Automatic mutual recognition of diplomas in Europe: state of play


Erasmus+ CZELO

How has the situation developed over the past four years and how is the Czech Republic doing?

The European Commission has published a new report mapping the latest developments in the field of automatic mutual recognition of higher education, upper secondary education and training qualifications and outcomes of learning periods abroad. The report includes, among other things, a traffic light system that offers a comprehensive overview of the progress made so far by each Member State. It shows what legislative and other measures were adopted in each country, as well as what further steps need to be taken.

By adopting the Council Recommendation on promoting automatic mutual recognition in 2018, the EU Member States committed to take the necessary steps to enable the mutual recognition of qualifications by 2025. Automatic recognition is key for educational mobility (not only within the Erasmus+ programme), establishing the European Education Area and it also figures as one of the main initiatives within the European Strategy for Universities.

Current state of play in the EU

Some progress has already been achieved in the field of higher education, especially within the framework of the Bologna Process and the Lisbon Recognition Treaty; also many bilateral and multilateral agreements between member states (e.g. the agreement between the Benelux and the Baltic countries) have been established. Nevertheless, the ambition of the Council Recommendation is to support Member States to deepen mutual cooperation and recognition even further, based on the Bologna transparency tools (i.e. the European Qualifications Framework EQF, the ECTS credit system, the issuance of diploma supplement etc.).

The report shows that some of the necessary conditions set out in the Council Recommendation have still not been fully adopted across the EU:

  • National legislation allows automatic recognition of higher education qualifications only in 12 member states, while another 3 member states are in the process of adapting their legislation, and another 9 countries have recognition available only for a limited number of EU member states;

  • The Bologna transparency tools are implemented in most of the EU countries, yet in 11 member states not fully, which is limiting the mutual trust;

  • 14 member states have a national guidance in place;

  • Only 7 member states have monitoring and analysis of the automatic recognition processes on the central level in place. 

2023_CZELO_Automatic recognition graf

Challenges and obstacles

Legislation is essential, but not the only condition for successful automatic mutual recognition. There is also a need to introduce a number of supportive tools that increase mutual trust and transparency (European Standard and Guidelines for Quality Assurance (ESG); registration in EQAR, etc.), improve national support for institutions, increase capacities and set up a regular monitoring.

The authors of the report also draw attention to other obstacles, in particular to the decentralization of processes – only in 3 member states the decision making on recognition is done centrally, in the other countries this power is entrusted to higher education institutions (this might increase the risk of inconsistency). The common confusion between the terms automatic recognition and automatic admission is also complicating the situation. One of the reasons for this misunderstanding of terminology is the fact that these processes are often dealt with at the institutional level together.

Situation in the Czech Republic

In 2018, automatic recognition was already anchored in the national legislation of 8 member states. During the last 4 years, another 4 countries took the necessary steps based on the Council Recommendation. Another 3 countries are currently in the process of adapting their legislation – Slovakia, Greece and the Czech Republic. At the same time, the Czech Republic is preparing a new multilateral agreement with Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.

. Kreditový systém ECTS je rozšířen ve všech členských státech (byť míra ukotvenosti v legislativě se liší), stejně tak dodatek k diplomu je vydáván ve 23 zemích automaticky a zdarma, v dalších 3 nepovinně (v Irsku za dodatečný poplatek). 

The implementation of the Bologna process tools necessary for automatic recognition still varies a lot across the EU. For example, 22 out of 27 countries use EQAR-registered agencies and the Czech Republic is among 5 countries that are currently in the process of applying for EQAR. The ECTS credit system is used in all member states (although the legislative approach varies) and the diploma supplement is issued automatically and free of charge in 23 countries, in another 3 it´s optional (in Ireland for an additional fee).

Upper secondary education and training

In the field of upper secondary education and vocational training, the automatic recognition seems to be a bit more challenging goal. The situation has not changed much since the adoption of the Council Recommendation. The processes of automatic recognition of qualifications are relatively well developed in 15 member states, 5 countries have not yet set up recognition process at all. The Czech Republic is on of the countries that have bilateral or multilateral agreements in place (with Slovakia).

Recognition of outcomes from learning periods abroad is still not automatic in most Member States. Only 8 countries recognize the outputs in line with the Recommendation, while 10 member states do not offer any form of standardized recognition procedure.

In addition to this report, the Commission also published a study with important findings on progress in the implementation of the Council Recommendation. Read the summary and more information on the European Education Area website.