The purpose of this article is to explore the development of qualifications frameworks as a key element in the Bologna Process, which aims to develop a European Higher Education Area by 2010. By setting up descriptors of learning outcomes, a European qualifications framework is intended as an instrument that enables Europe to coordinate and exchange qualifications. Furthermore, the article analyses the proposal of a national qualifications framework in Norway and institutional responses to it. Despite general support for the idea of a framework, the analysis shows that the institutions question the possibility of a qualifications framework that fits all types of educational programmes.
With reference to curriculum theory the article concludes that the idea of a qualifications framework based on measurable learning outcomes represents a turn towards an instrumental curriculum approach in higher education, in contrast to a traditional curriculum approach which foregrounds disciplinary content and its mastery. Drawing on institutional theory the article also questions the possible impact of qualifications frameworks in higher education.