For several years European Institutions have stressed the importance of vocational education and training (VET) for the employability of (young) people and the economic competitiveness and growth as well as for broader societal challenges, in particular for social cohesion.

In many countries strategies to foster VET focus, however, largely on initial VET. Higher VET (HiVET), that is, VET leading to qualifications on levels 5 to 8 of the European Qualifications Framework (EQF), is often neglected or underestimated in such policies. This is largely due to the heterogeneity of HiVET with its great variety of providers, assessment procedures, qualification standards, etc.

This distinguishes HiVET from the higher academic education that – thanks to the Bologna process – has a largely uniform structure (Bachelor, Master, PhD) and common standards of quality assurance (QA). Though QA mechanisms are in place in HiVET as well, there are no European reference guidelines, nor are the mechanisms uniformly defined on national levels.

The absence of such common QA guidelines has become evident during the implementation of national qualifications frameworks. As a consequence HiVET qualifications are often underrated, i.e. there is a lack of parity of esteem between qualifications from the higher academic education and higher VET.