Outcomes of recognition in case of substantial differences

Where, after thorough consideration of the case, the competent recognition authority reaches the conclusion that, due to substantial differences, recognition cannot be granted in accordance with the applicant's request, the competent recognition authority should consider an alternative form of recognition. Such alternative types of recognition may include:

Alternative recognition

alternative recognition could take the form of evaluating the applicant’s qualification in terms of another relevant qualification which is not the one required for the desired activity. This would suggest an alternative way into the education system or job market for the applicant. In addition, the applicant may be offered a bridging course by the competent authority to make up for the substantial differences;

Example 1: Alternative recognition

Partial recognition

partial recognition could take the form of accepting some of the credits earned as part of the foreign programme. The applicant would then have the opportunity to enrol in the programme that is required by the competent recognition authority for access to the desired activity and receive exemptions for the credits accepted by the competent recognition authority;

Conditional recognition

conditional recognition could take the form of allowing the participant to start with the desired activity on the condition that certain goals (for instance obtaining a number of credits in obligatory courses) are successfully met by the applicant during the activity.

Example 2: Appealing against a decision

Refusing recognition

Only when the competent recognition authority cannot find any alternative form of recognition (alternative, partial, and conditional) should recognition be denied. It should be kept in mind that in some cases, the absence of recognition may be "fair recognition" (e.g. diploma mills, fraudulent documents).

Example 3: Refusing recognition

The right of appeal

  • In all cases where applicants disagree with the decision taken by the competent recognition authority, they should have a possibility to appeal against it.
  • The competent recognition authority should inform the applicant about the reason for the decision and the possibility to appeal against it.
  • In the case of an appeal, the competent recognition authority should again examine the information originally provided. When necessary the authority may ask the applicant for evidence that has not yet been provided (or insufficiently provided) or conduct more in-depth research.

Remedial measures when recognition cannot be granted

Where recognition cannot be granted according to an applicant's request, the competent recognition authority should assist the applicant in identifying remedial measures that may be undertaken in order to obtain recognition at a later stage. These remedial measures may cover:

  • information on higher education institutions offering similar study programmes;
  • possible forms of study (eventual possibility to complete his/her education in the form of lifelong learning courses);
  • requested tuition fees, etc.

The recommendations described above do not apply to cases where recognition has been denied due to diploma mills or fraudulent documents.

First and second instance of appeal

The recommendations above only describe the first instance of appeal (which is usually an internal procedure of the recognition authority). The second instance is usually regulated in a separate law (e.g. in an administrative code).

Some countries have an external appeal body for disputes on recognition decisions, which may consist of representatives of different stakeholders such as the Ministry of Education, higher education institutions, the national ENIC/NARIC, student unions, employers, etc. In practice, the presence of such an external body, which can subject recognition decisions to scrutiny, puts pressure on the recognition authority to make sure that the recognition decisions are fair, well grounded, and transparent.

For details regarding the information that should be provided to the applicant before and during the recognition procedure as well as information on the recognition decision and appeal, please go to Topic 2.