Micro-Credentials and Individual Learning Accounts

Improving lifelong learning and employability in the European Union: a) towards a common approach to Micro-credentials and b) Individual Learning Accounts. New proposals of Council Recommendations.

Improving lifelong learning and employability in the European Union: a) towards a common approach to Micro-credentials and b) Individual Learning Accounts. New proposals for Council Recommendations.

For more information and access to the policy proposals visit the website, view the infographic, and read the Brochure.

Two new lifelong learning initiatives (proposals) were adopted on 10/12/2021 by the European Commission: a) on micro-credentials; on b) on individual learning accounts. These proposals were announced in the Skills Agenda and in the European Education Area Communication of 2020. They will help tackle challenges related with upskilling and reskilling of the population, by opening up more opportunities for people to find learning offers, and employment opportunities. European Union Member States set a target of 60% of adults taking part in training by 2030.

The future of work arrived ahead of schedule. At least four mega drivers of change are boosting the dynamics of this transformation and adaptation: digitalisation, automation and artificial intelligence; Covid-19; greening of the economy and society; and societal movements. In this context of transformation of work, reskilling and upskilling become urgent, as more workers transition to jobs that are based on a changing mix of tasks and skills.

People need to continuously update their knowledge, skills and competences to be adaptable to new roles and tasks in the rapidly changing world of work. A strong skill set opens up opportunities to individuals, provides a safety net in uncertain times, promotes inclusion and social advancement and provides the economy with the skilled labour force needed to grow and innovate.

New types of qualifications and of modalities of recognition of learning emerge and the concepts of micro-credentials and digital certificates are becoming part of policies and practices of qualifications systems.


Micro-credentials certify the learning outcomes following a small learning experience (e.g. a short course or training). They offer a flexible, targeted way to help people develop the knowledge, skills and competences they need for their personal and professional development.

A micro-credential is the record of the learning outcomes that a learner has acquired following a small volume of learning. These learning outcomes have been assessed against transparent and clearly defined standards. Courses leading to micro-credentials are designed to provide the learner with specific knowledge, skills and competences that respond to societal, personal, cultural or labour market needs. Read the Brochure.

This proposal of a Council Recommendation seeks to make micro-credentials work across institutions, businesses, sectors and borders.

  • The European approach to micro-credentials aims at providing a clear definition and European standards, allow for the learning outcomes of these small experiences to be easily recognised and understood by employers, learners and, education and training institutions, as well as guiding principles to consider when designing or issuing high-quality micro-credentials.
  • Micro-credentials are owned by the learner, can be shared and are portable.
  • They may be standalone or combined into larger credentials.
  • They are underpinned by quality assurance following agreed standards in the relevant sector or area of activity.


When designing and issuing micro-credentials some principles are recommended. They highlight the key characteristics of the European approach to micro-credentials. They are universal and may be applied in any area or sector.

  1. Quality: Micro-credentials are subject to internal and external quality assurance by the system producing them (e.g. the education, training or labour market context in which the micro-credential is developed and delivered). Quality assurance processes must be fit-for-purpose, be clearly documented, accessible, and meet the needs of learners and stakeholders.
  2. Transparency: Micro-credentials are measurable, comparable and understandable with clear information on learning outcomes, workload, content, level, and the learning offer, as relevant.
  3. Relevance: Micro-credentials should be designed as distinct, targeted learning achievements, and learning opportunities leading to them are updated as necessary, to meet identified learning needs
  4. Valid assessment: Micro-credential learning outcomes are assessed against transparent standards
  5. Learning pathways: Micro-credentials are designed to support flexible learning pathways, including the possibility to stack, validate, and recognise micro-credentials from across different systems
  6. Recognition
    Recognition has a clear signalling value of learning outcomes and paves the way for a wider offer of such small learning experiences in a comparable way across the EU.
    Micro-credentials are recognised for academic or employment purposes based on standard
    recognition procedures used in recognising foreign qualifications and learning periods abroad, when dealing with micro-credentials issued by formal education providers
  7. Portability
    Micro-credentials are owned by the credential-holder (the learner) and may be stored and shared easily by the credential-holder, including through secure digital wallets (e.g Europass), in line with the General Data Protection Regulation. The infrastructure for storing data is based on open standards and data models, This ensures interoperability and seamless exchange of data, and allows for smooth checks of data authenticity.
  8. Learner-centred
    Micro-credentials are designed to meet the needs of the target group of learners. Learners
    are involved in the internal and external quality assurance processes and their feedback is taken into account as part of the continuous improvement of the micro-credential.
  9. Authentic
    Micro-credentials contain sufficient information to check the identity of the credential-holder
    (learner), the legal identity of the issuer, and the date and location of issuance of the micro-
  10. Information and guidance
    Information and advice on micro-credentials should be incorporated in lifelong learning guidance services and should reach the broadest possible learner groups, in an inclusive way, supporting education, training, and career choices.

Suggested critical information elements that any micro-credential should provide:

  • Mandatory elements: learner identification, title of the micro-credential, country of the issuer, awarding body, date of issuing, learning outcomes, notional workload needed to achieve the learning outcomes, level of the learning experience leading to the micro-credential, if applicable; type of assessment; form of participation in the learning activity; type of quality assurance used to underpin the micro-credential.

The proposal also introduces recommendations on micro-credentials in education and training and in labour markets policies. This should enable people to learn new or additional skills in a tailored way, inclusive for all. The European approach to micro-credentials is a key flagship to achieve a European Education Area by 2025. They can be part of the learning offer included in individual learning accounts.

Individual Learning Accounts

These are virtual wallets, established by national authorities, for every person of working age. This includes the employed, self-employed, those in atypical forms of work, and the unemployed and people outside the labour force.

The innovative aspect of this proposal is that it puts the individual directly at the centre of skills development. It also calls on Member States to modulate funding according to individuals' needs for training.

The proposed Council Recommendation on Individual Learning Accounts aims to ensure that everyone has access to relevant training opportunities that are tailored to their needs, throughout life and independently of whether currently employed or not.

The proposal addresses the main bottlenecks for people to embark on training today - motivation, time and funding - by asking Member States together with social partners to:

  • Set up individual learning accounts and provide training entitlements for all adults of working age;
  • Define a list of labour-market relevant and quality-assured training that is eligible for funding from the individual learning accounts and make it accessible through a digital registry, for example from a mobile device;
  • Offer opportunities of career guidance and validation of previously acquired skills, as well as paid training leave.
  • As part of the proposal, national authorities would ensure adequate annual provision of individual training entitlements to these accounts, with higher amounts for people most in need of training. People would be able to accumulate these entitlements and use them throughout their career. This would allow people to embark on longer or more costly training or to train in order to update or complete their skills' set and in response to emerging skills needs in the labour market.
  • Beyond the account itself and the provision of an entitlement, an enabling framework is essential to help people take up training. This framework should include access to career guidance and validation opportunities, paid training leave, a public national registry of quality-assured and labour market relevant training that is eligible for funding from the learning accounts and a single national digital portal with a secure electronic authentication and connection to the registry.