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Feasibility study on a joint European Degree is out

Earlier this month the European Commission released the study, carried out by PPMI, exploring the feasibility of a joint European degree in the European context. The research for the study, involving stakeholder consultations, surveys and case studies, had been conducted since April 2021. It was running in parallel to the policy developments related to defining the concept of a European joint degree at the European level, and to the launch of the related pilot calls earlier this year (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, January 2023).

Concretely, the report explores what a possible joint European Degree could be, and how it could be implemented, assessing the feasibility and impact of different possible approaches, as mandated through the Council Recommendation on building bridges for effective European higher education cooperation (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, January 2022).

The report pointed to the multiple remaining obstacles to smooth transnational cooperation in higher education, despite institutional and country progress and political attention in recent years, also through the Bologna Process. The authors reported that the stakeholders consulted for this study regarded a possible joint European Degree as an instrument that could help further address the challenges and make the delivery of transnational joint study programmes more effective and efficient in terms of the use of institutional resources.

Two main options were explored through the study, namely a degree as a label and a degree as a qualification:

  • A joint European Degree label would be selectively awarded to joint study programmes that lead to the award of a joint degree, and which meet a pre-defined list of criteria agreed at the European level. Under this option, European alliances of higher education institutions (HEIs) could apply for the European Degree label for their joint study programmes. This label could be implemented in the form of a joint European Degree label certificate that would be common across the EU, and added to the diploma awarded by the partner institutions.
  • A joint European Degree as a qualification involves an approach, where a joint study programme would be accredited to award the qualification if it fulfils a pre-defined list of criteria that would have been commonly agreed across the EU. The criteria might be the same as those for the joint European Degree label or could be further developed (by stakeholders, European Commission and member states). Where necessary, the criteria for accrediting these joint degrees based on European criteria would also be embedded into legislation. These criteria would then be applied by national accreditation bodies, to joint programmes planning to award a joint European degree in specific or interdisciplinary subject areas.

The authors concluded that based on the evidence gathered through this study, the most feasible approach is a step-by-step one, starting with the testing of the criteria (currently ongoing through the six pilot projects), followed by agreeing the criteria with member states, to finally move to gradual and smooth implementation of joint degrees based on the common European criteria. The step-by-step approach will depend on the results of the pilots and the willingness of member states to support this gradual development further through legislative changes.

The results of the six pilot projects are expected in the first quarter of 2024.