The Status Quo of the French National Qualifications Framework


The existence of the French National Qualification Framework dates back to a law passed in 1971 that established, in the framework of Consultative Vocational Committees (CPCs), the creation of vocational certifications through a trilateral process involving social partners (representatives of employers and representatives of workers) and the French State. In its contemporary form, the French NQF lays with the National Register of Vocational Certification (RNCP) which is run by the National Committee of Vocational Certification (CNCP).

The CNCP lists in the RNCP certifications after having checked notably their coherence as well as their complementarities and their adaptation to changing work organization and processes. The CNCP is composed of representatives of Ministries (e.g. Ministry of Education, Employment Ministry, Health Ministry), of social partners, of representatives of Regions, of experts etc. This wide variety in its composition constitutes a quality assurance guarantee that qualifications seeking referencing will be placed under balanced scrutiny.

French VET certifications listed on the RNCP are classified according to fields of activity in line with the Classification of Education and Training Specialties, as drawn up by the French National Council of Statistical Information and published in an order in 1994 (order n° 94- 522 of 21 June 1994). But certifications are also classified according to a 5-level structure. The RNCP is composed of five levels, Level I being the highest and Level V being the lowest, and which is managed by the CNCP (National Commission for Professional Certification). It is interesting to note however that CQPs stand as an exception. As they are solely developed by representatives of the sector, and since no public body has its say in their construction, if CQPs are indeed referenced to the RNCP they are not referenced to any particular level of the RNCP- but are rather classified according to the field of activity at hand, thus making comparability of qualifications more difficult in this instance.

Should also be mentioned the existence of an indirect avenue for achieving qualification under the French system of «Validation des acquis de l’expérience» (V.A.E.) which, by law, allows for the total or partial award and recognition of a qualification on the basis of one’s past work experience. Broadly speaking, a candidate for recognition of his past experience and for the entailed award of an underlying qualification will fill in a file and be interviewed by a jury in order to prove that the competences gained through his work experience match totally or partially the competences described in the qualification the candidate wishes to obtain. This particular, legally institutionalized, form of recognition of prior learning is only possible when one is pursuing qualifications listed to the French RNCP. And this innovative system has proven to be quite successful in France, to an extent where some juries have been over flooded by candidacies. The CNCP (French National Commission for Professional Certification) delivered in October 2010 its report on referencing the French NQF (which includes the Transport and Logistics framework) to the EQF. This report provides for a "block-to-block" referencing scheme through which, where it is possible, each level of the French framework is to be separately referenced to a particular level of the EQF. No French qualification corresponds to the first two levels of the EQF, as the lowest level qualifications listed on the RNCP (Level V) have been referenced to Level 3 of the EQF. On the other hand, qualifications of the highest level (Level I) have been split between some that were referenced to Level 7 (Masters degrees) and others to Level 8 (Doctorates) of the EQF.