The recognition of learning experiences abroad
The Commission published a proposal for a Council Recommendation on promoting automatic mutual recognition of higher education and upper secondary education diplomas and the outcomes of learning periods abroad. The Recommendation was adopted by the Council in November 2018.
Improving procedures for the mutual recognition of qualifications in EU Member States is a cornerstone of establishing a European Education Area by 2025.
Learning mobility fosters the development of key competences and experiences that are crucial for active participation in society and in the labour market. This was shown in the recent mid-term evaluation of the Erasmus+ programme, which reported on the positive impact of mobility on learners’ confidence, independence, social integration and the creation of a sense of European identity.
In the context of a globalised education and employment environment, it is essential that students are able to make the best possible use of all learning opportunities across the EU. Consultations with stakeholders earlier this year showed strong support for EU action in this area. Respondents confirmed that recognition procedures are often slow, left to the discretion of individual institutions, not sufficiently transparent and may impose extra cost to a student.
Particularly at secondary level, recognition of both upper secondary qualifications and outcomes of learning periods abroad varies greatly from one country to another. Young people who want to study for a longer period abroad during secondary education, or to access higher education in another EU Member State, often lack information and certainty about the recognition of their qualifications and competences.
The Council Recommendation
With the Council Recommendation, EU Member States make a political commitment to take steps to introduce automatic recognition by 2025. This will be accompanied by actions that will build trust in each other’s education systems, and support Member States to improve recognition to facilitate learning mobility.
In the field of higher education, the Recommendation builds on progress already made in other fora, notably the Bologna Process and the Lisbon Recognition Convention, as well as through multilateral agreements between groups of EU Member States, such as the Benelux Decision on automatic recognition of higher education qualifications and the agreement of Baltic countries.
It also promotes the further use of existing tools which can support the recognition of qualifications and the outcomes of learning periods abroad, such as Europass, the European Qualifications Framework, the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS), the Diploma Supplement and the European Credit System for Vocational Education and Training, among others.
At upper secondary level, the proposed Recommendation aims to improve recognition processes for qualifications required to access higher education, including vocational education and training qualifications. It will also promote the recognition of the outcomes of learning periods abroad at this level.
Progress towards implementation
The Commission has published an assessment report that presents the progress made on the automatic and mutual recognition of qualifications from higher and upper secondary education and training, four years after the adoption of the Council Recommendation. The report also presents the progress towards automatic recognition of outcomes of learning periods abroad.
The full implementation by all EU Member States would constitute an essential building block of the European Education Area, as it would facilitate the mobility of learners across the EU. For instance, a student with a Bachelor diploma should be eligible to pursue a Master programme in all other Member States and not only in their own Member State.
The report uses a traffic light system that presents the progress made so far by each Member State. It also presents the remaining steps needed to ensure the necessary framework conditions, trust and transparency within their education systems. The Commission sees a continued need to increase efforts towards the full implementation of the Council Recommendation by 2025.
Read the Report from the Commission to the Council on the implementation of the Council Recommendation on promoting automatic mutual recognition of higher education and upper secondary education and training qualifications and the outcomes of learning periods abroad
The Commission has also published a study containing important insights into the progress towards implementation of the Council Recommendation. Access below the study's evaluation report and the executive summary.