What are non-recognised but legitimate institutions?

The status of the awarding body is important to the evaluation of qualifications. For more information on this, please turn to topic ‎3: “Accreditation and Quality Assurance (status of the institution)”. Where an institution is recognised in the country of origin, the qualification can be assessed and recognised according to the evaluation criteria of the Lisbon Recognition Convention.

When an institution is not recognised in a national system, it is important to not simply dismiss it. An effort should be made to ascertain whether the institution can be considered to be a legitimate provider even though it is not officially recognised, in which case a fair and transparent assessment is still possible.

A Non-recognised but legitimate institution refers to institutions which are not formally recognised by the authorities officially responsible for the accreditation and recognition of institutions in a given system, but which may offer study programmes of comparable level to other formally recognised programmes. Such institutions may include government or military institutions, adult education centres or religious seminaries.

Types of legitimate institutions

Generally, non-recognised but legitimate institutions may be categorised into two groups.

  1. Institutions barred from recognition or choosing not to be recognised

This category includes legitimate institutions whose programmes may be comparable in content and level to those from recognised higher education institutions and which may be treated as such by public authorities, employers and higher education institutions, but which for various reasons may fall outside of the national accreditation system. Such institutions typically include government or military education institutions, religious institutions and seminaries and providers of adult continuing education. Some may also be transnational education providers (see topic ‎14: “Transnational education” on page 63).

  1. Substandard tertiary education providers

This category includes legitimate institutions which provide genuine higher education programmes but which are unlikely to meet the standards for accreditation or recognition in their country, many of them having tried and failed to attain recognition/accreditation.

Often these institutions may appear on the lists of ‘unaccredited institutions’ published by competent authorities for recognition.

Why take non-recognised institutions into account?

It is worth noting that national procedures for quality assurance and recognition may vary from country to country. Not all education systems include a fully established system of accreditation or recognition, and in some cases the established accrediting agencies may have a narrow scope or jurisdiction that precludes assessment of particular types of institutions or programmes. However, the affected institutions in that country may well be legitimately offering qualifications that give access to professions and may be accepted by recognised institutions. Qualifications from such institutions may be, upon further investigation, of a comparable standard. Even if this is not the case, or if there are legitimate differences making full recognition impossible, it may still be possible to provide some form of recognition or useful comments and advice to applicants holding such qualifications and to interested parties.