Council Recommendation on promoting automatic mutual recognition of qualifications and learning periods abroad

The objective of the Recommendation is to ensure that every student, apprentice or pupil in the EU who has completed a learning experience abroad can have that experience automatically recognised for the purposes of further study.

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.