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National Qualifications Framework

The first efforts to establish the NQF go back to 2007, when the National Qualifications Development Agency (NARK) affiliated to the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs was established. The Agency was meant to coordinate the development of occupational standards and sector qualifications. A road map for the NQF was developed by the Agency for Strategic Initiatives. This holistic road map includes career guidance to help citizens choose the occupations relevant for the labour market, a comprehensive standards development programme, as well as targets for education and training. The objective of the roadmap is to set up an interface between the citizens, business structures and the public bodies responsible for education in order to support the development and assessment of competences for a more competitive and productive workforce.

The Federal Law of 03.12.2012 N 236-ФЗ, introduced the notions of qualifications and occupational standards  that have been included in the Labour Code and in the Law “On Technical Regulation”.

The development of occupational standards made a new impetus after the Presidential Decrees of May 2012 “On measures for the implementation of the state social policy” and “On measures to implement the state policy in the field of education and science”. At that  point the targets for occupational standards development were set - 800 occupational standards  were to be approved by end of 2015.

In 2012 the development of  occupational standards was entrusted to the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection. The Ministry approved the template for the occupational standards development, a methodology for filling out the template and a document entitled “Structure of qualifications” from April 12, 2013148n. The latter is often mistakenly referred to as the national qualifications framework, which it definitely is not, as it is not fully based on learning outcomes clearly differentiated between levels and is lacking a catalogue of qualifications.

The structure of the qualifications comprises 9 levels with the descriptors compatible with the European Qualifications Framework (EQF). They include: the character of knowledge, the  character of skills, responsibility and autonomy. The latter two refer to the wider competences of the EQF. The descriptors also include “ways of attaining the level of qualification” and “duration of formal education programmes” that limit attainment of qualifications to formal education pathways, which is in contradiction to the lifelong learning philosophy and its practical implementation. Hence, even when a provision is made of practical experience, it contradicts the other parameters in the descriptors.

Thus, this structure of qualifications can be at most  called a quasi NQF, but in no way can it be considered a full-fledged NQF. Moreover it has been developed without a participation of the stakeholder and has not undergone open public review processes.

An impetus to the development of the NQF has been given by the National Council for Occupational Qualifications. The latter was established by the Presidential Decree in April 2014 as a consultative body. The establishment of this umbrella high-level body has contributed to  overcoming  the fragmentation of the earlier efforts and has injected a systemic character to the development of up-to-date qualifications in Russia. The Council has five working groups: on the development of the sector qualifications bodies (a prototype of sector skills councils), on occupational standards development; on application of the occupational standards in the system of education and training; on independent assessment of qualifications; on the analysis of best practices.

The enhanced interaction between the labour market on the one hand and education and training on the other, has resulted in the growing awareness of a need to diversify qualifications. To this end applied bachelor qualifications have been introduced in higher education.

The above efforts have triggered off sector employers’  initiatives to develop sector qualifications frameworks (SQF). Recently, sector qualifications frameworks have been drafted  in welding, vertical transport, railroads sectors. The regional qualifications framework for Chelyabinsk region (developed with participation and direct involvement of 33 regional companies) and sector qualifications frameworks  for  the food industry, environmental field, land management, IT and management  have been developed under the Tempus projects.