Practical Guidelines for Joint Programmes on Degree Awarding

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This article brings together the practical guidelines, suggestions and recommendations from several publications. All practical guidelines are to be considered as general guidance for joint programmes.


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

This guide puts forward an overview of important issues related to awarding a joint degree. The following chapter deals with awarding a 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.

Good practice

  • 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;
  • The joint degree includes reference to all relevant (sub)national legal frameworks in accordance to which the degree was awarded;
  • 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;
  • The joint degree is only signed by the competent authority/-ies representing the awarding institutions;
  • The joint degree includes the qualification’s full name(s) as recognised in all the relevant legal frameworks;
  • 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).

Related article: Practical Guidelines for Joint Programmes on the Diploma Supplement

European Commission

Source: European Commission. (2012) Handbook of Excellence – Master Programmes, EMQA – Erasmus Mundus Quality Assessment 2012. Brussels.

This handbook puts forward the following overall challenge and checklist of actions:

Overall Challenge
We detail how students are provided with recognisable degrees and associated information such as Diploma Supplements. We identify how these are effectively ‘joined up’ across all partners.

Checklist of Actions

  • The consortium agreement and the Programme Website clearly communicated the degree that will be awarded to graduates;
  • The Programme clearly communicates to students how fast, and in what form, the Erasmus Mundus Degree will be awarded;
  • Graduates are provided with full transcripts of student achievement in a format that can be accepted by institutions back in their home countries, using ECTS, Diploma Supplement, and Europass standards.
  • There is a clear understanding of how recognition has been considered across EMJPs, and the EACEA Clusters Recommendations for recognition have been reviewed and relevant recommendations are adopted for this Programme.

Good practice
Students expect ideally that the Master Degree Certificate be available with a full transcript of courses, grades, and achievement in an English translation (and ideally to be available in other languages to help potential employers to rapidly assess an application), even if the Certificate and transcript are provided in the national language of the awarding institution. The overall recommendations from the Clusters study into recognition focused on two levels. First there are specific actions for Action 1 Programmes:

  • Understand in detail what recognition challenges exist for the programme;
  • Communicate information transparently to students;
  • Work with partner HEIs to reduce professional and legislative recognition problems for the programme;
  • Empower graduates with timely, rich, and internationally standardised information about their achievements;
  • Work with Erasmus Mundus-wide Alumni networks to ‘harvest’ knowledge about recognition experiences and to maintain a community of graduates ‘recognition ambassadors’ who are active in the labour market.


Source: JOIMAN Network. (2012) Guide to developing and running joint programmes at Bachelor and Master’s level. Bologna.

This guide puts forward the following considerations:

If the procedures, design and content of the Diploma have not been clarified already, the partners should try to clarify most matters relating to the issuing of diplomas during the start-up phase. Regardless of the type of diploma that is issued by the partners, it must be stated on the Diploma and the Diploma Supplement that the degree is a joint degree. If the collaborating institutions choose to issue one diploma from each institution (double/multiple diplomas), the diplomas should include wording stating that the diplomas have been issued for the same joint degree and are only valid if presented together.

The parties must agree on the contents of the Diploma, but the minimum information should include the student’s name on the front page of the Diploma (as written in his/her passport), the student’s date of birth, the name of the issuing institution(s) and the degree that the student has been awarded. The contents and format of the Diploma and the Diploma Supplement should be clarified at least one semester before the first intake of students is expected to complete the degree.

See also