Automatic recognition: a necessity

By 2020, all countries within the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) will be required to automatically recognize each other's bachelor's and master's degrees.

Nuffic, together with partners from other European recognition centers, has investigated how this can be realised. The policy paper is now available.

To promote student mobility, mutual recognition of foreign diplomas is of great importance. Automatic recognition takes this a step further. When it is fully implemented, a bachelor's degree obtained in one country will be automatically accepted as a bachelor in another country. In light of the 2020 deadline, there is little time to waste in making sure automatic recognition is applied by all countries in the EHEA.

4 models

Together with partners from the ENIC-NARIC network (national recognition centers), Nuffic has made an inventory of current recognition practices. Countries can decide for themselves how they deal with the recognition of qualifications. The inventory shows that there are 4 models for automatic recognition. In the policy paper 'A short path to automatic recognition: 4 models' the advantages and disadvantages of each model are explained.

A short path to automatic recognition - 4 models‌ (962.9 kB)

“The most important conclusion is that automatic recognition at the systemic level can be applied in a very practical way ", says Bas Wegewijs, recognition expert at Nuffic. "The Netherlands is an example. Our online descriptions of foreign education systems include tables with standardized evaluations of relevant diplomas. So in practice we apply automatic recognition, but we still need to clarify which countries and which qualifications are included. It would be good to make that more visible."

Benelux agreement

Another model is the Benelux agreement, a legal treaty that establishes mutual recognition of qualifications between The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. "It took a number of years before this agreement could be signed because the law had to be amended. If you want to extend this to all countries of the EHEA, it would be very time-consuming," says Wegewijs.

"The Benelux model does not have our preference as there are easier ways to proceed. Another example is Portugal. The recognition authority has drawn up a list of countries whose qualifications are automatically recognized. This recognition does not have to be mutual and the approach works well in practice".

According to Wegewijs, it is certainly feasible to achieve automatic recognition in 2020 in a large part of the EHEA. "Many countries already do a lot in practice. Making this more visible and transparent, will help to accelerate recognition of foreign qualifications."

As part of the Sorbonne process, the European Commission recently placed mutual recognition of qualifications high on the political agendas. Nuffic hopes that the findings and recommendations presented in the policy paper can make a useful contribution to the practical implementation of these ambitions.

Sorbonne process

The policy paper is produced as part of the New Paradigms in Recognition project. The project consortium is composed of representatives from the ENIC-NARIC network: NARIC France, NARIC Denmark, NARIC Lithuania, NARIC Norway, NARIC Portugal, NARIC Ireland, NARIC Slovenia, NARIC Flanders and NARIC The Netherlands. The project is co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union.

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