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Quality assurance: accredited programmes

A foreign qualification cannot be properly evaluated without taking into account the official status of the institution awarding the qualification and/or the programme taken. As such the credential evaluator should be establish that:

  • the institution is authorised to award qualifications, which are accepted for academic and professional purposes in the home country, and/or:
  • programme is accredited.

The fact that an institution and/or the programme is recognised or accredited indicates that the qualification in question represents an appropriate minimum level of education in that particular country.


Differing terms may be used to describe the status of the institution or programme in each country. The two most common are “recognition” and “accreditation”. They are often used interchangeably, but they are not synonyms.

  • Recognition refers to the official status granted by national legislation. Institutions that fulfill the requirements set in national legislation and have official degree-granting authority are considered to be recognised, though a different term may be used.
  • Accreditation is a formal decision by a recognised authority which has verified whether the institution and/or the programme meets the predefined minimum quality standards.

    Accreditation is usually a voluntary process and is granted for a specified number of years, after which the institution or programme has to request re-accreditation. The differences in the way accreditation is applied in different countries may include the government involvement and the extent to which the procedure is really voluntary. In most countries acceptance of the qualifications depends on whether the institution or/and the programme is accredited, so though it may be a voluntary process, there is in fact little choice.   

    In some countries institutions are first granted a permit or license to operate as an educational entity (possibly for a limited amount of time while the decision is being reviewed). Licensing is not equivalent to accreditation and does not necessarily require demonstration of quality. To be granted accreditation, a licensed institution has to go through the accreditation procedure. It is the accreditation that grants the institution the right to award officially recognised qualifications as well as access to public funding.
  • Quality assurance is another term used in the discussions of the recognition and accreditation of institutions and programmes. Quality Assurance in higher education includes the policies, procedures and practices that are designed to achieve, maintain or enhance the quality of the institution and/or the programme.

Generally qualifications awarded by recognised institutions are considered to be recognised. However, in some countries recognition/accreditation of a programme is separate from the recognition/accreditation of an institution. In other words, it is possible for recognised institutions to offer programmes that are not officially recognised and for non-recognised institutions to offer recognised programmes.


Credential evaluators should verify the status of the institution and/or programme through which the qualification was awarded and check whether the institution and/or programme belong to the education system of a given country.


Further information


Credential evaluators should rely on accreditation or quality assurance by competent bodies as evidence that an institution or programme complies with minimum quality standards.


It is possible to find official information of quality assurance aspects in ENIC-NARIC countries on the Quality Assurance in Higher Education section available on each country page on the right column.


For more detailed information on quality assurance aspects in other countries, please visit the UNESCO Regions section of this website and/or directly contact the national authority of the relevant country.


See also:


Bologna Process - Quality Assurance


European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA)


European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR) 

International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education


Arab Network for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ANQAHE)


Asia-Pacific Quality Network (APQN)


Network on Education Quality Monitoring in the Asia-Pacific (NEQMAP)

Recognised HEIs section