Recognition of Academic Qualifications

Quality assurance and recognition are essential for any concept of a European Higher Education Area to function effectively for citizens. Quality assurance is one of the main ways to develop and ensure trust, and recognition of qualifications cannot take place without trust.

Fair recognition of foreign qualifications is both a technical goal of the Bologna Process, and part of the set of fundamental values underpinning the EHEA. The EHEA cannot be an open, inclusive and attractive space for students unless recognition practice is predictable, reliable and fair. For any mobile or potentially mobile learner, it is essential that credits earned and qualifications gained will be recognised in the home and other countries. 

Recognition is therefore a principle that has to be made operational and fully effective if mobility and exchange are to underpin the EHEA.

Instruments and tools

Various instruments aiming at facilitating fair recognition of foreign qualifications and/or study periods abroad have been developed and adopted at the European, national, regional and institutional level.

The Lisbon Recognition Convention (LRC)(6) is a Council of Europe/UNESCO convention providing a common and binding legal basis for recognition across countries in Europe. Two networks – the European Network of Information Centres in the European Region (ENIC) and the National Academic Recognition Information Centres in the European Union (NARIC) work together to provide up-to-date information on current issues in international academic and professional mobility, and on procedures for the recognition of foreign qualifications.

Tools such as ECTS, the Diploma Supplement, national qualifications frameworks and the overarching European qualifications frameworks, as well as the
Standards and Guidelines for quality assurance in the European Higher Education (ESG) also serve to improve recognition policy and practice.


Yet despite the many efforts made in the area of recognition, previous reporting has shown that actual recognition practice commonly falls short of expectations with regard to transparency, consistency and fairness.

This may be partly a result of insufficient understanding of the legal framework in which recognition decisions take place, but may also occur in higher education institutions because of a poor level of awareness among staff who are responsible for implementing recognition procedures. There has also been considerable conceptual confusion, even among those who may have responsibility for taking decisions, on the difference between recognition and admission. Thus the distinction between a decision on whether or not to admit a student to a particular programme may be conflated with the decision about whether or not a particular qualification is recognised.

Stimulus for progress 

Several policy level actions should now provide a stimuluts to make progress in this area. Notably,

  • recognition is now embedded in the ESG (Standard 1.4);
  • renewed commitments have been made in the Yerevan Communiqué upon the recommendations of the Pathfinder Group on automatic recognition (EHEA Pathfinder Group on Automatic Recognition, 2014);
  • and the Convention Committee of the Lisbon Recognition Convention has pursued monitoring of the implementation of the Lisbon Recognition Convention, with a report published in 2016 highlighting weaknesses in naitonal implementation (UNESCO and Council of Europe 2016).

(from the Bologna Implementation Report 2018)