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Automatic Recognition

With the Bucharest Communiqué, adopted in 2012, the countries participating in the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) first committed to the long-term goal of automatic recognition of comparable academic degrees. The original definition in the 2014 report of the EHEA Pathfinder Group on Automatic Recognition is still the basis for the current use of the concept in both the EHEA and European Union: 

“Automatic recognition of a degree leads to the automatic right of an applicant holding a qualification of a certain level to be considered for entry to the labour market or a programme of further study in the next level in any other EHEA-country (access).“

Automatic recognition is therefore the recognition of quality assured comparable degrees at system level (meaning, a bachelor = a bachelor and a master = a master), without having to go through a separate recognition procedure. The foreign degree is recognized on the same level and gives the same academic rights in the country where recognition is sought, as in the country of issuance.

It is important to note that automatic recognition (access) does not imply automatic admission to higher education institutions. The profile and the learning outcomes of the qualification are still subjected to a credential evaluation at programme level, to determine whether the qualification fulfils the specific requirements and criteria for admission to a particular study programme. In most EHEA countries, admission is the prerogative of higher education institutions. The automatic recognition of comparable academic degrees is also not to be confused with the EU system of the automatic recognition of professional qualifications in regulated professions under EU Directive (2005/36/EC).

Since the Bucharest Communiqué, various initiatives have been undertaken to work towards automatic, system-level recognition of quality assured comparable degrees:

  • The European Council Recommendation “promoting automatic mutual recognition of higher education and upper secondary education and training qualifications and the outcomes of learning periods abroad” (2018/C 444/01) reinforces the importance of automatic recognition and aims to make automatic recognition within the European Union a reality by 2025.
  • In the 2020 Rome Ministerial Communiqué, the EHEA Ministers commit to “make the necessary legislative changes to guarantee automatic recognition at system level for qualifications delivered in EHEA countries where quality assurance operates in compliance with the ESG and where a fully operational national qualifications framework has been established.”
  • Regional intergovernmental agreements on Automatic Recognition were established, e.g. in the BalticBaltic-Benelux and Nordic regions.
  • Automatic recognition is also present in bilateral agreements, of which one of the oldest is the bilateral agreement between Italy and Austria, that dates back to 1952.

The 2020 Bologna Process Implementation Report indicates that slightly less than half of the EHEA systems currently recognise qualifications of some other EHEA countries automatically at system-level (for academic purposes), and ten do so for all EHEA countries.