Recognition of degrees and qualifications within the European Union

Professional recognition

The Commission of European communities has adopted two directives (89/48 CEE & 92/51 CEE) instituting a general system of diploma recognition. These directives allow any qualified person to obtain recognition of professional qualifications acquired in the country of origin, in order to practice a regulated profession in another member state.

Where the profession is not regulated in the receiving state, the evalution of the certification and the professional level is left to the discretion of the employer.

Academic recognition

In the majority of European countries, the establishments of higher education are autonomous as concerns admission decisions. Some countries have nevertheless retained a centralised system which grants the power of decision to the ministry in charge of higher education (Belgium, Spain, Finland, Luxembourg) or to organisations created to this end (Greece).

A student can also begin or continue studies in another member state within the framework of student mobility, individual or organised (e.g., SOCRATES or LEONARDO programmes), wherein the diploma credit units come into play.

The European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS)

"[Ministers] note that ECTS is increasingly becoming a generalised basis for the national credit systems. They encourage further progress with the goal that the ECTS becomes not only a transfer but also an accumulation system, to be applied consistently as it develops within the emerging European Higher Education Area." -
From the Berlin Communiqué of Ministers responsible for Higher Education, September 2003 (Bologna Process).

What is a credit system?

A credit system is a systematic way of describing an educational programme by attaching credits to its components. The definition of credits in higher education systems may be based on different parameters, such as student workload, learning outcomes and contact hours.

What is ECTS?

The European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System is a student-centred system based on the student workload required to achieve the objectives of a programme, objectives preferably specified in terms of the learning outcomes and competences to be acquired.

Why introduce ECTS?

ECTS makes study programmes easy to read and compare for all students, local and foreign. ECTS facilitates mobility and academic recognition. ECTS helps universities to organise and revise their study programmes. ECTS can be used across a variety of programmes and modes of delivery. ECTS makes European higher education more attractive for students from abroad.

What are the key features of ECTS?

ECTS is based on the principle that 60 credits measure the workload of a full-time student during one academic year. The student workload of a full-time study programme in Europe amounts in most cases to around 1500-1800 hours per year and in those cases one credit stands for around 25 to 30 working hours.

Credits in ECTS can only be obtained after successful completion of the work required and appropriate assessment of the learning outcomes achieved.

Student workload in ECTS consists of the time required to complete all planned learning activities such as attending lectures, seminars, independent and private study, preparation of projects and examinations.

Credits are allocated to all educational components of a study programme and reflect the quantity of work each component requires to achieve its specific objectives or learning outcomes in relation to the total quantity of work necessary to complete a full year of study successfully.

The performance of the student is documented by a local/national grade. It is good practice to add an ECTS grade, in particular in case of credit transfer.

- The European Commission
- The French Ministry of National Education, Higher Learning and Research

Dernière modification : 20/09/2006

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