Traditionally constrained by the Treaty to subsidiary action, a number of innovative approaches for joint European coordination in the area of education have emerged in recent years. This article analyses a particular new European Union (EU) instrument for education – the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) – by examining the vertical, horizontal, and internal tensions within the instrument. Analysis of the vertical dimension identifies widening EU capacity for joint coordination through an informal widening of the subsidiarity principle and opportunities for diffusing EU preferences. Analysis of the horizontal coordination processes suggest that there is still some fragmentation in terms of coordinating the EQF across relevant sectors, even if emerging coordination can be identified in some areas. The internal tensions are related to the nature of the instrument that covers all levels and types of education. It is argued that these internal tensions remain, but the EQF has facilitated the development of a new arena for discussing policy coordination (EQFAG) that can, in the long run, reduce these tensions. While the impact of the EQF has been uneven and its implementation proceeded with various speed at this point, it nevertheless is a successful case of a particular Commission policy preference that has been gaining widespread acceptance across Europe in an area where coordination previously had been met with resistance.
Education, Qualification frameworks, Coordination
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