Guidelines for Good Practice for Awarding Joint Degrees

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Front page of the publication.
Front page of the publication

Full title
Guidelines for Good Practice for Awarding Joint Degrees

Abstract
The Guidelines for Good Practice for Awarding Joint Degrees aim to address two main concerns. First, there is a lack of transparent and full information provision through the documents (degree, transcript and/or diploma supplement) that recognition information centres (ENIC-NARICs), institutional credential evaluators and employers receive. Second, the relevant legal frameworks do not necessarily accommodate the way joint programmes are organised. The Guidelines for Good Practice for Awarding Joint Degrees aim to address these issues. The Guidelines have been developed to provide higher education institutions (and their joint programmes) with examples of good practices. These guidelines are not to be interpreted as setting standards; they provide the perspective of ENIC-NARICs. The main aim of these guidelines is to facilitate and improve the full recognition of joint degrees. It intends to do so by clarifying the expectations of ENIC-NARICs regarding the design and the content of the degree and the Diploma Supplement. These expectations of course also regard the consortium offering the joint programme and the joint programme itself.

Authors: Axel Aerden & Hanna Reczulska.

Cite:
Aerden, A., Reczulska, H. (2013). Guidelines for Good Practice for Awarding Joint Degrees. ECA Occasional Paper. The Hague. Download



This publication provides higher education institutions that award joint degrees with guidelines for good practices. These guidelines are not to be interpreted as setting standards; they provide the perspective of ENIC-NARICs. The main aim of these guidelines is in fact to facilitate and improve the full recognition of joint degrees. It intends to do so by clarifying the expectations of ENIC-NARICs regarding the design and the content of the degree and the Diploma Supplement. These expectations of course also regard the consortium offering the joint programme and the joint programme itself. These guidelines are guidelines for good practice; even without implementing these a joint degree can still be recognisable.

Introduction

The guidelines explicitly refer to the European Diploma Supplement while joint programmes in practice include institutions from all over the world. The guidelines therefore include an additional chapter regarding other explanatory documentation (e.g. a transcript). These guidelines build on the underlying principles of the guidelines regarding the Diploma Supplement. Some aspects or practical implications of the guidelines for good practice might be difficult to readily grasp. This document therefore includes examples for clarification of some of the guidelines. If a guideline has a clarifying example, you can find it on the opposing page. It is possible that some of the good practices presented in this publication cannot be implemented because of regulations in one or more of the relevant national legal frameworks. This should not cause alarm. It clearly underlines the second aim of these guidelines for good practice. The second aim of these guidelines is to raise awareness among national authorities about the problems joint programmes encounter when awarding joint degrees and Diploma Supplements.

Glossary

Here, we present a glossary of all relevant terms for this publication. More information about the agreed terminology can be found in a separate article about joint programme terminology. It is however important to first present the Lisbon Recognition Convention’s definition of a qualification: “any degree, diploma or other certificate issued by a competent authority attesting the successful completion of a higher education programme”.


Degree

Any degree, diploma or other certificate issued by a competent authority attesting the successful completion of a higher education programme.


Joint programme

An integrated curriculum coordinated and offered jointly by different higher education institutions and leading to a (double/multiple or joint) degree.


Joint degree

A single document awarded by higher education institutions offering the joint programme and nationally acknowledged as the recognised award of the joint programme.


Multiple degree

Separate degrees awarded by higher education institutions offering the joint programme attesting the successful completion of this programme.


Double degree

Two degrees awarded by higher education institutions offering the joint programme attesting the successful completion of this programme.
→ A double degree is a specific type of multiple degree


Dual degree

Two degrees awarded individually, attesting the successful completion of two separate curricula, with potential overlap and efficiencies in course-taking, and, if more than one institution is involved, each institution is primarily responsible for its own degree.
→ A dual degree is not awarded for a joint programme


Awarding institution

A higher education institution issuing qualifications, i.e. degrees, diplomas or other certificates. In the case of joint degrees, an awarding institution is one of the two or more institutions involved in conferring the joint degree thus formally recognising the achievements of a student enrolled in the joint programme.


(Joint programme) consortium

A group of two or more higher education institutions and potentially other contributors (e.g. research centres) with the objective of integrating teaching and learning activities for providing a joint programme; although not all participants necessarily award a (joint) degree.

Guidelines for Good Practice

The elements that play a role when evaluating a degree are the same for both regular and joint degrees. The context of these elements is however quite different. This chapter therefore provides guidelines for good practice for all the distinctive elements that play a role from the perspective of the recognition of the degree. The following elements are dealt with: the (joint programme) consortium, the joint programme, the joint degree, the Diploma Supplement and other explanatory documentation. Each issue is first analysed and then summarised in corresponding good practices. In addition, examples for clarification of some of the guidelines are included. The following guidelines for good practices are of course only applicable to joint programmes that award joint degrees.

The Consortium

The consortium traditionally refers to the group of higher education institutions who offer the joint programme, irrespective of whether they are involved in awarding the joint degree. The consortium can however additionally include other contributors (e.g. research centres) who are not necessarily higher education institutions. Those contributors might be important partners in the programme, but do not normally have degree awarding powers. For this reason the guidelines below do not take these partners into account here. It is important that the higher education institutions involved in the consortium are allowed to offer the joint programme. This refers first and foremost to the fact that each institution needs to be recognised and/or accredited as a higher education institution in the higher education system in which they operate. This also refers to the fact that the higher education institutions recognise the joint programme as their own. Finally, each higher education institution should be (legally) allowed to offer the joint programme, even if the institution is not involved in awarding the joint degree. This refers to the concern that higher education institutions without the competence or appropriate recognition to offer a certain programme (e.g. master’s programme) or award a certain degree (e.g. Master of Science), can use a joint programme to do so anyway. As long as the joint programme and its joint degree are recognised elsewhere, such an institution could offer its national students a recognised (“foreign”) degree. Joint programmes then provide an unacceptable escape route out of the national legal framework and the awarded joint degree would raise recognition concerns in the higher education system of the institution that uses this escape route. To conclude, if an institution is not allowed to offer a certain type of programme (because of for example legal limitations), this institution should not offer that type of programme as a joint programme.

 
1.1.
All institutions in the consortium are recognised and/or accredited as higher education institutions in their (sub)national higher education systems;
1.2.
All higher education institutions in the consortium fully recognise the joint programme as a programme offered by their institution;
1.3.
Each higher education institution in the consortium is entitled to legally offer this type of programme (level, orientation, discipline) as a joint programme, even if that institution is not involved in the awarding of the joint degree.
 

 

The Joint Programme

The joint programme here refers to the higher education programme leading to the awarding of a joint degree. The main concern here is whether the joint programme is offered in accordance with the relevant legal framework. In the most restricted interpretation, ‘relevant’ here refers to the locations where the student that is awarded the joint degree has actually studied. In the broadest interpretation, ‘relevant’ can be interpreted as the legal frameworks of all the institutions involved in the joint programme. Some higher education legal frameworks have specific requirements regarding joint programmes. In some cases, the programme needs to be explicitly identified, recognised and/or accredited as a joint programme.

 
2.1.
The joint programme is offered in accordance with the legal frameworks of the relevant (sub)national higher education systems;
2.2.
The joint programme is quality assured and/or accredited as a joint programme.
 

 

The Joint Degree

The joint degree is a single document awarded by higher education institutions offering the joint programme. This degree is acknowledged as the recognised award of the joint programme in all relevant countries. Since it is a joint award, this means that it is presented as a single document. The joint degree replaces typical institutional or national degrees and it therefore must be nationally acknowledged as the recognised award of the joint programme. This also means that the joint degree is issued and signed as stipulated in the relevant national legislation, i.e. signed by the competent authorities (rector, vice-chancellor, etc.) as the representatives of the institutions involved in the joint degree. Note that this definition includes the possibility for institutions to delegate their authority to sign the joint degree. This type of delegation should however also be allowed in the relevant national legislations. The joint degree should only refer to the awarding institutions and not include other participants in the consortium which are not involved in awarding the joint degree. References can be logos and or full names of these institutions. If full names are included, this needs to be done uniformly: either the original names or translated versions. A joint degree confers a qualification (e.g. Master of Science in Physics) to a graduate. It is important that the conferred qualification is the qualification recognised in all the relevant national legal frameworks. This could for example mean that the joint degree needs to include reference to qualifications in original languages. Bear in mind, that credential assessment services and companies (e.g. in North America) only request to submit the degree and do not necessarily request additional information, such as a Diploma Supplement. This does underline the importance of the degree itself. The information on the degree should therefore be clear from the start.

 
3.1.
The joint degree is awarded in accordance with the legal frameworks governing the awarding institutions and is recognised as a joint degree in the higher education systems of the awarding institutions;
3.2.
The joint degree includes reference to all relevant (sub)national legal frameworks in accordance to which the degree was awarded;
3.3.
References to higher education institutions (logos and/or full names) are limited to the awarding institutions/authorities, i.e. only the institutions that award this joint degree;
3.4.
The joint degree is only signed by the competent authority/-ies representing the awarding institutions;
3.5.
The joint degree includes the qualification’s full name(s) as recognised in all the relevant legal frameworks;
3.6.
If the consortium has agreed on one responsible institution (such as a coordinating institution or a contact point), this is indicated on the joint degree (e.g. next to the name of that institution).
 

 

The Diploma Supplement

The following guidelines for good practice are to be read in addition to the original instructions included in the Diploma Supplement template. The outline of the Diploma Supplement can be found as an annex to this publication; the instructions and explanatory notes can be downloaded at the European Commission’s website: http://ec.europa.eu/education/lifelong-learning-policy/doc/ds/ds_en.pdf. The guidelines for good practice do not change the original Diploma Supplement template but demonstrate good practices when producing a Diploma Supplement for a joint degree. The Diploma Supplement should enable individuals with no prior knowledge of the joint programme to fully comprehend the awarded joint degree. A Diploma Supplement awarded together with a joint degree should therefore include all the necessary references as included in the guidelines above. A joint degree consequently includes a joint Diploma Supplement. Joint programme consortia have to bear in mind that those reading their documents need to be able to authenticate that information. However, take care not to overburden the recipient of your Diploma Supplements (credential evaluators, employers, etc.) and rather present your information as clear and concise as possible. Some joint programmes regularly change their coordinator and/or coordinating institution. This should not pose a problem as long as the information regarding the joint programme (archive) is kept available.


 

4.1.
The student identification number (section 1.4), should include reference to the relevant system (institution, country, …);
4.2.
The name(s) of the qualification (section 2.1) includes the qualification’s original full name(s) (as included on the joint degree, and where relevant, with transcriptions) with reference to all relevant (sub)national legal frameworks;
4.3.
Where applicable, the awarded title(s) (section 2.1) is/are included in its original language(s) according to all relevant (sub)national legal frameworks;
4.4.
If a graduate receives other national degrees alongside the joint degree (i.e. the joint degree is part of a multiple degree arrangement), this should be indicated and included (section 2.1);
4.5.
The status of the institutions awarding the joint degree (thus not limited to those institutions where the graduate actually studied) is explicitly included next to the full original names of the awarding institutions. (section 2.3);
4.6.
If the joint degree only included translations of the full original names of the awarding institutions, these translations are included alongside the full original name of the awarding institution (section 2.3);
4.7.
For joint programmes, the name and status of institutions administering studies (section 2.4) refers to the institutions where the graduate has actually studied;
4.8.
Joint programmes that make use of more than one language (not only in teaching but also for student work) explicitly include how these languages are used (e.g. balance in credits, master’s thesis in national language) (section 2.5);
4.9.
The level of the programme (section 3.1) refers to the level and context of the qualification in all the higher education systems of the awarding institutions (where applicable, in all the relevant national qualifications frameworks);
4.10.
Any reference to credits should include an explanation about the credit system(s) used by the joint programme consortium (section 3.2);
4.11.
The access requirements (section 3.3) refer to the overall access requirements and preferably include which level and subject-specific requirements give access to the programme (e.g. reference to relevant qualifications frameworks);
4.12.
The programme requirements (section 4.2) include the overall learning outcomes of the joint programme and do so in a way readable and understandable by non-professionals;
4.13.
The programme details (section 4.3) include information about the individual study pathway of the graduate, which includes the programme components (with full name, credits and grade) and the institution that offered that part of the curriculum;
4.14.
The grading scheme (section 4.4) includes information about all the grading systems referred to under the programme details (section 4.3), i.e. the individual study pathway of the graduate;
4.15.
Access to further academic and/or professional study, especially leading to any specific qualifications, or levels of study is included for each of the awarding institutions higher education systems (section 5.1);
4.16.
The professional status (section 5.2) includes, where applicable, references to the regulated profession in the countries of the awarding institutions to which the graduate has access (and/or the European Directive on the recognition of professional qualifications);
4.17.
If there are other members in the joint programme consortium which are not involved in awarding the joint degree, their full name, status and role in the joint programme is included (section 6.1);
4.18.
The further information sources (section 6.2) should include information about the coordinating institution or contact point where the recipient of the Diploma Supplement (such as credential evaluators, employers, etc.) can contact the joint programme with additional questions;
4.19.
The further information sources (section 6.2) should include (a permalink to) the website of the joint programme;
4.20.
The further information sources (section 6.2) should at least include information about the relevant ENIC-NARIC of the coordinating institution (or other information centre, if there is no ENIC-NARIC);
4.21.
If the joint programme was quality assured and/or accredited as such, reference to the responsible quality assurance and accreditation agencies should be included (section 6.2);
4.22.
Where available, reference to each of the national registers with recognised higher education institutions and/or programmes should be included (section 6.2);
4.23.
If the signatures on the Diploma Supplement (section 7) are different from the signatures on the joint degree certificate, the Diploma Supplement should explain why this is the case;
4.24.
The presented information on the higher education system (section 8) should at least include the systems from which the graduate has obtained its degree.

 


Other explanatory documentation

The use of the Diploma Supplement is strongly encouraged by all those involved in the recognition of degrees in higher education. If however awarding such a document is not legally possible, it is recommended to produce the required information by other means. This can be either generic or personalised. Generic can be through a separate document or a separate webpage. It is recommended that each graduation class should have a separate webpage and that these webpages are archived and thus easily traceable. The inclusion of the information presented below can be considered a good practice.

To identify the awarded qualification:

  • The qualification’s original full name(s) (as included on the joint degree) with reference to all relevant (sub)national legal frameworks;
  • Where applicable, the awarded (professional) title(s) in its original language(s) according to all relevant (sub)national legal frameworks;
  • If a graduate receives other national degrees alongside the joint degree (i.e. the joint degree is part of a multiple degree arrangement), this should be included;

To identify the consortium offering the joint programme:

  • All the members of the consortium offering the joint programme, identified through their full original names and where relevant translations;
  • For each of these institutions: status, role in the joint programme and whether it is involved in awarding the joint degree;

To identify the joint programme:

  • Field(s) of study including, where relevant, the official national field(s) of study;
  • Language(s) of instruction and assessment and, if more than one language is used, how these languages are used (e.g. balance in credits, master’s thesis in national language);
  • The level and context of the programme (qualification) in all the higher education systems of the awarding institutions (where applicable, in all the relevant national qualifications frameworks);
  • The official workload (and/or length) of the programme and, where reference is made to credits, an explanation about the credit system(s) used by the joint programme consortium;
  • The overall admission requirements such as the level and subject-specific requirements which give access to the programme (e.g. reference to overarching qualifications frameworks);
  • The overall learning outcomes of the joint programme;

To identify the graduate’s achievement:

  • The programme details, including information about the individual study pathway of the graduate, which includes the programme components (with full name, credits and grade acquired by the graduate) and the institution that offered that part of the curriculum;
  • An explanation of the grading system(s) referred to under the programme details, i.e. the individual study pathway of the graduate;

To understand the awarded qualification:

  • Indicate to which further studies the qualification gives access. This refers to academic and/or professional study, especially leading to any specific qualifications, or levels of study for each of the awarding institutions’ higher education systems;
  • Details of any rights to practise, or professional status accorded to the holder of this qualification in the countries of the awarding institutions to which the graduate has access;
  • Information about the higher education systems from which the graduate has obtained its degree;

Additional information:

  • A (perma)link to the website of the joint programme;
  • Information about the coordinating institution or contact point where the recipient of the document can contact the joint programme with additional questions;
  • Contact information about the competent quality assurance and/or accreditation bodies under which competency the joint programme falls;
  • Where available, reference to a national register with recognised higher education institutions and/or programmes.


Source


See also