Final report of the joint European
Commission, Council of Europe, |
UNESCO/CEPES diploma supplement working party.
1.Introduction to the report
2.Summary of the evaluation phase
3.Project outcomes and recommendations of the working
Introduction to the report
1.1 Background to the initiative
The initiative to develop a new model for a Diploma
Supplement/Administrative Annex to qualifications followed The European Union Council of
Ministers decision of 6th May 1996. In 1994 the European Commission initiated a
debate on the possible synergies between academic and professional recognition and a
report was prepared which was discussed at the Council of Ministers meeting on the 6th
May 1996. One of the conclusions from this meeting was that ‘the European Commission
is invited to examine in co-operation with the Member States: possibilities for the
introduction on a voluntary basis, of a European administrative annex to the diploma, the
aim being to facilitate transparency and recognition in States other than those in which
they were dispensed; it would take into account the experience of other organisations such
as UNESCO and the Council of Europe in this area’.
Simultaneously, UNESCO and the Council of Europe had come to the
conclusion that the Diploma Supplement developed by these two organisations needed
revision and up-dating. The importance of the Diploma Supplement was furthermore
underlined in the Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications Concerning Higher
Education in the European Region, elaborated jointly by these two organisations and
adopted in Lisbon in April 1997.
1.2 Establishing the working party
A Diploma Supplement working party was established in December 1996
as a joint initiative by the European Commission, the Council of Europe and UNESCO/CEPES.
The group was composed of recognition specialists, representatives from higher education
institutions and the three sponsoring organisations. In February 1997 a representative
from the Confederation of EU-Rectors’ Conferences joined the working party. The full
list of the working party membership can be found in Appendix 2.
1.3 The project
The mandate of the working party was to develop a new model for a
Diploma Supplement/Administrative Annex to ease the problems of recognition and promote
transparency and the mutual recognition of qualifications drawing on the experiences of
the UNESCO and Council of Europe model as well as national experiences. Full details of
the terms of reference of the working party can be found in Appendix 1. The project was
divided into two parts. In the first part a group of experts produced a new Diploma
Supplement model. The second part involved the practical pilot testing and subsequent
refinement of the model. Following these activities this final report was produced making
recommendations concerning the model, its future development, its implementation and
1.4 Activities of the working party
2 Summary of the
During the project the working party and its sub-group met ten
times. A list of the activities of the working party is contained in Appendix 3. In
addition, a launch seminar and an evaluation meeting were held in Brussels.
Representatives of the working party have presented the project on numerous occasions
including NARIC/ENIC meetings, the 1997 EAIE Conference, expert seminars in the USA and
The Russian Federation, etc. Although the pilot project due to both practical and economic
reasons, had to be limited in scope, the working party found it important to involve as
many potential end-users as possible. Their advice and experience was invaluable. The
working party also collaborated with the Phare Multi-Country project on recognition.
3 Project outcomes and
recommendations of the working party
The joint pilot project involved the production and
practical testing of supplements. A model was developed and supplements were then
produced, some using this model as well as some being highly customised versions. Once
supplements were produced they were distributed to all participating institutions who then
evaluated them and completed questionnaires on their reactions. These evaluations were
real practical tests of the supplements.
The testing of the revised Diploma Supplement through the pilot project
was complemented by the Diploma Supplement part of the Phare Multi-Country Project on
Recognition of Higher Education Diploma and Study Credit Points Across Borders. In
total (both pilots) over seventy different institutions (including higher education
institutions, social partners, ENICs/NARICs) took part. Over twenty-five different higher
education subject fields were tested and over two hundred and fifty separate evaluations
of supplements were undertaken. Full information on the evaluation phase and those who
were involved can be found in Appendices 5, 6 and 7.
The joint pilot project pursued a number of different activities
including the following: a launch seminar for the project in Brussels 22nd
September 1997, to introduce the project to the participating institutions who then had to
produce supplements; a meeting in Brussels to consider and allocate these supplements to
institutions in the pilot; each participant had then to complete questionnaires covering
their evaluation of each supplement they received; the evaluation meeting on the 15th
May in Brussels.
Both projects held evaluation meetings which were enthusiastic about
the supplement. Indeed, the evidence clearly demonstrated overwhelming support for the
idea of a Diploma Supplement with 98% of those taking part in the joint European
Commission, Council of Europe, UNESCO/CEPES project indicating that ‘it was timely and
worthwhile to introduce the supplement’.
As a result of the extensive testing of supplements during the
evaluation phase a number of conclusions were clear: a strong consensus indicated that
they would issue supplements in their home language and English; a common framework for
all supplements is preferable to customised versions; the information in the supplement on
the national education system is essential; titles of qualifications, institutions and
award classifications should appear in their original language; it was easy to produce
supplements free of value-judgements; it was good practice to include transcripts and
clear information on grade distributions and student workload; that the Diploma Supplement
approach aided transparent decision-making based on explicit reason and thus facilitates
the 1997 Lisbon Convention.
The evaluation meeting in Brussels and subsequent meeting produced a
number of changes to the Diploma Supplement model. Serious consideration was given to such
areas as the customisation of supplement, the use and dangers of translations, the
workload involved in producing supplement etc. The final version of the supplement
presented here (see Appendix 4) is streamlined and contains strong practical
recommendations on its production and use. In particular, the concerns about the workload
it involved and its complexity led to the creation of detailed guidance notes and the
production of examples of completed supplements (also contained in Appendices 4).
The Diploma Supplement produced is a result of a rigorous empirical
testing. The final ‘Outline structure for Diploma Supplements’ is presented in
Appendix 4. This Appendix also contains the following sections: ‘Explanatory notes on
completing supplements’; ‘Examples of supplements’; ‘Founding principles and
general guidelines for those producing supplements’; and ‘Glossary’. These are all
designed to assist the implementation of the Diploma Supplement at institutional, national
and international levels. They are a product of the practical experiences of the pilot
project and recommendations from the final evaluation meetings. Their use is strongly
recommended as this will ease the implementation of the Diploma Supplement. The overall
results of the project are very positive and the evaluation phase (for details see Section
2 of this report and Appendices 5 and 6) and subsequent refinement of the Diploma
Supplement has produced an effective tool to improve international academic and
professional recognition. The supplement functioned well for different sorts of
application, types and sizes of institutions, countries, regions, subjects and levels.
The non-recognition and under-evaluation of qualifications is a global
problem and original qualifications alone do not provide sufficient information. National
educational systems and qualification structures are constantly changing under the impact
of rapid economic and technological change. In this situation mobile citizens need clear
explanations of their qualifications. The working party is convinced that the Diploma
Supplement provides this.
The working party make the following recommendations:
The working party suggests that European Union, Council of Europe
and UNESCO, adopt and actively support the introduction of the new Diploma Supplement
model developed by the pilot.
3.2 Good practice in the production of Diploma Supplements
The evaluation questionnaires produced a fairly even split over the
automatic production of supplements. Some indicated that supplements should only be issued
on demand (and with a payment of a small fee), others favoured automatic issue. On
balance, the working party advises automatic issue as the problems of any retrospective
issue would present many difficulties. However, any decision about charging for
supplements is to be made by autonomous national institutions, and the working party takes
no view on this. Also it is up to institutions to devise suitable security measures to
ensure their supplements are not forged or tampered with.
The overwhelming view of the institutions involved in the pilot
confirmed that customised supplements that did not follow the suggested order and
structure for the information were much less effective and more difficult to understand.
There are also clear advantages in promoting a uniform model that has widespread
international use. Users of the supplement should follow this model and only give
information on the scope, level, status, context and content of the qualification.
Supplements should always include the brief warning statement and explanation printed in
the box at the top of the outline supplement model in Appendix 4). This helps act as a
quality check for any credential evaluator. The supplement should not be confused with a
curriculum vitae and should always be accompanied by the original qualification. Details
and advice on their production can be found in Appendix 4.
3.3 National and international implementation of Supplements
The Diploma Supplement is an important tool to further
international transparency and improve recognition. It has both national and international
applications. At the national level; Rectors’ Conferences, Ministries, ENICs/NARICs and
other appropriate bodies are encouraged to promote its introduction, whilst at the
international level, the three sponsoring institutions are invited to support and promote
its implementation and the future monitoring of the initiative.
3.4 Applications and use of the Supplement
The Diploma Supplement has been designed to be used for any higher
education qualification (including final and/or intermediate degrees) where a specific
qualification has been successfully gained. It is designed to be issued with the
qualification. It is recommended that activities that do not lead to qualifications are
best documented in annual transcripts, e.g. in the format of the ECTS transcript. The
experience of the pilot confirmed that good transcripts made the Diploma Supplement
shorter and easier to comprehend.
3.5 Workload involved in the creation of Supplements
Some initial work is needed to introduce the Diploma Supplement at
Higher Education Institutions. However, the experience of Flemish institutions who have
introduced the previous version of the Diploma Supplement shows that the long-term
benefits easily outweigh the short-term effort. There, the supplement has reduced
workload, costs and provided significant benefits to both students and institutions. The
introduction of the supplement throughout a whole institution should be staged to reduce
the burden on staff. It is recommended that it is introduced faculty by faculty or
department by department, as has often been the case with the introduction of the European
Credit Transfer System (ECTS). Running a national pilot project to test a country’s
requirements and how it could best be nationally adopted could be another option.
3.6 Language of issue for the Diploma Supplement
As previously stated, the Diploma Supplement can have both national
and international uses to aid academic and professional recognition and mobility. The
Supplement can be issued in the national language for internal purposes, whilst for
international use, and to aid transparency, it can be issued in one or more widely spoken
languages. In order to facilitate the distribution of accurate documentation the
sponsoring organisations are invited to provide versions of the Diploma Supplement
documentation in as many European languages as possible.
3.7 Translation of qualification titles and institutional names
In the Diploma Supplement it is clearly stated that the title of
the qualification, the title of the awarding institution and award classification should
be given in the original language. The background for this recommendation is that
translating degree titles into another language should be avoided because it nearly always
implies a kind of evaluation and equivalence. The supplement is designed to be a factual
document that avoids all value judgements and equivalence statements. The Diploma
Supplement itself should contain sufficient information on the qualification so that a
translation (containing possible misleading value judgements) is not needed. It should
always be possible for the person looking at the Diploma Supplement to make his/her own
judgement concerning the qualification. However, the pilot phase and the final evaluation
meeting showed that opinions were very divided on this issue of translations of
qualifications and institutional titles. Some participants suggested that optional
translations of titles should be allowed. However, a majority of the working party and
participants in the pilot project strongly disagreed with this. It also contravenes the
Council of Europe, UNESCO Convention on Recognition. Therefore the final model does not
include the possibility for translating titles.
3.8 Description of national higher education systems
The pilot project showed that these descriptions are very valuable
for placing the qualification in question into a national context and for evaluation
purposes. Great care should be taken in having clear, concise descriptions. It is
recommended that these descriptions are made at national level, preferably in co-operation
with the Ministry of Education, the national Rectors’ Conference and the national
ENIC/NARIC office. Furthermore, it is important to secure an automatic update when changes
are made in the higher education system. Some models describing higher education systems
can be found included in the examples of Diploma Supplements in Appendix 4, section III.
3.9 Promotion of the use of the Diploma Supplement
It is clear from the evaluation meetings that higher education
institutions, the social partners, students and the public at large, will all require
information and encouragement to become familiar with, and use, the Diploma Supplement.
Higher Education Institutions will require information seminars and staff development
sessions to help them prepare to issue supplements using appropriate computer software,
whilst the general public needs to be made aware of the benefits of supplements.
In article IX.1 of the 1997 Lisbon Council of Europe/UNESCO Convention
on the Recognition of Qualifications Concerning Higher Education in the European Region,
it stated that the parties (to the convention) should promote, through national
information centres or otherwise, the use of the UNESCO/Council of Europe Diploma
Supplement or other comparable documents by the higher education institutions and parties.
It is recommended that the introduction of the Diploma Supplement is considered an
important tool for fulfilling one of the obligations of signatories to the convention.
Furthermore, the working party suggests that financial resources are
found under the new Socrates II programme and other educational programmes to help
introduce the Diploma Supplement on the international level.