Joint degree explanation

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The Recommendation on the Recognition of Joint Degrees gives the following definition of the term joint degree:

“A joint degree should, for the purposes of this Recommendation, be understood as referring to a higher education qualification issued jointly by at least two or more higher education institutions or jointly by one or more higher education institutions and other awarding bodies, on the basis of a study programme developed and/or provided jointly by the higher education institutions, possibly also in cooperation with other institutions.
A joint degree may be issued as
a) a joint diploma in addition to one or more national diplomas;
b) a joint diploma issued by the institutions offering the study programme in question without being accompanied by any national diploma;
c) one or more national diplomas issued officially as the only attestation of the joint qualification in question.”[1]

It is generally understood that this definition has tried to capture all the types of documents awarded by joint programmes.

Part a) of the definition seems to indicate that institutions involved award two degrees: a national degree and a joint degree. It is unlikely that both these degrees would be acknowledged as the nationally recognised higher education qualification. This type of joint award is now referred to as a cover certificate. The institutions award their own national degrees and in addition they award a cover certificate jointly. The cover certificate is however not a recognised award, the underlying national degrees are.
Part b) of the definition is now commonly understood to refer to a joint degree.
Part c) of the definition is nowadays regarded as the award of a single or a multiple degree.

The Methodological Report of ENQA’s TEEP II project[2] also assessed the validity of the Recommendation’s definition and reported that the definitions do not take into account the legality of the diploma or the document(s) issued. The report concluded that “the definitions in the Recommendation are therefore not as widely accepted as they could have been”. The Methodological Report of the TEEP II project therefore proposed its own definition of a joint degree:

“A joint diploma issued by the institutions offering a joint programme in place of all the national diplomas, attesting the successful completion of this joint programme.”

This definition brings us closer to the current realities of joint qualifications or joint degrees across Europe. We can see the following characteristics:

  • A joint degree is awarded after successful completion of a joint programme;
  • The joint degree is awarded jointly by higher education institutions that offer the programme (but not necessarily by all);
  • The institutions involved in the joint degree do not award any other (national) degree indicating that the awarded joint degree is nationally acknowledged as the recognised award of the joint programme;
  • The joint degree is the recognised and only attestation of the qualification.

We can therefore conclude that a joint degree is defined as follows:

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


  • Aerden, A., Reczulska, H., 2013. Guidelines for Good Practice for Awarding Joint Degrees. ECA Occasional Paper. The Hague. p. 36-37.

See also


  1. Committee of the Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications. 2004. Recommendation on the Recognition of Joint Degrees.
  2. ENQA. 2006. Methodological report of the Transnational European Evaluation Project II, p. 10.