The Bologna Process provides that study at the level of higher education in all European countries should be articulated into three cycles: Bachelor’s degree (1st cycle), Master’s degree (2nd cycle) and PhD (3rd cycle). The Framework for Qualifications of the European Higher Education Area (QF-EHEA) is used at European level to compare higher education qualifications in different countries.
In Switzerland, the QF-EHEA is expressed at national level as the ‘Qualifications Framework for the Swiss Higher Education Area (nqf.ch-HS)’. Like the QF-EHEA, the Swiss nqf.ch-HS also groups higher education qualifications into one of three cycles. It also includes a ‘further education’ category for non-formal studies within the Swiss higher education sector. The corresponding further education qualifications are the Certificate of Advanced Studies (CAS), the Diploma of Advanced Studies (DAS) and the Master of Advanced Studies (MAS).
The QF-EHEA is fully compatible with another European qualifications framework dealing specifically with vocational and professional qualifications: the ‘European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning (EQF-LLL)’, which is expressed at national level in Switzerland as the ‘Swiss National Qualifications Framework for Vocational and Professional Qualifications (NQF VPQ)’.
Compatibility between the QF-EHEA and the EQF-LLL is addressed in the Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2008 on the establishment of the European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning, which states that the descriptors for each higher education cycle (1st, 2nd and 3rd) in the QF-EHEA correspond to the learning outcomes specified in the EQF-LLL (6, 7 and 8). In other words, a Bachelor’s degree (1st cycle) within the QF-EHEA would be considered of equal value to a professional qualification at reference level 6 within the EQF-LLL. Furthermore, a Master’s degree (2nd cycle) would be deemed of equal value to a professional qualification at reference level 7 in the EQF-LLL and a PhD (3rd cycle) to a professional qualification at reference level 8.
Because the NQF VPQ is indirectly linked to the nqf.ch-HS, qualifications referenced to these two different Swiss NQFs can be compared with one another by referring to their corresponding reference levels in the EQF-LLL.