Recognition of qualifications in the European Union

The Treaty on European Union makes provision for the free movement of persons in its article number eight. In particular, that freedom of movement is rendered by the right to carry out work as an employee or in a self-employed capacity and the right for young people and students to train in countries belonging to the European Union and countries belonging to the European Economic Area.

Exercising that right to freedom of movement is often connected with gaining professional or academic recognition of qualifications obtained in the country of origin or in another European country.
 

Professional recognition

Academic recognition

European Information Centres

ENIC-NARIC network website

Professional recognition

La situation à l'égard de la reconnaissance est différente, selon que la profession dont l'exercice est envisagé, est réglementée dans l'État d'accueil, c'est-à-dire subordonnée à la possession d'un ou de plusieurs titres de formation délivrés dans cet Etat, ou non soumise à une réglementation nationale.

The situation with regard to recognition differs depending on whether practice of the profession concerned is regulated in the host State, that is, if practice is conditional upon possession of one or more vocational training qualifications delivered in that State, or whether practice of that profession is not subject to any specific national regulation.

European Community legislation provides for automatic recognition of qualifications though the application of sectoral directives for various relevant professions, mainly in the medical or paramedical sectors. For other regulated professions, the European Commission has adopted two directives, 89/48 CEE and 92/51 CEE, establishing a general system for the recognition of qualifications. These directives allow all fully qualified persons to gain recognition of professional qualifications obtained by them in their country of origin in order to practice the regulated profession in another member State. However, these two directives do not establish a system for automatic recognition of qualifications and the migrant may be subject to "compensatory measures" if the training he or she has received differs substantially from that required to practice professionally in the host country. Each member State has a limited number of regulated professions. All information on these professions and on access procedures may be obtained from the point of contact and from information regarding the application of directives.

If a profession is not regulated in the host State, approval of qualifications and of professional standards is the remit of the employer. However, individuals may encounter difficulties in gaining recognition of their professional qualifications at their true value and may find it difficult to find work at a professional level corresponding to their qualifications. In this event, he or she may appeal to information centres in the host country. Indeed, in each European country, national information centres associated with the NARIC (National Academic Recognition Information Centres) network or, in some countries, information centres that have been assigned exclusively to provide information on recognition of professional qualifications, are authorised to answer questions and issue accreditation of qualifications.


Academic recognition



This allows a young person or student to undertake or pursue a course of study in another member State, either individually or as part of an organised programme for mobility (e.g. EC programmes such as SOCRATES or LEONARDO, bilateral exchange programmes, etc.).
In the latter case, recognition of qualifications is generally specified in exchange agreements, or by application of the European Community Course Credit Transfer System (ECTS).

In most European countries, further education establishments are autonomous in matters of admissions criteria and decision-making. Nevertheless, some countries have retained a centralised system which confers decision-making power to the competent ministry for higher education (Belgium, Finland, Luxembourg, Spain) or to bodies created for that specific purpose (Greece).

European Community member States and States belonging to the European Economic Area have signed up to multilateral agreements of the Council of Europe regarding:
  • access to universities (11 December 1953),
  • equivalence of study periods (15 December 1956),
  • academic recognition of university qualifications (15 December 1959), and the UNESCO European Region Convention on the Recognition of Studies, Diplomas and Degrees concerning Higher Education in the States belonging to the European Region (21 December 1979).

A single Council of Europe/UNESCO Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region, substituting prior existing conventions, was adopted by the Lisbon Recognition Convention on 11 April 1997.

European Information Centres



These centres are aimed at providing useful information on all aspects of recognition procedures in the countries concerned. Organisation varies according to the country.  Where a single information centre is specified, it provides information on academic and professional recognition and is also a "point of contact" for information on regulated professions. A list of them can be consulted on the ENIC-NARIC network website.