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Publisher/s:  UNESCO
Published:  2022

Towards a common definition of micro-credentials

Micro-credentials are increasingly promoted as a new and more flexible way of recognizing knowledge, skills and competences. Micro-credentials are flourishing with more new brand names constantly emerging. However, acceptance and recognition of micro-credentials by employers and policy-makers is hampered because, among other challenges, there is no universally recognized definition that clearly communicates to lay users, particularly learners and employers, what micro-credentials are.

In recent years, policy-makers, scholars and educators have produced their own definitions, advancing scholarship in the area, and sometimes causing more confusion by adding yet another definition. Other challenges include determining whether micro-credentials complement or replace qualifications, or both; the dizzying array of providers and partnerships in the provision of micro-credentials; the need for robust quality assurance and the conundrum of how to enact it when providers operate outside of the regulated education sector; the lack of research and convincing evidence of micro-credentials’ efficacy so far; and the risk of unintended consequences if funding is diverted away from formal systems.

This study set out to address the first of those challenges, coming to a consensus on a proposed definition, in the hope of assisting the field to move towards a common definition. It proposes a definition arrived at through a consensus-building process by a global expert panel.

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