Between January 2015 and June 2017 these institutions streamlined their recognition procedures concerning the selection and admission of international students. The outcomes were used to make concrete recommendations on improving recognition procedures. Not just at the 22 participating institutions, but in the 6 countries involved and at European level as well.
What is automatic recognition?
Automatic recognition means that the recognition of a degree automatically makes the degree holder eligible for a follow-up study programme in any EHEA country.
Automatic recognition thus standardises recognition at the system level (‘a bachelor is a bachelor is a bachelor’). It will, however, always be necessary to evaluate at the programme level whether the applicant is likely to succeed in the goal for which recognition is sought.
Automatic recognition has been an objective within the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) right from its creation in 1999. The concept was revisited a few years ago, when the ‘Pathfinder Group on Automatic Recognition’ was founded. The FAIR project takes on one of the main recommendations of this group: to explore how this concept can be taken on board in higher education institutions.
FAIR is funded under Erasmus+ Key Action 3 ‘Policy Experimentation’. This new Key Action focuses on implementing new policies. FAIR is one of the first eight projects to have been selected under this programme.
The benefits of automatic recognition will be explored in two trials:
- a baseline assessment of current recognition procedures;
- field trials to assess the benefits of elements of automatic recognition.
The field trials will be evaluated by the European University Association (EUA).
FAIR has stakeholders at three levels:
- Ministries of Education, responsible for recognition policies and (adaptations of) national recognition structures.
- ENIC-NARICs, with their expertise as national information centres on recognition issues, and national Rectors’ Conferences;
- Higher education institutions, that will conduct the field trials.
The project alsos involve the European Consortium for Accreditation (ECA). Especially with regard to the revised European Standards & Guidelines (ESG), which recommends recognition to be part of the quality assurance process.
The FAIR project is part of the first round of Erasmus+ Key Action 3 ‘Policy Experimentation’ projects.
This is a new type of action line that is characterised by the following elements:
1. A trial to produce sound evidence, to be used for future policy initiatives.
The FAIR trials are guided by the European University Association (EUA), an organisation with broad experience in research and assessments in the higher education sector. All relevant public authorities and stakeholders should be involved in the project to ensure that the envisaged policy change can be achieved. For FAIR these are:
- the Ministries of Education;
- the National Recognition and Information centres (ENIC-NARICs);
- a sample of higher education institutions.
2. The trials should lead to results that could be upscaled to recommendations on a national and European level. Moreover, implementation plans on national level are foreseen.
Hypothesis and trials
The hypothesis tested in the FAIR project is: “The implementation of elements of automatic recognition will lead to better institutional recognition procedures”.
Therefore a straightforward ‘before and after’ comparison is chosen, to be executed in two trials. In the first trial, a baselines assessment is made of the recognition procedures of 22 institutions. After this trial, the ENIC-NARICs analyse the outcomes and recommend the implementation of elements of automatic recognition to each of the higher education institutions.
Next, the impact of these changes in the recognition procedures is measured in a second trial.
The progress between trial 1 and 2 is measured through an assessment form with pre-set indicators, that is completed by the 22 higer education institutions in both trials.
The outcomes of the trials lead to recommendations on a national and European level. These are formulated by the Ministries of Education together with the ENIC-NARICs, and are reviewed by and External Evaluator -or ‘Critical Friend’: the Danish Agency for Higher Education.
The recommendations and corresponding steps for implementation are discussed with the relevant stakholders -notably admissions officers - at a series of National Dissemination Meetings.
Baseline assessment form FAIR (525.8 kB) (used for trial 1 and 2)
Early 2017 six National Dissemination Conferences were held in the countries participating in the FAIR project. At these conferences, the outcomes of the FAIR project and the national implementation of its recommendations were discussed with admissions officers and relevant stakeholders.
Conference date: 14 February 2017
Location: Meeting Plaza Utrecht
Conference date: 27 February 2017
Location: Ministry for Science and Education, Zagreb
Conference date: 10 March 2017
Location: Hendrik Consciencegebouw, Brussels
Conference date: 10 March 2017
Location: Permanent Representation of the Land Sachsen-Anhalt, Berlin
Conference date: 7 March 2017
Location: Ministry of Higher Education, Rome
No national exploitation meeting held
EAIE meeting in 2016
Preliminary results of the FAIR project were also shared in Liverpool during the EAIE meeting in 2016.
Outcomes and publications
Below you will find the main outcomes of the FAIR project.
The FAIR report is essential reading for anyone dealing with the improvement of recognition procedures in the European Higher Education Area.
It provides a unique insight into the day-to-day recognition practice at higher education institutions and the impact of national recognition structures on recognition processes at large. It goes beyond existing descriptions of national procedures (TRENDS, Bologna Stocktaking) and sheds new light on how to further improve the recognition of foreign qualifications in Europe.
FAIR reports trial 1 (3.0 MB) (zip file)
FAIR reports trial 2 (1.1 MB) (zip file)
The FAIR Consortium consists of the following 37 partners:
Higher education institutions
The ministries of education of:
The ENIC-NARIC offices in:
ENIC-NARIC Denmark (as transnational evaluator)
Howard Davies, EUA:
“FAIR significantly contributes to our knowledge on the daily realities, practices and challenges at institutional level and thus facilitates finding solutions”.
Susanna Cavagna, University of Trento:
"Our University received an important "push" from the FAIR project in intensifying the awareness and the consciousness related to the procedure of the evaluation of foreign degree, most of all from the point of view of the student."
Hester van den Blink, Dutch Ministry of Education:
"FAIR is the first project to take up the recommendations of the pathfinder group on automatic recognition and systematically test the effects of introducing elements of automatic recognition in institutional recognition procedures"
Contacts and useful links
The FAIR project is coordinated by Nuffic on behalf of the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.
Do you have any questions? Please contact Ms Jenneke Lokhoff or Mr Bas Wegewijs through our contact form, or our general telephone number.
For more information about fair recognition procedures, please check:
The European recognition manual (second edition)
Any communication or publication related to the action, made by the beneficiaries jointly or individually in any form and using any means, shall indicate that it reflects only the author's view and that the Agency and the Commission are not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.