The recognition of competences acquired at higher education institutions is an essential prerequisite for the qualitative and quantitative improvement of mobility and a contribution to flexible learning paths for students.
In practice, recognition means that the recognising higher education institution treats the achievements gained at another higher education institution or in another degree programme as if they had been gained at its own higher education institution or in the same degree programme.
The decision on recognition is made by comparing the competences acquired elsewhere with those required within one's own degree programme. The comparison focuses on the question of whether there is a significant difference between the competences acquired and those to be acquired. The basis for competence-based recognition is - in addition to the quality of the institution at which the qualification was acquired - the learning outcomes achieved at another higher education institution or in another study programme.
In order for recognition to relate to the learning outcomes, a competence-oriented description of the qualification objectives and modules is necessary. Therefore, in order to improve the quality of recognition procedures, it is important to pay attention to programme development.
The most important basis for recognition are the regulations in the higher education acts of the Länder (german only). The regulations relevant to recognition are essentially based on the Lisbon Convention. It is the defining document for the academic recognition of competences acquired at higher education institutions. The "Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region", the so-called Lisbon Convention, was drawn up in 1997 under the auspices of the Council of Europe and UNESCO, ratified in Germany in 2007 and transferred into a federal law on 16 May 2007, the "Law on the Convention of 11 April 1997 on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region" (german only).
The Lisbon Convention contains binding regulations regarding the recognition of qualifications giving access to higher education, the recognition of periods of study and the recognition of completed higher education qualifications. The main principles of the Lisbon Convention are:
- Reversal of the burden of proof: the burden of proof is on the higher education institution to prove that the achievements obtained abroad cannot be recognised due to a substantial difference.
- Substantial difference: Recognition can only be refused if substantial differences are identified. The basis of assessment is the competences acquired.
- Obligation to state reasons for refusal and right of appeal: A refusal of recognition is subject to the obligation to state reasons. If recognition is refused, the applicant has a right of appeal. In addition, an established appeal procedure must be in place.
- Prohibition of discrimination: The assessment of a qualification is carried out without regard to certain characteristics of the applicant.
- Transparency requirement: The procedures and criteria for the assessment and recognition of qualifications must be transparent, uniform and reliable.
- Availability of adequate information: In order to be able to make an appropriate assessment, sufficient information on the foreign qualification must be available. It is the responsibility of the applicant to provide it. The qualification-issuing institution has a corresponding duty to provide information to the applicant or the institution from which recognition is sought, upon request and within a reasonable period of time.
- Reasonable period of time: Recognition decisions must be taken within a reasonable period of time specified in advance.
For states that have not ratified the Lisbon Convention, previous conventions and agreements apply (provided they have been ratified in the state concerned). It should be emphasised that more favourable provisions of other agreements or arrangements (e.g. state bilateral equivalence agreements) are not affected by the Lisbon Convention.
As a rule, the higher education acts of the Länder require higher education institutions to regulate recognition procedures in their (framework) examination regulations. They are therefore of great importance to the individual higher education institution for recognition.
- Lisbon Convention: Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region of 11.04.1997: Text of the Convention and further information, e.g. explanatory report or status of ratification (see number 165)
- Revised Recommendation on Criteria and Procedures for the Assessment of Foreign Qualifications of the Lisbon Recognition Convention Committee of 2010
- Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG) of 2015 (with German translation)
- Common Structural Guidelines of the Länder for the Accreditation of Bachelor's and Master's Study Programmes (german only) (KMK resolution of 10.03.2003 in the version of 04.02.2010) with the corresponding interpretation notes by the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder (Handreichung des Hochschulausschusses der KMK of 25.03.2011) and the Accreditation Council (Zur Auslegung der ländergemeinsamen Strukturvorgaben, Beschluss des AR i. d. F. vom 03.06.2013)
- ECTS Users' Guide in the respective current version
- Qualifications Framework for German Higher Education Qualifications (HQR) (german only)
- European Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning, 2008
Practical advice on the implementation of recognition in higher education institutions can be found in the FAQ (in german language) as well as in the following publications, which were produced in the nexus project:
- Guide to the Recognition of International Study Achievements (short and long version) (in german language).
- Criteria for good recognition and good recognition procedures with frequently asked questions (in german language).
- The European Recognition Manual for Higher Education Institutions - Practical guidelines for credential evaluators and admissions officers to provide fair and flexible recognition of foreign degrees and studies abroad
- Recognition of higher education and recognition of non-university competences: Designing legal regulations (in german language)
- Flyer Study Abroad and Recognition (in german language)
- Anabin (The database of the ZAB provides information on the evaluation of foreign educational certificates) (in german language)
- German ENIC/NARIC (Central Office for Foreign Education (ZAB) in the Secretariat of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany) (in german language)
- EAR-Project (European Area of Recognition)
- ENIC/NARIC-Network (information centers of the EU member states and the states of the Council of Europe as well as UNESCO for recognition issues; ENIC: European National Information Centre, NARIC: National Academic Recognition Information Centre)
- Lisbon Committee (Committee of the Council of Europe which monitors and promotes the implementation of the Lisbon Convention. Issues various explanatory reports and recommendations on the Convention).
- nuffic (Dutch ENIC/NARIC): description of education systems, country profiles and overview of school and academic qualifications worldwide
- Spotlight-Project of the EEA (participation of the HRK)
Recognition at higher education institutions refers to competences, qualifications or achievements that have been attained at higher education institutions and are recognised with the aim of continuing studies in another degree programme or at another higher education institution. Recognition can refer to individual modules or entire degrees. The basis for recognition in Germany is the Lisbon Convention, which focuses on the examination with regard to a substantial difference in the acquisition of competences and regards recognition as the rule, as well as the respective state higher education laws.