The General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), meeting in Paris from 25 October to 16 November 1993, at its twenty-seventh session,
Recalling that, as stated in its Constitution, `The purpose of the Organization is to contribute to peace and security by promoting collaboration among the nations through education, science and culture',
Conscious of the fact that education is a human right, and that higher education, which is instrumental in the pursuit and advancement of knowledge, constitutes an exceptionally rich cultural and scientific asset,
Considering that knowledge is universal, being part of the common heritage of humankind, and that means of making knowledge and learning more accessible to each individual must be sought,
Aware that the great diversity of the cultures and higher education systems existing in the world constitutes an exceptional resource that must be preserved, promoted and fostered,
Considering that higher education increasingly has an international dimension, owing to the rapid expansion and internationalization of knowledge and to the links and solidarity established within the scientific and university community, and that wider access to educational resources worldwide through greater mobility for students, researchers, teachers and specialists is essential to this international dimension,
Considering that, given the great diversity of the laws, regulations, practices and traditions that determine the organization and functions of higher education systems and institutions, and the diversity of the constitutional, legal and regulatory requirements and arrangements regulating the practice of professions, it is essential, for the purpose of access to and pursuance and completion of higher education and for preparation for the practice of professions, to put into practice policies of evaluation of competence that take into account not only the qualifications obtained but also courses of study taken and skills, knowledge and experience acquired,
Bearing in mind the need for mutual recognition of studies and qualifications in higher education by all competent authorities and institutions as a means of increasing mobility of persons and the exchange of ideas, knowledge and scientific and technological experience, and in order ultimately to promote improvements everywhere in the quality of higher education,
Considering that this recognition will also promote:
an overall increase in the number of people able to benefit from higher education,
the best possible use by all countries of the means available for education and training, and the development of human resources,
greater mobility for teachers, students, researchers and professionals,
a reduction in the difficulties encountered by persons who have been trained or educated abroad and who wish to study or practice a profession,
a rapprochement and better understanding between cultures and peoples, with mutual respect for their diversity,
Considering that the six regional conventions on the recognition of studies and qualifications in higher education already adopted under the aegis of UNESCO have proved the worth of international co-operation in this field and that in order to come closer to the ultimate objective set by the General Conference they should be supplemented by a universal standard setting instrument,
Adopts the present Recommendation this thirteenth day of November 1993.
1. For the purposes of this Recommendation and without prejudice to the definitions States may use in their internal administrative systems and laws,
(a) `higher education' means all types of studies, training or training for research at the post-secondary level, provided by universities or other educational establishments, that are approved as institutions of higher education by the competent State authorities;
(b) `qualification in higher education' means any diploma, degree or other qualifying certificate that is awarded by an institution of higher education, or another appropriate authority, that establishes that the holder has successfully completed a course of study and qualifies him or her either to continue to a further stage of study or to practice a profession not requiring further special preparation;
(c) 'partial studies' means any homogeneous fraction of a course at the first stage or at more advanced stages of higher studies that has been evaluated and authenticated and, while not a complete course in itself, can be equated with a significant acquisition of knowledge or skill;
(d) `secondary education' means studies of any kind that follow primary, elementary or basic education and are a prerequisite for admission to higher education;
(e) `recognition' of a foreign qualification in higher education means its acceptance by the competent authorities of the State concerned (whether they be governmental or non-governmental) as entitling its holder to be considered under the same conditions as those holding a comparable qualification awarded in that State and deemed comparable, for the purposes of access to or further pursuit of higher education studies, participation in research, the practice of a profession if this does not require the passing of examinations or further special preparation, or all the foregoing, according to the scope of the recognition;
(f) `recognition' of a foreign certificate of secondary education for the purpose of undertaking studies at the higher level means its acceptance by the competent authorities of the State concerned as entitling its holder to be considered for admission to its higher education institutions under the same conditions as the holder of a comparable qualification or certificate awarded in that State;
(g) `recognition' of a foreign qualification or of a foreign certificate of partial studies of higher education means acceptance by the competent authorities of the State concerned that the holder is entitled to be considered for further studies at its higher education and research institutions under the same conditions as those pertaining to the holder of a comparable qualification or certificate awarded in that State;
(h) `recognition' of a foreign qualification in higher education with a view to the practice of a profession means acceptance by the competent authorities of the professional preparation of the holder for the practice of the profession concerned, without prejudice, however, to the legal and professional rules or procedures in force in the States concerned and provided the holder would be entitled to practice the same profession in the State in which the professional preparation and qualification had been obtained; such recognition does not exempt the holder of the foreign qualification from complying with any other conditions for the practice of the profession concerned that may be laid down by the competent governmental or professional authorities in the States concerned.
2. Recognition of a qualification or certificate may not give a greater right to consideration in another State than in the State in which it was conferred.
II. Aims and undertakings
3. When considering the measures to be taken to achieve broader recognition of qualifications in higher education, Member States should apply the provisions spelled out below by taking whatever legislative or other steps may be required to give effect, within their respective territories, to the principles set forth in this Recommendation.
4. Member States that have not done so should be encouraged to become parties to the regional conventions on the recognition of studies, diplomas and degrees in higher education and make every effort to contribute to reinforcing the work of the regional committees for the application of these conventions.
5. Member States should bring this Recommendation to the knowledge of the authorities, agencies and organizations concerned, whether governmental or non-governmental, particularly institutions of higher education, validating bodies, professional organizations and other educational institutions and associations.
6. All Member States, as well as those non-Member States that are already parties to one or more regional conventions, should examine the provisions of this Recommendation and take measures to implement them.
7. Member States should submit to the General Conference of UNESCO, on the dates and in the form determined by it, reports on the action undertaken, the measures adopted and progress achieved by them in the application of this Recommendation.
National policies and practices
8. Member States should take all feasible steps within the framework of their national systems and in conformity with their constitutional, legal and regulatory provisions to encourage the competent authorities concerned to give recognition, as defined in paragraph l(f), to certificates of secondary education and other diplomas necessary for access to higher education, awarded in other Member States, with a view to enabling their holders to undertake studies in institutions of higher education situated in the territory of the receiving State, subject to all academic admission requirements obtaining for nationals of that State. Admission to an institution of higher education may nevertheless be dependent on other conditions, such as the availability of places, the passing of entrance examinations, or adequate knowledge of the language of instruction.
9. Member States should take all feasible steps within the framework of their national systems and in conformity with their constitutional, legal and regulatory provisions to encourage the competent authorities concerned to give recognition, as defined in paragraph 1(e), to qualifications in higher education that are awarded in the other Member States, with a view to enabling their holders to pursue further studies, training or training for research in their institutions of higher education, subject to all academic admission requirements obtaining for nationals of that State. Member States should also take steps to define procedures for the recognition, as defined in paragraph 1(g), of partial studies carried out in higher education institutions in the other States, for the purpose of the pursuit of higher education. In evaluating a qualification obtained abroad for the purpose of further studies, authorities should take into account the stages of study in the country in which the qualification was obtained, in order to permit people having completed one stage to continue to the next stage when they move to another country. Admission to an institution of higher education for the purpose of pursuing further studies, may, nevertheless, be dependent on other conditions, such as the availability of places, the passing of entrance examinations, or adequate knowledge of the language of instruction.
10. Member States should take all feasible steps within the framework of their national systems and in conformity with their constitutional, legal and regulatory provisions, to facilitate recognition of preparation at the higher education level for the practice of a profession as defined in paragraph 1(h). To that effect, policies should be evolved, in co-operation with all the parties concerned (such as higher education institutions, professional associations, governmental bodies and employers' associations) that favor objective evaluation of skills and qualifications obtained abroad with a view to enabling people to practice the professions for which they have been trained or which they have already practiced, and in order to favor optimum use of human resources available and the full integration into society of all of its members.
11. In establishing procedures for the evaluation of qualifications for all the purposes mentioned under paragraphs 8 to 10 above, the competent authorities and institutions concerned should take into account the wide diversity of institutions, types of study, programme content and teaching methods, including distance teaching and other non-traditional forms of higher education. In evaluating the comparability of a foreign qualification, authorities should also take into account the rights that would have been enjoyed by its holder in the country in which it was obtained.
12. Member States should set up national bodies or designate, and if necessary reinforce, existing bodies and facilitate the functioning of these bodies so that they can co-ordinate matters relating to the application of this Recommendation and co-operate with the existing committees for the application of the regional conventions. Since attainment of the aims and application of the provisions of this Recommendation requires close cooperation and co-ordination of the efforts of a great variety of national authorities, all the authorities concerned should be encouraged to cooperate, whether they be governmental or non-governmental, particularly institutions of higher education, validating bodies, professional organizations and other educational institutions and associations.
13. Institutions of higher education in each Member State should work together and with national bodies in order to establish, as far as possible, common or comparable policies with respect to the evaluation of qualifications, in line with the principles set forth in this Recommendation.
14. Member States should take all feasible steps within the framework of their national systems and in conformity with their constitutional, legal and regulatory provisions to alleviate the difficulties encountered by those returning home after having studied abroad and wishing to pursue their studies or practice a profession, so that the reintegration of such persons into the life of the home country may be achieved in the manner most beneficial both to the individual and to the community concerned. This could entail, among other things, steps to be taken by mutual agreement with all the parties involved so that persons returning do not experience undue delays in obtaining evaluation of their qualifications and decisions concerning recognition. Member States should encourage the establishment of mechanisms whereby individuals can present documents and other evidence of competence and skills when disagreements arise between individuals and institutions.
15. Member States should take all feasible steps within the framework of their national systems and in conformity with their constitutional, legal and regulatory provisions in order to develop procedures designed to assess fairly and expeditiously the skills and competence acquired through higher education of refugees and displaced persons who cannot provide documentary evidence of their studies.
16. In the case of a higher education institution in the territory of a State not under the direct or indirect authority of that State but under separate and independent authorities, the national authorities should transmit the text of this Recommendation to the institution concerned so that the institution can put its provisions into practice.
17. Eligibility for recognition should not be dependent on nationality or legal status.
International co-operation: development and exchange of relevant information
18. Member States, in co-operation with regional networks where possible, should improve the exchange of information, by such measures as establishing and communicating to each other regularly updated lists of approved institutions of higher education situated in their territories; for this purpose, in each State, national bodies in charge of matters relating to this Recommendation could be reinforced and given the task of establishing such lists and communicating to other bodies specific recognition problems.
19. Member States should encourage the setting up of mechanisms such as evaluation and accrediting bodies for the purpose of assuring the quality of higher education studies and should encourage international cooperation among such mechanisms and bodies.
20. Member States should work together, through competent authorities, bodies and institutions, to facilitate the comparison of subjects of study, credits and qualifications, by such measures as exchanging relevant information for evaluating them and undertaking comparative studies on evaluation criteria and on national terminologies of higher education so as to harmonize their mutual understanding and interpretation.
Bilateral and multilateral agreements
21. Member States should take measures at the international level, by way of bilateral, multilateral or other agreements, to achieve the aims and accelerate the progressive application of this Recommendation.
22. Member States should encourage international co-operation among higher education institutions through such measures as bilateral and multilateral agreements and other networking arrangements in order to achieve widespread recognition of studies and qualifications.
23. When appropriate, the committees responsible for the application of the conventions on the recognition of studies, diplomas and degrees in higher education should co-operate in cataloguing bilateral and other agreements between States and between institutions, and in making them more widely known, in order to encourage and intensify the establishment of such agreements.
24. The provisions of this Recommendation should apply to studies pursued at, and to qualifications obtained from, any institution of higher education coming under the authority of a Member State, even when that institution is situated outside its territory, provided that both the competent authorities of that State and those of the State in which the institution is situated recognize its qualifications in the same way as those awarded by institutions of their systems of higher education.