Higher Education and Research

The Lisbon Recognition Convention

Main documents 

The Convention  

The Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European
Region was developed by the Council of Europe and UNESCO and adopted by national representatives meeting in Lisbon on 8 - 11 April 1997. Most European countries have since ratified this Council of Europe/ UNESCO Convention – usually referred to as the Lisbon Convention.
Among the main points of the Council of Europe/UNESCO Convention are the following:

* Holders of qualifications issued in one country shall have adequate access to an assessment of these qualifications in another country.
* No discrimination shall be made in this respect on any ground such as the applicant's gender, race, colour, disability, language, religion, political opinion, national, ethnic or social origin.
* The responsibility to demonstrate that an application does not fulfil the relevant requirements lies with the body undertaking the assessment.
* Each country shall recognise qualifications – whether for access to higher education, for periods of study or for higher education degrees – as similar to the corresponding qualifications in its own system unless it can show that there are substantial differences between its own qualifications and the qualifications for which recognition is sought.
* Recognition of a higher education qualification issued in another country shall have one or more of the following consequences:
- access to further higher education studies, including relevant examinations and preparations for the doctorate, on the same conditions as candidates from the country in which recognition is sought;
- The use of an academic title, subject to the laws and regulations of the country in which recognition is sought;
- In addition, recognition may facilitate access to the labour market.

* All countries shall develop procedures to assess whether refugees and displaced persons fulfil the relevant requirements for access to higher education or to employment activities, even in cases in which the qualifications cannot be proven through documentary evidence.
* All countries shall provide information on the institutions and programmes they consider as belonging to their higher education systems.
* All countries shall appoint a national information centre, one important task of which is to offer advice on the recognition of foreign qualifications to students, graduates, employers, higher education institutions and other interested parties or persons.
* All countries shall encourage their higher education institutions to issue the Diploma Supplement to their students in order to facilitate recognition. The Diploma Supplement is an instrument developed jointly by the European Commission, the Council of Europe and UNESCO that aims to describe the qualification in an easily understandable way and relating it to the higher education system within which it was issued.

This convention was preceded by several other Council of Europe and UNESCO conventions, which can be found here.

The Convention Committee 

A special committee was set up in 1999 to oversee the implementation of the Lisbon Recognition Convention. The Lisbon Recognition Convention Committee has members from each Party to the Lisbon Recognition Convention, and several other countries and organisations (e.g. the European Community and the President of the ENIC Network) can participate in the meetings taking place every year. The Committee has also the right to approve recommendations related to recognition of qualifications. So far the Committee adopted:

2002 – The fifth anniversary of the Lisbon Recognition Convention 

In April 2002, the Council of Europe, together with the Portuguese authorities, organised a major international conference to mark the fifth anniversary of the Lisbon Recognition Convention. The conference gathered representatives of ministries and higher education institutions, intergovernmental organisations and international organisations. A wide array of issues was discussed, such as: recognition of non-traditional qualifications, relationship between recognition issues and the European Higher Education Area, information on recognition, recognition of transnational education, relationship between quality assurance and recognition etc. A book, containing all of the presentations as well as conclusions of the seminar and some subsidiary documents was published in 2003. For the hardcopy of the publication please check http://book.coe.int or read the Recommendations and the Final Report by Mr. Lewis Purser, the General Rapporteur of the Lisbon 2002 Conference.

For other information related to the issue of recognition of qualifications you can also visit the section dedicated to recognition in the European Higher Education Area.