competences crucial from the viewpoint of the labour market. However, according to the European Inventory 2018 , it appears that there is little development in Europe of levelling non-formal qualifications to NQFs, validation procedures designed for non-formal learning and development of learning outcome-based non-formal qualifications.

The main questions addressed by the NOVA-project:

  • How and by who are non-formal qualifications developed, are they included in the NQFs and if so, how?
  • How are learning outcomes designed and used for qualification development as well as validation arrangements?
  • How are NQFs and validation arrangements linked?

Background and planned project outputs

NOVA is based on specific needs derived from the non-formal sector in the partner countries (for example branch organisations in Sweden, Lifelong Learning Centers and working life in Iceland and Community College network in Finland). National developments are occurring in the Nordic countries, but further support and competence development is needed.

During the current COVID-19 crisis, it has become evident that all economies need to develop their learning systems in an ever more flexible direction. Millions of jobs are lost, and fiscal and monetary policies are shattered. For revival of European economies, flexible labour markets are required, which in turn means development and implementation of high-quality competence development and validation procedures that aid in mobility both within economies as well as across borders.

Against this background, the NOVA-project will develop a method, including indicators, for comparing the EQF/NQF policy approaches in different countries as well as good practices in terms of how non-formal qualifications are included in NQFs. Based on collected data, the project will produce a comparative report of the policy approaches including policy recommendations as well as a set of best practices from different countries. The ultimate output is a set of digital support tools, which aim at helping policymakers as well as developers to produce high-quality learning outcome-based qualifications and link or refer the developed non-formal qualifications to NQF-levels.

Output 1: Framework and methodology for comparing National Qualifications Framework
A comparative methodology with indicators that can be used to benchmark different countries level of implementation of NQFs, including the procedures for including non-formal qualifications in the frameworks and links with validation arrangements including indicators for identifying good practices.

Output 2: Comparative report and policy recommendations 
A comparative study/report on the NQFs, their status of implementation and inclusion of non-formal qualifications as well as how NQFs are linked with validation arrangements. The results of the study will be used to formulate policy recommendations for future developments.

Output 3: Including non-formal qualifications in NQFs
Identified best practices on procedures for developing and levelling non-formal qualifications and their links with validation arrangements.

Output 4: Support tools
Digital support for procedures and tools for developing non-formal qualifications and learning outcomes suitable for validation.

Project impact

As a result of this project, both policy makers as well as non-formal education and training providers will get practical examples of different approaches. Policy makers will be able to draw inspiration from the policy recommendations and the good practice examples on how to further open the NQFs and how the frameworks can be better utilized in terms of Lifelong Learning. The learning providers will have access to tools that steer the process of describing qualifications in terms of learning outcomes and how the validation procedures can be carried out within the non-formal learning sector. NOVA will provide capacity building for all target groups.

As the project partnership has wide national, Nordic and European networks dealing with validation, qualifications development, EQF/NQF development as well as other Lifelong Learning issues, and as all the partners are engaged with the same issues in their daily work, the long term impacts are easily detectable and further development of the tools designed in this project is foreseen. In all partner countries, there are national development projects emerging which aim at validation of non-formal learning, NQFs as well as a learning outcome-based approach within the sector.

This project will enhance and support the national developments as well as overall European aspirations to strengthen the role of non-formal learning, validation and their link to NQFs.

NOVA on the Eramus+ web


Partner organizations

Partner organizations

Finland: Globedu
Iceland: Education and training service Centre (ETSC)
Sweden: Swedish National Agency for Higher Vocational Education (MYH)



The European Commission's support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents, which reflect the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.