When it comes to moving to another country, it is vital that a person's skills and expertise are recognised in that country. A degree equivalency is a document that determines the value of studies pursued abroad. It is often vital when it comes to a worker's education being officially recognised in another country in order to afford them the same chances of being hired as a native worker.

In terms of internationalisation and in order to be competitive, businesses look for the best talent beyond their borders. They appeal to foreign workers whose skills are not needed in their own region in terms of employment and who are open to moving to another country.

International mobility is currently made easier when the worker knows English, which has become a universal language, as well as when there is degree equivalency between countries. Knowledge and skills are certified by degrees that are awarded by State authorities following a course of studies and successful passing of examinations.

While the European Union has established systems for the recognition of degrees in its member states, on an international scale equivalency is possible but is more delicate, especially in specialised fields, such as the medical sector.

 

Recognition of degrees within the European Union

The free movement of people within the European region is a fundamental principle of the European Union. According to this principle, every European citizen may move to another country within the European Union to travel, study, work and live.

This free movement applies to citizens who wish to practice salaried or freelance employment within the European Union. The system of mutual recognition of degrees that has been established allows every qualified citizen to practise a profession in a member state and to have their qualifications recognised should they wish to practise it in another member state.

The European Union itself doesn't require this recognition to be observed; the member states alone are responsible for the content and structure of their educational system, but it is generally set out in exchange agreements and by use of the bachelor's master's doctorate system (LMD in France) which works via accumulating ECTS credits (European Credit Transfer System). The European credit transfer and accumulation system is based on the workload the student must achieve in order to attain the program's objectives, which are defined in terms of the knowledge and skills to be acquired. A year of studies is represented by 60 credits. Credits are only awarded to students who successfully pass their exams. The ECTS system is the only credit system that has been tried and tested successfully in Europe.

 

Recognition of degrees outside the European Union

The European Union, together with UNESCO, has created the ENIC-NARIC network, which is dedicated to the academic and professional recognition of degrees. It creates certificates for degrees, studies and training received abroad, provides information about the procedures to follow in order for an individual to practise a regulated profession, and also provides information about the recognition of French degrees abroad. Most countries in Europe are part of the network, as well as countries such as Australia, the United States, Canada, Tajikistan etc.

This network, however, acts as an adviser and has no decision-making power with respect to the states. In fact, every country remains sovereign in terms of the legitimacy granted to this network's information.  From 1 January 2008 onwards, ENIC-NARIC is the only body France has authorised to grant degree equivalency for degrees obtained abroad. This means a graduate must submit an equivalency request to NARIC, ENIC or the embassy of the destination country, according to the regulations laid down by each country.

 

Medical degrees, and the complexity of recognition

Recognition of degrees within the bachelor's master's doctorate system is automatic for most degrees. However, certain degrees have specific requirements in the destination country due to the application of professional rules in the public's interest. This is mainly the case for the legal and medical professions. These provisions are governed by European Directive 2005/36/EC.

A doctor who is a graduate in the European Union and an EU national must register with the Ordre des Médecins if going to France or equivalent in other EU countries in order to be authorised to practice. Only this body is empowered to recognise and allow the practice of their profession in their territory.  The doctor must provide a certain number of documents and, depending on the country, pass language tests. For all EU countries, doctors must produce their degree certificates as well as their certificate of compliance with Directive 2005/36/EC. Other documents differ from country to country. A language proficiency test or check may also be requested (this is the case in France).

As for degrees obtained outside the EU, some countries have introduced specific measures to regulate the recognition of qualifications. In France, due to the shortage of doctors, a specific body has been assigned this role. It is called the CNG (Centre National de Gestion or the National Management Centre for Health Professionals). Practitioners must complete the EAP (Exercise Authorisation Procedure) consisting of a written examination followed by internships lasting from one to three years depending on the occupation. This process means the doctor must be extremely motivated in order to come to France due to the complexity of the process.

 

Generally speaking, worker mobility is a key issue for companies and is in the interests of the states. There is a marked willingness on the part of the states, states associations and international bodies to facilitate the recognition of degrees. Processes are simplified when legal regulations are clearly laid out and these processes are increasing noticeably.

Elodie VERDONCK by Elodie VERDONCK

International Mobility & Recruitment Consultant
Medical sector