- 1 Recognition
- 1.1 Key messages for practitioners
- 1.2 The Lisbon Convention
- 1.3 The European Approach for Quality Assurance of Joint Programmes
- 1.4 The European Area of Recognition (EAR)
- 1.5 Guidelines for good practice on awarding joint degrees
- 1.6 Sources
When joint programme students obtain their degree, their qualifications will need to be recognised in the countries where they want to pursue further studies or find employment.
Key messages for practitioners
- Multidisciplinarity can cause challenges for national recognition. Therefore, consult the national ENIC-NARIC office, and if necessary, the national education ministries:
- a. when drafting the joint diploma and Diploma Supplement, and
- b. on rights to professions and access to further studies.
- HEIs are advised to consult the Guidelines on Good Practice on awarding Joint Degrees by ECA, mentioned below.
The Lisbon Convention
The Lisbon Recognition Convention (LRC) – in full: the Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region – came into existence in 1997, and is a convention of the Council of Europe and UNESCO. It has been ratified by 47 member states of the Council of Europe, except for Greece and Monaco. Outside of Europe, Canada and the Unites States have not ratified the LRC either. The LRC is a binding international treaty and serves as the foundation of recognition in the European region. Several subsidiary texts have been adopted since. The most relevant ones, in the context of this publication, are the:
- Recommendations on Criteria and Procedures (2001);
- Recommendation on the Recognition of Joint Degrees (2004).
One of the fundamental principles of the LRC is that 'foreign qualifications shall be recognised unless there is a substantial difference between the foreign qualification for which recognition is sought and the corresponding qualification in the host country'. In short, substantial differences are differences considered so severe that they most likely will prevent students from succeeding in getting their qualifications recognised. The burden of proof to determine a substantial difference lies with the competent recognition authority. Transparent procedures and information provision are guaranteed to students and graduates.
The European Approach for Quality Assurance of Joint Programmes
In May 2015, the education ministers of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) have agreed to adopt the European Approach for Quality Assurance of Joint Programmes. This approach is based on one single quality assessment of joint programmes according to agreed standards and procedures, with the accreditation decision to be automatically accepted in all EHEA countries. National governments / quality assurance organsiations may not set any additional national assessment criteria. To date, a few joint programme consortia have already used this single accreditation following the European Approach.
There is still one main hindrance to adopting the use of the European Approach, namely the fact that several EHEA countries have not yet changed their legislation to implement the European Approach, despite the promise of their education ministers in Yerevan (May 2015). Several conferences have been organised to identify action points to encourage the further implementation of the European Approach. Two main conference outcomes are:
- [goo.gl/xe9b1z PLA Outcome HERE-ES Project Quality Assurance of Joint Programmes] (2015);
- [goo.gl/FA48KS The European Approach for Quality Assurance of Joint Programmes, Outcomes Peer Learning Activity, The Hague] (2017).
The European Area of Recognition (EAR)
The LRC and the accompanying recommendations (see above) are legally binding for the states that ratified the treaty, but its principles leave room for interpretation. This has led to differences in recognition practices between countries, which is one of the major obstacles for fair recognition of qualifications and, hence, for student mobility in the European region.
To offer a solution, various initiatives have been launched to streamline recognition practices in the EHEA. One of the examples is the European Area of Recognition (EAR) project, which provides a practical translation of the LRC principles to the ENIC-NARICs. The EAR manual has been recommended by the ministers of education in the Bucharest Communiqué in 2012. In 2014 a new version of the EAR manual, specifically geared towards higher education institutions, was published: the EAR HEI manual.
Guidelines for good practice on awarding joint degrees
The European Consortium for Accreditation (ECA) has developed Guidelines for Good Practice for awarding Joint Degrees. The main aim of these guidelines is to facilitate and improve the full recognition of joint degrees. The guidelines describe the information ENIC-NARICs indicated they need to evaluate a degree resulting from a joint programme.
The following guidelines specify the 'requirements' the consortium needs to fulfil.
- all institutions in the consortium are recognised and/or accredited as higher education institutions in their (sub)national higher education systems;
- all higher education institutions in the consortium fully recognise the joint programme as a programme offered by their institution;
- 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 (that this programme may lead to).
The Joint Programme
The guidelines below specify the 'requirements' for the joint programme.
- the joint programme is offered in accordance with the legal frameworks of the relevant (sub)national higher education systems;
- the joint programme is quality assured and/or accredited as a joint programme.
The Joint Degree
In case a joint programme leads to a joint degree, the ECA guidelines recommend, among other things, that:
- the degree is awarded within the legal framework and the relevant higher education systems;
- the diploma refers to all relevant (sub)national legal frameworks;
- HEI references and signatures must be limited to the degree-awarding institutions;
- the diploma includes the full name of the degree as recognised within all legal frameworks.
The Diploma Supplement
There are detailed guidelines listing particular information to include in the Diploma Supplement (DS) of a joint programme, indicating the exact section of the DS. In cases the Diploma Supplement is not issued (for example for countries outside the EHEA), it is recommended to provide this information in a similar document to be issued alongside the degree.
The Erasmus Mundus Quality Assurance (EMQA) also provides examples in relation to Degrees and Degree Recognition, under 'Comprehensive Course Vision', point 7.
The partner institutions must agree on the procedure, design and content of the diploma. The procedure to deliver the joint diploma must be described in the cooperation agreement. Below are the guidelines for the diploma and the Diploma Supplement:
- Partners must clarify whether the individual universities require students to stay at the institution in order for the name of the institution to be listed on the joint diploma.
- Regardless of the type of diploma that is issued, the diploma and the Diploma Supplement must state that the degree is a joint degree.
- If each collaborating institution chooses to issue a separate diploma, these diplomas should mention that they have been issued for the same joint degree and are only valid if presented together.
Aerden, A. and J. Lokhoff, Framework for fair recognition of joint degrees, ECA, 2013.
ENIC-NARIC network, Information on academic and professional recognition.
Erasmus Mundus, Erasmus Mundus Programme: Cluster on Sustainability and Recognition of Degrees and Joint Degrees website. Brussels, Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency.
European Area of Recognition, EAR Manual.
European Consortium for Accreditation (ECA), Guidelines for Good Practice for Awarding Joint Degrees, 2014.
Lisbon Recognition Convention Committee, Recommendations on Criteria and Procedures, 2001.
Lisbon Recognition Convention Committee, Recommendation on the Recognition of Joint Degrees, 2004.
Becker, R. [goo.gl/FA48KS The European Approach for Quality Assurance of Joint Programmes; Outcomes peer learning Activity, 5-6 October 2017, The Hague, The Netherlands], Nuffic, The Hague, 2017.
HERE-ES Consortium [goo.gl/xe9b1z PLA Outcome Higher Education Reforms in Spain; HERE-ES project Quality Assurance of Joint Programmes, University of Salamanca, 9-10 November 2015], 2015.