Automating recognition of academic qualifications

The Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education (NOKUT – Norwegian ENIC-NARIC) has just introduced a new service for the automatic recognition of comparable higher education qualifications from Nordic countries. The service* is a voluntary supplement to NOKUT’s formal recognition scheme for higher education qualifications.

Applicants can download a standardised recognition statement for each of the Nordic countries that details the higher education qualifications which are automatically recognised by NOKUT and how each qualification compares with Norwegian qualifications. The statement is immediately available for use in job and university applications.

The Nordic countries have cooperated closely for many years in education and research and have long-standing agreements that give Nordic applicants access to schools and higher education on the same terms as domestic applicants.

In November 2016, the education ministers of the Nordic countries – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden – signed the Revised Reykjavik Declaration, which aims to introduce automatic recognition between the Nordic countries.

Yerevan communiqué

The Nordic efforts are part of a wider European push towards automatic recognition of foreign education qualifications on the same level as relevant domestic qualifications.

Education ministers from the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) first set a goal of automatic recognition of higher education qualifications from other countries in the EHEA in the 2015 Yerevan Communiqué. However, this has been difficult to achieve in practice, partly because of asymmetric implementation of the Bologna reforms in the EHEA.

In May this year, the European Commission proposed a Council Recommendation on the Automatic Mutual Recognition of Diplomas and Learning Periods Abroad, bringing automatic recognition back on top of the agenda. The goal is to introduce mutual automatic recognition by 2025, which means that holders of qualifications will not have to go through a separate recognition procedure to access further studies in another European Union country.

As shown in the PARADIGMS project, led by the Dutch ENIC-NARIC, NUFFIC, the implementation of automatic recognition will not be the same from country to country. Differences in national educational systems, legal frameworks and institutional autonomy are among the factors that will contribute to this.

Innovation and best practice

The Norwegian approach is an innovative implementation of de facto automatic recognition, as it applies to countries with an education system that meets a minimum set of requirements. However, the way NOKUT combines automatic recognition with a system of legally binding recognition decisions may serve as an example of best practice for implementation of automatic recognition.

The introduction of automatic recognition of comparable qualifications from the Nordic countries is only a first step: NOKUT will use the same approach to introduce automatic recognition of comparable qualifications from EHEA countries and possibly also for countries outside Europe as well.

* The new recognition service is available in English.

Terje Mørland is director general of the Norwegian Agency of Quality Assurance in Education (NOKUT). Stig Arne Skjerven is director of foreign education in NOKUT (Norwegian ENIC-NARIC) and president of the ENIC Network – European Network of Information Centres.