References to a credit transfer system for VET can be traced back to the Copenhagen Declaration, of 2002, where the recognition of competences and qualifications was confirmed, by the Directors General for Vocational Training (DGVT) and the European Commission, as a priority for VET.
In the years that followed, subsequent communiqués (Maastricht 2004, Helsinki 2006, Bordeaux 2008) confirmed a continuing commitment to a credit transfer system for VET. At the same time, a range of national and European-level testing and consultation activities were launched, involving a number of sectors and institutions, with a view to building a convincing ECVET proposal that could be presented for approval by the governing authorities. Centralised project funding was also made available by the European Commission, in 2008, to support the development of ECVET partnerships and to encourage the testing and experimentation of ECVET, with a particular focus on mobility in VET. As a result, 11 pilot projects were funded.
On 18 June 2009, a Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the establishment of a European Credit Systems for Vocational Education and Training (ECVET) confirmed common ECVET principles, provided detailed technical specifications for ECVET and recommended wider ECVET promotion and implementation by all Member States.
Since then, the focus has been on progressive implementation, with Member States encouraged to create conditions that will allow ECVET to be employed for all learners in VET. In 2010, the European Commission supported a second round of ECVET testing and experimentation activity, resulting in the funding of a further 8 pilot projects, this time with a focus on national implementation. Additionally, ECVET was confirmed as a priority within the Lifelong Learning Programme (2007-2013) and, more recently, within the Erasmus+ programme (2014-2020).
In 2011, a group of 14 national agencies responsible for overseeing implementation of the Lifelong Learning Programme (now Erasmus+) came together, under the leadership of the German national agency (NA beim BIBB), to support geographical mobility practitioners working with ECVET: this network of national agencies, known as NetECVET, was responsible for the production of the current ECVET Mobility Toolkit.
In 2014, the Report on Evaluation of the Implementation of ECVET confirmed strengths and successes - such as mainstreaming of the learning outcomes approach - whilst providing recommendations for future development - such as the need to underline the benefits of ECVET for all parties and the need to better align ECVET with other recognition and transparency tools.
These recommendations were made concrete in the Riga Conclusions (2015) with direct reference to EU-level support for the continuing development of ECVET and with a particular focus on achieving greater coherence between ECVET and other recognition and transparency tools. Only a few months later, the Draft Joint Report of the Council and the Commission on the Implementation of ET2020 (2015) highlighted the need for simplification and rationalisation and confirmed the transparency and recognition of skills and qualifications to facilitate learning and labour mobility as one of six new priority areas for European cooperation in education and training.
In 2016, the European Commission's New Skills Agenda for Europe, confirmed ten actions to help equip people in Europe with better skills, among which ambitions for "Making VET a First Choice" also talk of the possible future revision of ECVET.
More recently, the Council Recommendation on promoting automatic mutual recognition of higher education and upper secondary education and training qualifications and the outcomes of learning periods abroad (November 2018), confirmed the importance of learning recognition across borders and specifically referenced the value and importance of transparency tools such as those developed and used within ECVET (Memorandum of Understanding, Learning Agreement).