Micro-credentials are units of assessment that are smaller than traditional programmes of learning such as degrees and diplomas. They demonstrate that a learner has mastered a certain skill-set or possess a level of achievement in a particular area. The flexible nature of these qualifications allow learning opportunities to be opened up to citizens, including those in full-time employment.
Much of their anticipated value is rooted in the goal of widening the opportunities afforded by education to those groups normally under-represented. These highly flexible learning processes are intended to be more in line with the needs of particular target groups who are often discouraged from pursuing a qualification on the basis of how such qualifications are delivered: highly time-consuming and costly.
EURASHE, in their recent position paper, recognises the opportunity and potential micro-credentials bring to Professional Higher Education. As alluded to above, micro-credentials possess the unique capacity to provide tailor-made opportunities that are better placed to attract learners from less traditional cohorts – owing to the fact that they are less time-consuming and more affordable than much of the traditional avenues in which higher education qualifications are delivered.
Aside from the opportunities afforded by alternative forms of credentialing – EURASHE draw attention to a number of challenges that need to be overcome if the potential of micro-credentials are to be realised in practice. A key point here revolves around the gap between higher education policy objectives aiming to utilise micro-credentials and the institutional realities currently embedded in many European higher education institutions. Effectively providing short-term courses requires an institutional capacity capable of doing so. On the matter, however, EURASHE have found that considerable swathes of higher education institutions across Europe have little experience in the provision of micro-credentials; both in terms of administrative and financial elements, and in terms of readiness, availability and willingness of teaching staff and their possible (re)training.
Additionally, a lack of a legal framework, regulations and standard definition for micro-credentials can be an obstacle in their further development and full understanding and stand in the way of their implementation supported by relevant internal quality assurance processes and (automatic) recognition.
Taking these challenges into account, EURASHE would like the European Commission to further develop the concept with the Member States for the creation of joint structures that help remove obstacles for the development of micro-credentials, including an overview of (national) regulations, incentives, and funding for inclusive lifelong learning initiatives. It is also imperative that Higher Education Institutions are supported for institutional capacity development if the full use of micro-credentials potential is to be realised.
Read the full statement here.