Action-oriented research on micro-credentials takes off in Mauritius

17 January 2024


Aerial view of University of Mauritius and Education hub

Amid rapid technological developments, digitalization, and transforming labour markets, continuous learning opportunities have become a fixture of national skills and employability strategies. The recognition and validation of skills have consequently moved high on the policy agendas of many countries, as well as more flexible, learner-centered education. 

Globally, the Education 2030 Agenda encourages countries to put in place mechanisms to recognize, validate, and accredit knowledge and skills acquired in diverse contexts. Additionally, the UNESCO Global Convention on Higher Education highlights the need for a transition to competency-based teaching and learning, the recognition of prior learning, and partial qualifications. 

Shorter learning experiences are therefore seen not only as a promising avenue but also as an opportunity to widen equitable access for those who cannot easily enroll in full-time degree programmes. In a growing number of countries, students can pursue shorter educational experiences, such as micro-credentials offered by various providers (i.e. formal education organizations, enterprises, and civil society organizations), facilitating greater choice and individualized pathways.  

But what are micro-credentials?

The precise definition of micro-credentials is often blurry.  In response and amid a context of very diverse national and institutional practices, UNESCO has coined this common definition of micro-credentials:  

  • They are a record of focused learning achievement, verifying what the learner knows, understands, or can do.
  • They include assessments based on clearly defined standards and awarded by a trusted provider.
  • They have stand-alone value and may also contribute to or complement other micro-credentials or macro-credentials, including through recognition of prior learning.
  • They meet the standards required by relevant quality assurance. 

Many countries, both developed and developing, are currently experiencing rapid growth in the provision of short courses that they wish to transform into micro-credentials. Most questions that higher education authorities currently ask, tend to focus on regulation and academic recognition, quality assurance, and links to the national qualifications framework (NQF), as well as registration, storage, and portability of such credentials. To create trust in the higher education sector for their recognition as credit-bearing learning experiences, several countries are developing national micro-credential frameworks. This process often takes a collaborative approach involving higher education institutions and public authorities, such as Ministries, quality assurance, and NQF bodies. 

To support national authorities in the development of a national framework for micro-credentials, IIEP has launched action-based research aimed at generating knowledge on good practices to build such frameworks in post-secondary education. With this objective in mind, IIEP has already conducted a desk study on short courses, micro-credentials and flexible learning pathways: blueprint for policy development and action

To put this policy paper into action, IIEP has also developed a research methodology to work with countries on the development of a national micro-credential framework. This methodology covers survey instruments and guidelines to organize stakeholder consultations to discuss options that suit the national context. 

Piloting a micro-credentials framework in Mauritius 

In September 2023, IIEP-UNESCO partnered with the Mauritius Higher Education Commission and the Mauritius Qualifications Authority to pilot the IIEP-UNESCO research on micro-credential frameworks. Through this pilot, IIEP is testing its action-oriented research methodology while also providing recommendations to country authorities for a Mauritian micro-credentials framework. 

The pilot research in Mauritius includes data collection via four surveys among policy-makers and higher education and TVET institutions to better understand the country's current regulatory framework, as well as the existing provision of micro-credentials and perceptions of its opportunities and challenges in the sector. 

The data will be discussed in a stakeholder consultation meeting in Port Louis, Mauritius, starting 17 January 2024, bringing together representatives from national authorities and higher education and TVET institutions to discuss options for the framework, such as the scope and definition for micro-credentials, quality assurance, its link to the national qualifications framework, and technological infrastructure issues. 

A report will then be prepared and shared with the national authorities, making recommendations for a national framework for micro-credentials in Mauritius.