European Institute of Education and Social Policy
Language :
Our Journal

You can find the  links to the most recent issues here:

Volume 53, No. 4, November 2018
Reconceptualising system transitions in education for marginalised and vulnerable groups
Guest Editors: Paul Downes, Erna Nairz‐Wirth, Jim Anderson

Volume 53, No. 3, September 2018
Learner agency at the confluence between rights-based approaches and well-being
Guest Editor: Jean Gordon

Volume 53, No. 2 June 2018
Special Issue: Are Student Assessments Fit For Their Purposes?
Guest Editor: Janet Looney

Volume 53, No. 1. March 2018
Special Issue: Innovative approaches to Continuous Professional Development in Early Childhood Education and Care. A European perspective.
Guest Editors: Brecht Peleman, Bente Jensen and Jan Peeters

Volume 52, No. 4 December 2017
Special Issue: Education for people, prosperity and planet: Can we meet the sustainability challenges?
Guest Editor: Aaron Benavot

Volume 52, No. 3 September 2017
Title: Participatory Design for (Built) Learning Environments
Guest Editors: Karen D. Könings and Susan McKenney

Volume 52, No. 2 June 2017
Title: The Influence of PISA on Education Policies
Guest Editors: Alain Michel and Xavier Pons

Volume 52, No.1 March 2017
Title : Higher education learning outcomes - transforming higher education ?
Guest Editors : Joakim Caspersen and Nicoline Frolich

Volume 51, No.4 December 2016
Title: Governance Dynamics in Complex Decentralised Education Systems
Guest Editors: Edith Hooge

Volume 51, No 3 September 2016
Title : Vocational Schooling and Social Exclusion in the Western Balkans
Guest Editors : Claire Gordon and Will Bartlett

Contact Information

c/o ESCP Europe
81 ave de la République
75543 Paris cedex 11, France 

Tel.: +33 (0)1 49 23 58 30
Mobile: +33 (0) 6 38 47 68 19 


A European Network of Reference Structures for Vocational Qualifications - NATNET (1996-1998)

Type of project/activity:

NATNET was a 'surveys and analysis' project about transparency of qualifications, implemented under the LEONARDO DA VINCI programme, which examined the feasibility of a European Network of Reference Structures for Vocational Qualifications. The results of the study were piloted by the linked project NETREF (and then by the multiplier project EURO-NETREF), both managed from the Netherlands by COLO.


The objectives were to establish the basis and working framework for a pilot network of reference structures among the European countries with the intention of removing obstacles to the transparency of vocational qualifications. Within such a network, the aim was to develop and give information on vocational qualifications transnationally by establishing a simple methodology to enable data exchange, a human interface and the use of available information and to develop the network in such a way that other countries may be easily integrated.


The background to transparency is the need for mobility and movement, despite currently small figures for the European Union, for the purposes of work within an enlarged labour market. This Leonardo project was the extension to all the Member States, plus Norway, of a feasibility study on reference structures funded by the Dutch Ministry of Education (1993 to 1994), which included investigations in 6 EU Member Sates. In the initial study the question was asked as to whether we were dealing with political and organisational issues with technical solutions or technical and organisational issues with political solutions. The recommendation was to move towards technical solutions assuming the political will and organisational capacity to create a form of reference structure network.


There were two national partners: the Ministry of Education in Norway and the Ministry of Labour in Austria, who provided exemplar cases. COLO (NL) co-operated on the feasibility and fed on-going results into the experiments developed by NETREF/EURO-NETREF. The City & Guilds of London Institute (UK) provided the development of conceptual frameworks and CEDEFOP supported the project, providing conceptual input.

Main activities:

The organising principle was two linked projects: NATNET, co-ordinated by the EIESP, tested the feasibility of reference structures and NETREF piloted a network of expert bodies for vocational qualifications, testing the outcomes and recommendations of NATNET. The approach to data collection by the NATNET team was based on semi-structured interviews undertaken with a cross-section of actors involved in certification and qualifications in each country, that is: ministries, social partners and intermediate bodies. The two national partners provided in-depth national analysis discussed at national workshops bringing together the full range of relevant socio-economic actors. The conclusions and recommendations were drafted in the form of a handbook: Using Qualifications Trans-Nationally, Manual for Users, setting out the procedures, constraints and issues involved in the establishment of Reference Structures/Points. It was then tested by EURO-NETREF with the aim of expert bodies being able to set up and organise reference structures, able to respond to questions on vocational qualifications for partners within the network; request information and interpret information received. There has been substantial dissemination of outcomes, project publications and conference reports.

Name of programme:

The LEONARDO DA VINCI programme of the Directorate General Education and Culture of the European Commission.

Outcomes, reports/documents:

The principal outcome of the project was a decentralised approach towards the transparency of vocational qualifications accompanied by a methodology for information exchange among partners of the European network.
NATNET produced a Manual setting out the procedures, constraints and issues involved in the establishment of Reference Structures/Points: Using Qualifications Trans-Nationally,

The Manual was distributed to the members of the Extended Working Group which prepared the European Forum for the Transparency of Qualifications as part of their working materials as a tested solution to the technical. One of the three policy objectives agreed by the Forum is the establishment of Reference Points in all Member States

The project also produced case-studies on Norway and Austria. The research and outcomes of NATNET were used to inform discussion on transparency in the Central and Eastern European countries, for example for a seminar organised by the European Training Foundation, Transparency and recognition of qualifications: challenges and perspectives for the associated countries of Central and Eastern Europe, in 1998.

Articles on the project were published in the European Journal of Education (Vol.34, No.2, 1999), the Revue Internationale d'Education (Paris 1997) and Organización y Gestión Educativa (No.3, Madrid 1999) and chapters in books on VET and transparency, such as What about the Transparency of Qualifications? David Parkes in Building a Co-operative European Research Tradition (ed. By Agnes Dietzen & Michael Kuhn} BIBB/LEONARDO 1998 and in The International Perspective, David Parkes, in Stanton & Richardson, Qualifications for the Future: a study of tripartite and other divisions in post-16 education and training. FEDA, London (1998}.

For more information, please contact Jean Gordon