Executive summary

This Cedefop handbook is meant for organisations providing VET that wish to develop and improve the quality of their services by establishing an internal QMS and creating a quality culture to face continuously current and future challenges.

Quality, quality management and quality culture in VET

There are countless definitions of quality. For this handbook Cedefop selected one based on J.M. Juran’s approach which defines quality as fit for purpose achieved with optimum resources. While purpose is manifold and depends on differing social contexts, ethical values, interests and stakeholders’ views, several methods, instruments and a ‘toolbox’ are available to support optimal use of resources.

Although there are different approaches to quality management, their common core refers to systematic application of the above-mentioned ‘toolbox’, to coordinate activities, control and improve a VET institution on its journey towards what is agreed as fit for purpose.

The definition of a quality culture within a VET institution builds on the previous statements by adding the human factor. The term embodies the professional capacities necessary to use the toolbox, which are shared by individuals committed to pursuing the specific value system that defines what is fit for purpose for a particular organisation.

Objectives and structure of this handbook

The primary objective of this handbook is to present to VET providers interested in quality issues a range of instruments, methods and tools they can work with to develop by themselves a quality culture within their organisations. The instruments, tools and methods proposed derive from detailed analysis of the praxis of VET providers active in initial vocational education and training (IVET) and/or continuous vocational education and training (CVET) who have successfully implemented over the years their own quality approach or have adapted existing quality (standardised) systems to their needs. Given this practical objective, the handbook avoids reference to quality theories, makes use of the minimum necessary technical terms and adopts a simple user-friendly structure based on the quality cycle. The handbook covers quality management at the whole organisation, teaching and learning and quality department levels. It is articulated in nine chapters each opening with a short introduction to its objective, evolving by steps, containing pieces of advice and questions for reflection and further action. An annex with selected tools used by the VET institutions visited and who generously accepted to provide them for this handbook, complete this publication.

Empirical sources

As already mentioned, the handbook draws on a range of empirical sources, encompassing 16 case studies of VET institutions operating with national quality frameworks in 13 European Member States: Belgium, Germany (two), Estonia, France (two cases), Italy (two), Hungary, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Finland, and UK/Scotland, supplemented by four case studies of VET organisations applying sectoral quality frameworks in the automotive industry (Czech Republic), design and industry-related services (Italy), the social sector (Germany) and maritime management, navigation and engineering (Lithuania).

In addition to intensive desk research into the relevant national and sectoral quality frameworks, the case studies were conducted using site visits and comprehensive interviews with managers, quality officers, teachers and trainers, students and representatives of external stakeholders such as ministries, businesses and chambers.