EUPA Newsletter Special Edition for EU Chambers

01 June 2012

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Based on the EU policies related to the recognition of qualifications, EuPA's main objective is to develop a model for the recognition and validation of the qualifications of the sector of personal assistants based on learning outcomes.

The sector of Personal Assistants (PAs) has been selected (as a case study) for the following reasons:

  1. PAs often do not have academic qualifications which make the validation of other skills and competences a necessity.

  2. Most of the inactive women when entering the labour market request a position as a secretary or a PA and in many cases they have no formal qualifications. Evaluation of their non formal and informal learning will ease their access to the employment market.

  3. PAs are of vital importance in every EU Company. Their role has been upgraded during the last decade.

EUPA is supporting the improvement of flexible learning pathways, through the implementation of the European Qualifications Framework and systems for the validation of non formal and informal learning and lifelong guidance. In this light, EUPA is developing a qualification framework based on learning outcomes and a certification based on the validation of formal, non formal and informal learning outcomes.

A qualification framework for EUPA has been developed which consists of several steps, and is based on research that identifies not only the knowledge, skills and competences needed by a personal assistant, but also the importance of different learning outcomes. An assessment tool is also developed to assess the knowledge, skills and competences of PAs. Additionally, training modules are designed and developed for different learning outcomes.

European Policies Eupa Objectives Eupa Participants



Eupa Project Findings


EUPA ...




  • EQF

  • Different types of learning

  • European Credit Transfer and Accumulation system (ECTS)

  • The European Credit system for Vocational Education and Training (ECVET)


EQF is a common European reference system that links different countries’ national qualification systems and frameworks together. EQF shifts the focus from input (lengths of learning experience, type of institution) to what a person knows and is able to do (that is learning outcomes).

Learning outcomes that are expressed in terms of Knowledge, Skills and Competences.

·         Knowledge: In the context of EQF knowledge is described as theoretical and/or factual

·         Skills: In the context of EQF skills are described as cognitive (involving the use of logical, intuitive and creative thinking) and practical (involving manual dexterity and the use of methods, materials, tools and instruments.)

·         Competence: In the context of EQF competence is described in terms of responsibility and autonomy

Moreover EQF uses 8 reference levels.

Formal, Non formal and informal learning

Formal learning

Learning that occurs in an organised and structured context (in a school/training centre or on the job) and is explicitly designated as learning (in terms of objectives, time or learning support). Formal learning is intentional from the learner’s point of view. It typically leads to certification.

Source: Cedefop, 2003.

Informal learning

Learning resulting from daily work-related, family or leisure activities. It is not organised or structured (in terms of objectives, time or learning support). Informal learning is in most cases unintentional from the learner’s perspective. It typically does not lead to certification.

Source: Cedefop, 2003.

Non-formal learning

Learning which is embedded in planned activities not explicitly designated as learning (in terms of learning objectives, learning time or learning support), but which contain an important learning element. Non-formal learning is intentional from the learner’s point of view. It typically does not lead to certification.

Source: Cedefop, 2003.

European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS)

ECTS makes teaching and learning in higher education more transparent across Europe and facilitates the recognition of all studies. The system allows for the transfer of learning experiences between different institutions, greater student mobility and more flexible routes to gain degrees. It also aids curriculum design and quality assurance.

The European Credit system for Vocational Education and Training (ECVET)

The European Credit system for Vocational Education and Training (ECVET) aims to give people greater control over their individual learning experiences and make it more attractive to move between different countries and different learning environments.

The system aims to facilitate the validation, recognition and accumulation of work-related skills and knowledge acquired during a stay in another country or in different situations. It should ensure that these experiences contribute to vocational qualifications.

ECVET aims for better compatibility between the different vocational education and training (VET) systems in place across Europe and their qualifications.


Eupa ...

Aims and Objectives

The main objective of EUPA is to develop a model for the recognition and validation of the qualifications of the sector of personal assistants (PAs) based on learning outcomes.

As far as the specific objectives of the program are concerned EUPA aims:

  1. To develop a qualifications framework for PAs based on learning outcomes (LOs).

  2. To identify learning outcomes that may be easier to be developed through non formal and informal learning and to use this information to design methodological tools to be used during formal training for these outcomes.

  3. To develop, with the aid of an Assessment Tool, a European certification for secretaries and PAs. The Assessment Tool is be two dimensional and uses different methodological tools for the assessment of different learning outcomes. Therefore, when customized, it can be used across sectors.

  4. To develop a modular curriculum and training material that enables PAs to certify and to assign credits to the modules of this curriculum.


EUPA ...


Three groups of participants participated in the EUPA project

Eupa Group A:

EUPA Group A consists of ten participants from each partner country that need to comply with the following prerequisites:

a. Previous work experience of 3-5 years in a secretarial position

b. No previous formal training

Eupa Group B

EUPA Group B consists of ten participants from each partner country that need to comply with the following prerequisites:

a. Inactive women - women outside the labor market that do not actively search for a job during the last 5 years

b. No previous formal training

c. Interested in becoming a personal assistant

EUPA Group C

EUPA Group C consists of ten participants from each partner country that are:

a. Graduate school leavers

b. No work experience

c. No formal training



EUPA ...


The main emphasis of EUPA was to develop a qualification framework for personal assistants as well as an assessment tool to facilitate the assessment of PAs towards this framework and training material for the development of personal assistants. The stages of the project are demonstrated by the figure on the right hand side.

The following stages have been implemented:

1)    Development of the qualification framework

1.  Review of the European Qualification Framework policy as described by the European Union
2.    Review of similar work on development of qualification frameworks
3.    Identification of work areas, units and Learning outcomes through research
4.  Finalisation of the qualification framework

2)    Development of EUPA assessment tool

3)    First Assessment

Ten members from group A and group B participated on the first assessment. Group A learners have no formal learning but have experience in the area, that is non formal learning. Group B learners have no formal learning but they have informal learning, which is learning through life experiences. The results of the assessment are presented in the section

4)    Training and Development

Training material has been designed and developed for each of the units identified. The following trainings have been implemented in each of the countries.

Group A and Group B participated in training modules where they needed further development while Group C participated in all training modules.


After the completion of the trainings, a second assessment was implemented. All participants from Group A, B and C participated in the second assessment.



Eupa ...

Qualification framework

Eupa qualification framework has been developed according to the European policies. It consists of 4 EQF levels. In total it consists of 21 work areas.

For each level, one area of work consists of several units. Each unit then consists of several learning outcomes (LOs). Level two consists of LO 1-37, level three of LO 38-94, level four of LO 95-137 and level five of LO 138-166.

The EUPA qualification framework can be downloaded from the EUPA web site. It can be downloaded from the following link:



EUPA ...

Assessment tool

EUPA assessment tool is a tool to assess the personal assistants on each of the learning outcomes.

The assessment tool consists of an introduction to the assessor's (although an assessors manual has also been developed), the factors that must be taken into account while using the assessment tool as well as the types of evidence used. The following should be noted here:

  1. Observation is a method that needs to be used for achieving reliability and validity. However, during pilot assessments observation will not be used, because this is an exploratory project (that is no real certification will be given to the participants), therefore it will be difficult to persuade companies or organisations to accept this specific method.

  2. The fact that the project involves also inactive (unemployed) women means that observation cannot be applied as a method of assessment.

  3. Therefore, all assessments will be performed in the offices (or other locations) of the partners.

The following types of evidence are included in the EUPA assessment tool.

  •  Direct Observation of the learners’ performance by their assessor

  • Outcomes from oral or written questioning

  • Products of the learner’s work

  •  Personal Statements and /or reflective accounts

  • Outcomes from simulation, where permitted by the assessment strategy

  • Professional Discussion

  • Assignment, project/case studies

  • Authentic statements/witness testimony

  • Expert witness testimony

  •  Evidence of recognition of Prior Learning

The assessment tool is being accompanied by two very important tools:

1.     The current situation map that (as its name indicates) presents the current level of the personal assistant on each of the LOs.

The current situation map presents the current situation (in blue) versus an ideal situation (red)

2. The EUPA personal development map (next page) presents the ideal and the assessed situation together with the gap. Therefore, the learner can see visually the amount of development they have to undertake to reach the requested level. 




Findings, results

and conclusions

The main findings of EUPA can be summarised in the following points:

·         Non formal learning (on the job learning) is extremely important and it should definitely be validated. EUPA project proved that non formal learning in a specific sector (PA's in this case) is vital for a person working in the sector to be able to have all the knowledge, skills and competences needed for the specific sector.  Formal learning will significantly enhance the results of informal learning but still non formal learning is vital to enable a personal assistant to be certified.

·         Informal learning is also very important. One could argue that informal learning takes you half way through your development but will most probably not lead you to certification. It seems that the development through informal learning is much slower. Informal learning is strongly related with reflection, that is the ability of the person to gain knowledge from lifetime situations and this is probably another skill one has to develop in order to gain from informal learning.

·         Formal learning is very important but may not always be enough to guarantee a certification. A small amount of work experience may also be required. If combined with non formal learning success is almost guaranteed.

·         As far as learning outcomes are concerned:

o    There are specific learning outcomes that can easily be developed through non formal learning and these are learning outcomes that are learned through experience.

o    There are learning outcomes that cannot be developed through non formal learning. Probably expert input is required for the development of these LOS.

o    there are some learning outcomes that can be developed solely through formal learning. However, a combination of learning is needed for most of the learning outcomes to be developed.


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 This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.

This publication [communication] reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.