5.6 Added value of sectoral quality frameworks

In addition to national accreditation schemes and widely-acknowledged models for external recognition, more sectoral approaches to internal quality management and external accreditation/recognition have been developed in recent years. Conducted by professional associations of providers, requirements and procedures imposed by these frameworks usually address particular issues of quality and thus go beyond official systems, providing added value to VET organisations applying them.

It is necessary to distinguish between sectoral quality frameworks geared solely to internal quality and those accompanied by external recognition of the VET institution, in which case a positive result leads to a sectoral quality label.

The first group of sectoral quality frameworks includes quality standards applied by VET providers as a result of their close collaboration with businesses. For example, companies in the automotive and IT industries have to meet high-quality and/or safety standards.

VET organisations that voluntarily adopt these complementary quality standards always keep the technology, equipment and materials used in their training and education programmes up to date. Application of these quality standards is a constant source of innovation for training/education and corresponding job profiles. Students will often have an opportunity to acquire complementary certificates, while VET providers may improve their reputations.

To enjoy these benefits, VET organisations should make some additional efforts: compliance with high-quality standards should be continuously assessed by internal and external auditors and audits should be performed more frequently than national accreditation schemes, sometimes as much as twice a year.

Adoption of high-quality industrial standards has even more positive effects on quality of VET provision:

  1. companies involved participate more actively in development of future VET strategies, design of new training profiles and adaptation of training programmes to new technologies;

  2. VET teachers and trainers in companies usually maintain quite close relationships and companies are strongly interested in further training of VET teachers to adapt their knowledge to new technical developments;

  3. occasionally, companies send their staff as lecturers to VET institutions and often provide them with multimedia equipment and technology for modern laboratories;

  4. companies are eager to provide VET students with places for work-based learning, thus increasing their employability.

Introduction in VET institutions of high-quality industry standards impacts particularly on their core processes of teaching and learning and results in corresponding quality improvements. Introduction of sectoral frameworks associated with external recognition of a VET institution and a quality label have a greater impact on the entire organisation and affect both the quality concept and basic values of service provision, including in the teaching and learning process.


Box 38. Examples of sectoral quality frameworks

The European quality framework in social services (Equass) dates back to an initiative of the European platform for rehabilitation. Equass provides a range of services for approval and certification of quality of social service providers, in accordance with European requirements for quality in provision of social services. The Equass quality framework and corresponding certification of providers is complementary to national quality frameworks and is overseen by an independent international awarding committee that includes representatives from key European stakeholders in social service provision.

Eco-citizenship is a European quality award for educational institutions engaged in finding solutions for environmental and sustainable development resulting in tangible environmental benefits. Being an eco-citizen organisation means offering specific training programmes to support sustainable development, such as training in eco-construction, renewable energy or waste management and integrating eco-citizenship principles all over an organisation and its training programmes. Institutions meriting the award have to ensure that their students get a chance to participate in decision-making, and develop skills for, and a sense of value of, active citizenship. They build community links with local authorities, business organisations and students’ families.

The total e-quality award is an annual award for organisations practising exemplary equal opportunities in their organisational policies. The award certifies sustainable commitment to equal opportunities in staff education and employment. Successful certification can be achieved by means of questionnaires on self-assessment, in which an institution has to demonstrate its continuous efforts and achievements in relation to equal opportunities in staff recruitment, development, career planning and provision of work-life balance measures for its employees, as well as in implementation of quality assurance instruments for organisational and quality culture development.


Sectoral quality frameworks, which promote fundamental values such as respect for dignity of the individual and consequent individualisation of services provided, testify to their importance and holistic approach. The Equass quality framework for social services serves as an eloquent example since it:

  1. promotes rights of customers/students, with reference to the United Nations Convention on Human Rights, and by providing guidelines to support autonomy and self-determination of students;

  2. refers to ethical values and behaviour by providing guidelines against sexual and financial abuse and guidelines for health and security of students;

  3. strongly supports partnerships with and participation of students by providing instruments for their empowerment.

These are important additional values and quality objectives that could be endorsed by any VET organisation, which is not the case in national or sectoral quality frameworks. However, it should be kept in mind that adoption of additional sectoral quality frameworks implies that the range of tasks related to internal quality management will inevitably be extended (see Figure 18).


Figure 18. Impacts on internal quality management

Source: CEDEFOP.


Under certain conditions, quality management established in a VET institution not only needs to correspond to requirements of national accreditation schemes, but also to take into account high-quality industrial standards and integrate over arching values and concepts of sectoral quality frameworks. This constitutes an important challenge all the easier to implement insofar as it is not seen as compulsory, but rather as a resource to improve continuously quality of the organisation and its quality culture.


Box 39. Questions for reflection and options for further action

  1. Who are the most important external stakeholders of your VET institution?

  2. How are they involved in your activities to improve quality?

  3. How could you increase their involvement? Which activities could you perform and which tools could you apply to improve quality?

  4. What are your particular priorities for networking and cooperating with different external stakeholders of your institution?

  5. Which benefits would you expect to gain from participating in transnational cooperation and peer reviews?

  6. What should you consider when linking your internal quality management to requirements of external accreditation?

  7. What benefits would you gain from striving to adopt a sectoral quality frame work?



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5.6 Added value of sectoral quality frameworks

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