SPHERE Online Seminar:

Exploring micro-credentials: Why, how and which way forward

26-27 November 2020

Programme & Background Information

This seminar is being offered to HERE as part of the 2020/21 SPHERE programme, under the theme: “Higher education responding to changing skills needs”. It is the first SPHERE event to be delivered online, using the Zoom platform. Note that some of the plenary sessions are open for a larger audience of HERE, whereas the breakouts are reserved for core-seminar participants only which have been nominated.

Purpose of the seminar/ Learning outcomes

Micro-credentials have been addressed at last year’s SPHERE events, at the recognition seminar in Chisinau, Moldova, and at the Annual Conference 2019 in Prague. Participants confirmed interest into the issues, as an approach to provide learning and training opportunities that would enhance the employability of graduates, but also as an aspect to be considered in the revision of existing bachelor and master programmes. They also expressed some concern that the growing offer from international private providers could become a challenge for the university sector.

The learning outcomes of this event are:

  • Get acquainted with different definitions and models of micro-credentials;
  • Understand how micro-credentials are used in practice, including recognition of learning, options to build them into degrees etc.;
  • Understand the potential benefits of micro-credentials for employers and students
  • Understand the perspectives of learners, employers, institutional providers and teachers so as to anticipate questions and obstacles in delivering them and ensuring their recognition and quality;
  • With examples of the European developments, explore the policy discussion on flexible learning of higher education through different formats of delivery, and different learning purposes;
  • Develop an understanding how micro-credentials could be used in one’s own institution or system, and what would be the opportunities and challenges.


This event is open to all HERE, however NEO are asked to nominate a core group of participants (3 per country, including the NEO) who will:

1) Fill in the pre-survey when they register

2) Complete the additional preparatory work (prepare a short document regarding the state of micro-credentials in different institutions and also with regards to national legislation)

3) Review the reading materials and references made available, as well as pre-recorded case studies, and post questions for the discussion ahead of time which the chairs of the discussion sessions will use to prepare the session

4) Participate in the discussion groups

All additional HERE will be invited to register separately for the public sessions they wish to attend, which will be delivered in a webinar format.


The seminar will be delivered over two days. The first day will consist of two morning sessions (one public and one set of discussion groups) and a short afternoon public session. The second day will consist of a morning public session, discussion groups for core-participants in the afternoon and a short wrap-up session.

The morning (plenary) sessions will consist of theoretical presentations on the topic from different experts, both from the EU and HERE countries. Panel discussions will also be included. These will be delivered in a webinar format and open to all HERE, provided they register.  

The break-out sessions will be virtual break out groups, with case studies and moderated discussions. They will be reserved for the core participant group and have done the preparatory work.



Bold: Public session open to all HERE & NEO, upon registration

Italic: Session limited to registered HERE & NEO (Core participants)


Day 1

9:00 – 10:30: Public session

9:00-10:30: Session 1: Online plenary

9:00. Welcome to the SPHERE seminar, overview of programme and technical announcements

9:10   Keynote: The changing context of higher education: Tools and strategies to flexibilise learning and align it to emerging labour market and societal needs (20min)

This keynote will set the stage for the micro-credential discussion. It will provide a reflection on the current higher education context in the midst of a global pandemic and cite important trends in debates regarding the delivery of higher education, learning, and the challenges higher education institutions face, from preparing students for a recovering  or stagnant labour market, to re-training/up-skilling and lifelong learning to online provision and digitalisation.

  • Presenter: Liz Marr, Director of Teaching, Open University, UK/President, European Association of Distance Teaching Universities (EADTU)
  • Chair: Michael Gaebel, EUA/SPHERE Team
  • Moderator: Elizabeth Colucci, EUA/SPHERE Team

9:45-10:30  An introduction to micro-credentials: Definitions and current usages

A 15 minute presentation from an EU expert outlining the current processes for finding a definition for micro-credentials (EC Working group, MICROBOL project, etc)  a scan of the different current approaches to micro-credentials and a mapping of recent projects that have helped to promote and set standards/guidance for micro-credentials in the EHEA.

Intro presentation and chairing: Michael Gaebel and Hanne Smidt, EUA/SPHERE Team

Discussant: Liz Marr

Moderator: Elizabeth Colucci

10:30   Break

10:45-12:00 – Closed session (Core participants)

10:45-12:00 Parallel discussion groups 1: Case studies 

Open to pre-selected HERE who have participated in the preparatory work/pre-survey for the event. Each group will have a chair and an additional resource person/discussant (those who have provided the case studies).

As preparation for the discussion, HERE will have access to short video presentations that will serve as case studies. Each case study will present an institutional or national perspective on a specific intention or policy purpose for micro-credentials.

Case studies:

  • Leo Marusic, University of Zadar, Croatia
  • Frederik de Decker, Ghent University, Belgium
  • Technical University of Warsaw, Poland (tbc)
  • Mark Brown, Dublin City University (DCU), Ireland
  • Malin Rosqvist, Mälardalen University/Knowledge Foundation, Sweden

Chairs : Elizabeth Colucci, Luisa Bunescu, Hanne Smidt, EUA/SPHERE Team


12.30-13.30 Public session

12.30-13.30 Plenary: Micro-credentials: Why all the fuss?

Presentation: The EU Digital Skills Agenda, the European Education Area and the relevance of Micro-credentials: Klara Engels-Perenyi, DG Education, Youth, Sport and Culture, European Commission

Panel with short introductory interventions:

  • Perspectives from outside the EU: Hanne Shapiro, Denmark
  • National approaches - the case of Ireland: Nora Trench Bowles, Irish University Association (IUA)
  • Julia N. Ziyatdinova, Chair, Department of Foreign Languages for Professional Communication, Kazan National Research Technological University, Russia


13:30 – 14:30     Lunch Break

14:30-15:30 – Closed session (Core participants)

14:30-15:30 Parallel discussion groups 2: Case studies

Open to pre-selected HERE who have participated in the preparatory work/pre-survey for the event – Pre-registration required. HERE have the chance to participate in a second discussion group on the case studies, with a different chair and discussant.




9:00 – 11:15 (Public session)

9:00-9:20  Recap

  • Presentation of the agenda for day 2
  • Comments on day 1 results (General Rapporteur)
  • Pre-survey results – Elizabeth Colucci, EUA/SPHERE Team

9:30-10:15  Micro-credentials: Perspectives from institutions, employers and students

This will be an interactive panel exploring 1) the understanding of micro-credentials and perceptions, 2) examples of current university-industry collaborations to this effect, 3) discussion on employers expectations towards higher education institutional providers, 4) student perspectives on micro-credentials; their purpose, questions or reticence that students may have and student expectations.

  • Rasmus Benke-Åberg, Director Erasmus Student Network (ESN)

  • Eva Schelin, Director General, Knowledge Foundation, Sweden
  • Russell Brooks, Associate Director, Executive Education and Online Learning, LSE, UK
  • Elisabeth Hassek-Eder, Project manager Wirtschaftsförderungsinstitut der Wirtschaftskammer Österreich
  • Chair: Hanne Smidt, EUA/SPHERE Team
  • Moderator: Elizabeth Colucci, EUA/SPHERE Team

Followed by Q&A with audience collected from the Chat

10:15 – 11:15     Transparency with micro-credentials and recognition

From the points of view of policy makers, who have to decide whether and how to promote micro-credentials, and HEIs, who may want to know how to produce them, many related aspects to the recognition of micro-credentials are important. This session will explore LOs, NQF, ECTS and assessment as well as production, distribution and consumption.

Short intro presentation : Tia Loukkola, Director for Institutional Development, EUA

Panel :

  • Henri Pirkkalainen, Tampere University, Finland
  • Frederik de Decker, Ghent Unuversity, Belgium
  • Katrien Bardoel, Nuffic, The Netherlands

Chair: Tia Loukkola, Director for Institutional Development, EUA

Moderator: Luisa Bunescu, EUA/SPHERE Team


12:30-13:30/14:00-14:45   (Closed sessions – Core participants)

12:30 – 13:30  Parallel discussion groups: Different strategies and purposes for micro-credentials 

Open to pre-selected HERE who have participated in the preparatory work/pre-survey for the event – pre-registration required. Each group will have a chair and a technical assistant. A rapporteur will be pre-nominated from the HERE.

Group 1: Peer learning for policy makers: A national approach or strategy towards micro-credentials?

This session will be based on previous work prepared by ministry and higher education policy makers (including QA agencies). Each will present their plans and ideas on promoting (or not) micro-credentials in a national context. Peers and experts in the group will ask questions and share ideas to shape further these proposals.

Chair: Elizabeth Colucci, EUA/SPHERE Team

Group 2: Peer learning for HEI: An institutional approach or strategy towards micro-credentials?

This session will be based on previous work prepared by those representing HEI. Each will present their plans and ideas on promoting (or not) micro-credentials at their institutions. Peers and experts in the group will ask questions and shares ideas to shape further these proposals.

Chair: Michael Gaebel, EUA/SPHERE Team

Group 3: Recognition and micro-credentials

The group will have the opportunity to explore the morning session further, looking at concrete cases and teasing out specific issues and solutions for micro-credential recognition in their respective HERE countries.

Chair: Howard Davies, EUA/SPHERE Team

14:00 – 14:45  Conclusions and way forward: What have we learned?

  • Summary from General Rapporteur – 15 minutes
  • Discussion, mini statements from HERE
  • Closing words: HERE in 2021 (SPHERE Team/EACEA)