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The Lisbon Recognition Convention

The Lisbon Recognition Convention (LRC) aims to ensure that holders of a qualification from a signatory country can have adequate access to an assessment of the qualification in another country in a fair, flexible, and transparent way.

The LRC is the key legal instrument regulating recognition of higher education qualifications from abroad across Europe and North American regions and was adopted in 1997. It has been signed and ratified by 55 countries and was developed by the Council of Europe and UNESCO.

A foreign qualification must be recognised unless the recognising authority (in most cases a higher education institution) can demonstrate that the foreign qualification is substantially different from a national qualification that would grant access to the desired learning activity (typically an academic programme).

Higher education institutions must provide accurate, up-to-date, and transparent information to potential applicants on how to initiate a recognition procedure and the steps involved.

See below a selection of the key points of the Lisbon Recognition Convention:

  • 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, use of an academic title, and 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.

Further information:

Documents adopted by the Lisbon Recognition Convention Committee are available at the ENIC-NARIC Networks: Reference documents page.

See also:

Will my Qualification be Recognised? Golden rules on academic qualification recognition for students in the European Higher Education Area – A practical guide that provides basic information about the LRC and students rights to fair and transparent assessment of their qualifications.

Information Provision on Recognition of Qualifications. A practical guide for higher education institutions – A guide for higher education institutions has been developed to promote the implementation of procedures compliant with the Lisbon Recognition Convention. It is addressed to admission and international relations officers and staff in charge of information management at HEIs, in order to provide information in line with the provisions in the LRC.

Substantial Differences: A glimpse of theory, practice and guidelines – This guide supports HEIs in understanding whether a difference should be considered substantial.