Recognition of Degrees Hungarian Accreditation Committee
Sub-theme 4: Recognition of Standards
Methods, Possibilities and Significance
Bangalore March 19-22, 2001
1. Introduction: The Significance of the Issue in Central Europe
The present analysis narrows the otherwise incredibly large topic of the recognition of degrees
through two considerations. First, the issue is going to be discussed from the perspective of a
small Central European country, namely that of Hungary. Second, one particular scientific
discipline, i.e. technical science, has been selected from the vast list of different scientific
disciplines. The reason for these limitations is twofold: the authors’ commitments on the one
hand, and that the limitations provide a good illustration for the substantiation of their thesis
on the other.
The geographical location, the historical turmoil in much of the past one and a half
centuries, together with the present geopolitical and economical situation necessitate urgent
changes in Hungary. In the past, within the large and uniform market of the Austro-Hungarian
Monarchy, the exchange of commodities, the spread of technical innovations and the mobility
of the work force were very dynamic. The boom came to an end in the 1920`s, as one of the
sad results of the Peace Treaty of Trianon. The flow of capital was now impeded by the many
different customs systems, and the incompatibility of the railways and other infrastructure.
The international quality of higher education and the free mobility of the work force
disappeared later because of the totalitarian system.
One has to conclude from these historical experiences that it is necessary to break out
from the psychosis of the ―small country syndrome‖, and to overcome linguistic isolation. To
achieve these aims the first thing to do is to understand the methodology of the recognition of
2. Fundamental Systems of Recognition
As a result of the research into higher education, the question is increasingly voiced that it
differs from one field of knowledge to the next whether college and university level—i.e.
Bachelor’s and Master’s level—education should exist side by side or the latter build on the former.
The necessity for making such distinctions is best illustrated by looking at three major
fields of study.
? First, in technical and economic fields, the bachelor’s degree is useful for a wide range of
occupations. As a result, in some countries one can, with some work experience and under
certain conditions, obtain a high position even with a bachelor’s degree.
? Second, and in contrast with the previous fields, the situation is completely different for
medicine and experimental laboratories where the occupations and the positions are
clearly different for those who have a BS degree and for those who have an MS degree.
? Third, a further field covers disciplines in the humanities such as philosophy where there
is no point in educating at the BA level.
In this paper, we will concentrate on the first field, and here the recognition of degrees or studies plays a significant role. The different types of recognition can be classified into three
categories: ―Official‖, ―Professional‖ and ―Academic‖ Recognition. Let us consider the
―Official‖ Recognition first .
2.1. “Official” Recognition
An ―Official‖ Recognition of degrees means that countries recognize degrees that have been
obtained in a country with which a recognition agreement has been concluded. The
recognition can be bilateral or multilateral according to the contract. In Central Europe during
the Soviet dominance and the dictatorship within the territories of the Comecon or CMEA
(Council for Mutual Economic Assistance), the recognition of degrees was dictated by the
Party. In other words recognition was based upon political decisions.
Today equivalence is the issue of exhaustive investigations and bilateral or multilateral agreements preceded by thoroughgoing preparatory work. The latest bilateral agreement in
Hungary, the one between Hungary and the Slovak Republic, serves as a good example to
demonstrate how much energy is invested into the procedure leading to an agreement of this
The preparation of the agreement needed a rather long and exhaustive period of discussion before the views and interests were harmonized. The period leading to the
agreement consists of two parts. The discussions started in 1989 between Hungary and the
Czech-Slovak Republic without definitive aims. This first period came to an end in 1997
when the first proposal for the agreement was issued. Experts and officials of the ministries of
both Hungary and the Slovakian Republic started to analyze the proposal. The first official
meeting of the committees of the countries took place two years later in 1999. The views
could not be harmonized there, so there was a further year needed to arrive at a contract that
could be signed by both parties. This took place in February 2000. During the three years
between 1997 and 2000 there were six drafts exchanged between the parties and each draft
was preceded by several draft versions of the text.
The relationship between equivalence and national accreditation is a question of future. Theoretically, a convergence between equivalence and national accreditation, in line with the
principles of the Bologna Declaration convened on the 19
th of June 1999 , is expected. The
way they will be related, however, is not yet clear. Still, three—not necessarily mutually
exclusive–courses seem to be emerging. ? One is that an accreditation committee recognizes whatever another has accredited. ? Another is that accredited institutions form associations and recognize the degrees issued
in the partner institutions.
? A third possibility is that accredited programs form associations and recognize the degrees
issued in the partner programs.
2.2. “Professional” Recognition
Professional Recognition is the duty and right of civil organizations, such as Chambers,
Societies, Associations and Federations. In numerous countries it is exclusively Professional
Recognition that allows one to use the engineer designation. So in these countries Official
Recognition is not enough, because one may have a degree that is officially recognized,
without being allowed to work as an engineer. This means that the degree is a necessary but
not a sufficient requirement. Take as an example the Fédération Européenne d'Associations
Nationales d'Ingénieurs (the European Federation of National Engineering Associations) .
The FEANI issues the Euro-Engineer designation after a thorough investigation about the candidate. The investigation is thorough because it assesses the individual’s professional
career meticulously and conducts the assessment at two levels: first at a national, and then at
an international level.
The qualification of the professional career consists of two major elements. First the candidate’s education is assessed, which is closely linked to accreditation. Education,
however, is not enough for the qualification. Professional experience is also a constituent
element of the investigation.
―After a secondary education at a high level validated by one or more official UR ING certificates, normally awarded at about the age of 18 years, a minimum total period of seven designation.‖ The investigation of the formation period focuses on two major issues: years' formation—education, training and experience—is required by FEANI for the Eengineering education and valid professional experience.
The criteria for an acceptable engineering education include reference to the number of years spent at an approved institution and to the curriculum. The candidate must have spent a minimum of three years at a university or other recognized body at university level admitted by FEANI. ―During these years he had to be provided a thorough knowledge of the principles
of engineering, based on mathematics, physics and computer science appropriate to his or her
discipline. Any engineer listed in the FEANI Register is guaranteed to have had such an
Appropriate engineering education is not sufficient in itself though. The candidate is supposed to have a minimum of two years of valid professional experience. Professional
experience is not only a formal requirement, meaning that one must have spent two years in
the profession, but it must assure that the candidate has reached a high standard in his
profession. This way the investigation of the professional experience includes the following
areas. The candidate has to prove that he has ―solved problems requiring the application of
engineering science in the fields such as research, development, design, production,
construction, installation, maintenance, engineering sales and marketing.‖ The candidate has
also to demonstrate that he or she has had ―success in management or guiding of technical
staff or the financial, economical, statutory or legal aspects of engineering tasks, or in solving industrial and/or environmental problems.‖ Naturally, the individual’s mastery of a foreign
language is also part of the investigation.
To guarantee high standards, FEANI applies a system of evaluation of an individual consisting of two levels: a national and an international level. The National Monitoring
Committee examines the application first. After approval the National Monitoring Committee
submits the application to the European Monitoring Committee (EMC). Finally, it is the latter Committee that awards the designation in accord with the criteria that have been approved by
the FEANI General Assembly.
In contrast with ―Official‖ Recognition, ―Professional‖ Recognition thus concentrates on
the individual’s mastery of certain skills that are necessary for the profession. As discussed above, the ―Official‖ type of Recognition means an agreement between countries without
specific reference to the individuals’ performance. The ―Professional‖ type of recognition, on the other hand, focuses on the individual’s professional achievements, although it does take
into account the quality of the institutions responsible for the education of the individual.
2.3. “Academic” Recognition
A third type of Recognition, neither on the national nor the individual level, concentrates on
institutions that are responsible for the professional formation of the individual. Universities
of two or more countries recognize each other’s degrees, or, alternately, issue a double degree
in accordance with mutual agreements. Degrees or parts of studies are recognized as
equivalent based on the professors’ individual experiences, on the curricula, and numerous
other factors. This type of recognition serves professor or student mobility for a short term,
say one or two semesters, and consequently effects curriculum development.
An example for Academic Recognition is the Conference of European Schools for
Advanced Engineering Education and Research (CESAER) . CESAER is an association of
leading European universities engaged in advanced engineering education and research and
dedicated to research-lead teaching. It was established in 1990 and now has a membership of
about fifty universities in Western and Central European countries.
According to Article 2a of the Statutes of CESAER, the Conference aims at
developing cross-European and international higher engineering education at four levels.
These levels include student mobility, the diversity of engineering cultures, recognition of
degrees, and cooperation of educational institutions. The Conference thus encourages ―the
training of engineers with broader educational experience, including linguistic abilities,
developed by attendance at two or more leading engineering institutions in Europe‖. It also
deems important and consequently maintains ―the advantageous diversity and the standards of
the highest levels of engineering education in Europe‖. The diversity of the educational
institutions in itself would hinder the mobility of engineers with university degrees, so the
Conference also takes measures to ―secure international validation and acceptance of the
qualifications of university educated engineers‖. A fourth means to raise the standard of
education is to encourage the exchange of information between the leading educational
institutions themselves. As a consequence the Conference promotes ―further collaboration in
engineering education, research and development between leading European universities‖.
The realization of these objectives depends almost exclusively on the meaning of the phrase ―leading university‖. To define it, CESAER has worked out some criteria that set
standards for the potential members of the association. Member institutions must run active
research and education programs in a wide variety of engineering disciplines. According to
Article 3a of the Statutes of the Conference ―potential members of the Conference are
European Institutions which have a legal status and which meet all following three criteria‖.
First and foremost the conference believes that the high standard of education is founded upon
the research carried out at the institution. Thus the potential member is supposed to ―provide
high-level scientific engineering education—as full time teaching—based on internationally
recognized research carried out jointly by the teaching staff, the students, doctoral and post-
doctoral researchers in the same geographic location‖. The high standard of instruction cannot,
however, be founded solely upon the high standards of research, because the quality of the
appropriation is limited by the abilities of the students. So the Conference wants its potential
members to ―use selective admission criteria conforming with legal provisions and/or national
practices‖. The high standard of engineering education is also corroborated through its interaction with industry: the educational institution cannot stay within the walls of academic
activity, but has to promote the social application of what has been taught there. As a
consequence the potential member is supposed to ―have a firmly established tradition of
relations with industry in the fields of education and research‖.
Beyond these criteria the Conference further limits the meaning of the phrase ―leading university‖ with reference to the potential member’s position in the national and international market of universities. According to the expectations of the Conference the potential member
should play a leading role in their own country and in several fields in the international
scientific community. As a consequence, the potential member should be proposed to the
Management Committee by at least 3 members, each of whom belongs to a different country
and one of whom normally belongs to the country of the potential member. The Management
Committee acts as the Selection Committee, examining the proposal and then sends its report
to the Board of CESAER for the final decision. The examination of the internal qualities
together with the position of the potential member institution in the national and international
market at different institutional levels of CESAER guarantee the high standards of education
of engineers at a European level.
Both ―Professional‖ and ―Academic‖ Recognition have two major advantages
compared to the ―Official‖ one. The first advantage lies in their laying emphasis on the
mastery of at least one foreign language. This way both types of recognition foster education
on a higher and more international level. The other advantage of ―Professional‖ and
―Academic‖ Recognition concerns a larger issue. Both require deeper and more substantial
knowledge than what a simple accreditation can provide, because they presuppose
professional and personal relationships as well. Within the framework of ―Official‖
Recognition one does not have to have professional and personal relationships with engineers
from the target country. Thus, the ―Professional‖ and the ―Academic‖ Recognition foster the
international quality of a profession.
Nevertheless at one point the ―Official‖ and ―Professional‖ ways of recognition seem
more advantageous than ―Academic‖ Recognition. As a rule, ―Academic‖ Recognition
ignores the issue of employment. In contrast with this shortcoming of ―Academic‖
Recognition, both the ―Official‖ and ―Professional‖ ways of recognition help graduated
engineers find jobs.
3. Conclusion: Utilization of the Results of Recognition
What is the conclusion of our analysis of the different types of Recognition? More than
anything else that the fruits of Recognition must be reaped in those small Central European
countries where the psychological pressure of the ―small country syndrome‖ must be done
away with. Linguistic isolation can only be overcome by teaching foreign languages on a high
level, by multilingual education both for foreign and Hungarian students and by inviting guest
professors. In Hungary, beyond Hungarian one has to know English, French, German and
Russian to some extent, and one has to master the vocabulary of one’s profession in these
languages if one wants to learn one’s profession on a high level.
This appears as the path for the development of higher education to meet the
objectives of the 21
st century. It would be a great pleasure to listen to the international experts of the conference discussing the present issue from the perspectives of their own regions, and
thus we could promote the improvement and development of the methods and systems of
We have started our discussion with the issue of equivalence, but we have to note
there is more in ―Professional‖ and especially in ―Academic‖ Recognition than solely equivalence. What is far more than sheer equivalence is the personal relationship between the
people of different nations.
 For a similar classification with different terminology consult Jack Levy. ―International Recognition of
Engineering Qualifications‖ esp. pp. 8-9 in Ideas for Better Education & Training for Engineer, No. 6, October
1999, ed. Prof. János Ginsztler, pp. 7-12.  www.ntb.ch/SEFI/bolognadec.html  All the ensuing information about FEANI is from their home-page: www.feani.org
 All the ensuing information about CESAER is from their home-page: www.cesaer.eu.org