Higher Education and Research

Implementing a Framework of Qualifications
for Hungarian Higher Education

The Bologna Process, especially the activities that were targeted at defining new qualifications, and the design of a framework for qualifications of the European Higher Education Area gave an impetus to similar efforts in Hungary. The framework also serves as a guiding principle for designing the new course structure. There is no legal basis for the framework as yet, the cycle descriptors that define the three (or rather four) main cycles are to be included in the new decree that is intended to regulate the new degree structure.

The framework of qualifications is meant to be a point of reference, though not without an official purpose. The framework will serve also as a tool for the academic community to describe the main features of a degree in the given study area. It lays down the general criteria of competencies required for obtaining a higher education qualification in each cycle against which those that wish to hold such a qualification demonstrate their achievements. The framework may serve different functions. It is primarily an important frame of reference for higher education institutions, when a new degree programme is being planned and designed. The main purposes are:

    Provide information for end users (employers, parents, institutions, potential students) on the conditions for obtaining an qualification and the actual content of a qualification,
    Support international comparability of standards with special regard to the framework of qualification for the European Higher Education Area adopted in Bergen.
    Assist student choice by informing students about possible routes of progression also within the context of lifelong learning,
    Give guidance to the higher education institutions in defining their own academic standards and the external evaluation bodies (e.g. Accreditation Board) in defining points of reference for conducting external evaluation.

Currently the work focuses on higher education qualifications but there are plans to extend the system to all qualifications that can be gained across the education system in Hungary. The fact that the framework is also meant to assist the learner in identifying potential progression routes and inform the employer indicates a strong reference to lifelong learning.

The levels that are defined by the framework are: Bachelor, Master and Doctoral Studies, though short cycle degrees are also taken into account.

The framework will define learning outcomes to be attached to each level, type and programme, clearly indicating the differences between each level. However it is not meant to prescribe details in terms of the content of the curriculum (unlike the qualification requirements that were used in the previous system). The intention is that eventually these will replace the currently content-based guidelines. The framework will allow the institutions adequate flexibility in designing their programmes in the given study fields to be adjusted to the special features of the institution and will hopefully promote innovation in the education programmes within a frame agreed by all academic and qualification bodies. Needs of further professional education and training will also be considered. Institutions often conduct short cycle programmes as part of further professional education schemes The descriptors for the different levels my provide points of reference for placing the qualifications of such programmes at a certain level of the framework.

The first part of the framework will define the different levels of higher education qualifications that are acknowledged by the state and issued by the higher education institution. Generic descriptors are being applied (on the basis of the Dublin descriptors) for each level. The descriptors are of two types:
The first section contains the learning outcomes of the educational process that students who wish to hold the degree will have to achieve These are mainly for institutions and bodies planning, conducting and evaluating degree programmes
The second section describes more general competencies that can be expected of a typical student at the given level. This information is most important for t employers.

The next part will describe different types of qualifications in each cycle according to academic fields (mostly based on the ISCED classification). Guidelines for the preparation of the different types have been provided by the National Bologna Board, the descriptors will be developed by the professional groups in each academic field. Institutions will adjust their own programmes to the framework and issue the Diploma Supplement that will give sufficient information on all the academic and professional competencies gained by obtaining a certain qualification

The descriptors that define qualification levels describe output requirements It is the responsibility of the institution how the students will achieve those results. However, credit values are attached to each level. For the generic description of the different cycles the regulations will define the minimum credits required for gaining a qualification.

The framework is gradually being implemented by the professional bodies involved. Guidelines have been developed to assist disciplinary groups in developing qualification descriptors. The process has proved to be very useful also for defining qualifications that did not exist before and will hopefully continue to encompass lifelong learning. The system is being drawn up in consultation with the National Rectors Conference and the Hungarian Accreditation Board as well as various academic bodies in a variety of academic fields. However it is understood that the innovation would be difficult to implement without a firm legislative base. Once the regulations are in force, the framework will replace the previous qualification requirements laid down in Government Decrees.

The framework will support the institutions also in operating internal quality assurance systems. The indicators will make it possible to survey and evaluate the learning outcomes of a given programme against generally defined quality expectations. It may also function as one of several reference points for external evaluation for identifying whether the expected outcomes of the institutional curricula and the actual student performances are in line with the level of the issued qualification.

Eva Gonczi
Ministerial Counsellor
Ministry of Education

H-1055 Budapest, Szalay u. 10-14. ( 473-7234 * 1884 Budapest, Pf. 1