A joint programme is a programme offered jointly by several higher education institutions forming a (joint programme) consortium. It does not necessarily lead to a joint degree; this is only one of the possible awards. After the completion of a joint programme the graduate may be awarded: a single national qualification, several separate qualifications referred to as a double or multiple qualification) and/or a single document awarding a joint qualification.

Qualification(s) from a joint programme differ(s) from foreign national qualifications because they are considered as either belonging to more than one national system or not fully belonging to any single national system. Hence some additional evaluation elements have to be taken into account in the assessment of these qualifications.

A complicating factor is that the provision of (international) joint programmes and the awarding of joint qualifications may be hampered by the national legislation of the consortium partners. Relevant legislation may be either missing, or may prevent their proper provision. Another possibility is that national legislations of different countries conflict with some aspects of the joint programme. In order to solve this problem, quality assurance agencies are advocating that accreditation of a joint programme by one reliable organization should be sufficient evidence for their quality.

In May 2015 European ministers responsible for higher education adopted the European Approach for Quality Assurance of Joint Programmes in order to ease the external quality assurance of these programmes. The European Approach sets a framework for joint quality assurance of joint programmes by providing an application mechanism and standards that are based on the agreed tools of the EHEA without applying additional national criteria. It determines that cooperating higher education institutions should jointly select a suitable quality assurance agency from the list of EQAR-registered agencies. The agency should use the standards and procedures mentioned within the European Approach to carry out a single evaluation or accreditation of the entire joint programme – the result of which is expected to be accepted in all EHEA countries. In the absence of a clear accreditation status under the European Approach, evidence of the quality of the joint programme should be sought in the status of the consortium partners and their programmes.