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Guidance for Those Creating Diploma Supplements


The following guidelines, explanatory notes and glossary are designed  to  help the production of concise and effective supplements. They  result  from  the work of  a  joint  European Commission - Council  of  Europe  UNESCO/CEPES working  group  that  in  1997-1998  piloted  and evaluated  the  Diploma  Supplement. The  guidelines  make  strong recommendations  concerning   the  principles and  good  practice behind effective  supplements and   the explanatory notes give further detailed advice to higher education institutions  who create supplements.  The guidelines  and  notes are  available,  along   with   the  supplement  outline,   in  all  EU/EA  languages  and   Russian.  A  range   of    good practice  examples   of   completed  Diploma   Supplements can be  found  by contacting  the  European  Commission, DG22   (http://europa.eu.int/en/com/dg22),   the   Council   of   Europe   (http://culture.coe.fr)  or    UNESCO/CEPES (http://www.cepes.ro). The Diploma Supplement is a product of the Convention on the  Recognition of  Qualifications Concerning Higher  Education  in  the  European Region, Lisbon  1997.  It   was   further  tested as  part of  the Phare Multi-Country Project, Recognition of Higher Education Diploma and Study Credit Points Across Borders.



It is strongly recommended that supplements should conform with the following principles and practices:


1.     The brief explanatory note (at the head of the sample supplement) should be reproduced as part of each completed Diploma Supplement, in order to guide universities, employers and other potential users of the information.


2.     Institutions should follow the structure and sequence of information carefully developed and tested by the pilot project. Various customised versions were tested and found not to be as clear and user-friendly. In the cases where sections were omitted altogether, these supplements were invariably found to be ineffective. Great care needs to be taken in compiling supplements in order to avoid imprecise, missing or confused information. Over-long and over-complicated supplements should be avoided. They irritate those who receive them. Avoid information overload and present information as concisely as possible. The examples of good practice supplements show how this can be done. The use of a transcript clearly helps provide detailed information in a concise way.


3.     In combination with the credential itself, the supplement should provide sufficient information to enable the reader to make a judgement about the qualification and whether it is appropriate for the purpose for which the holder seeks to use it (e.g. for access to an academic programme, exemption from part of a programme, employment/right to practise a profession, etc.).  It is not designed to replace a curriculum vitae but to provide additional information.


4.     The supplement should always be accompanied by the original qualification as supplements normally have no legal validity. The existence of a Diploma Supplement does not guarantee the status of an institution, its awards, or whether it is recognised as part of a national higher education system. However, it should contain information on these aspects.


5.     The supplement should always have the name and title of the qualification, the name and status of the institution awarding/administering it, and  the classification of the award all presented in the original language. Incorrect translations mislead those making judgements about qualifications. Transliterations are permissible in the case of scripts other than the Latin alphabet.


6.     Supplements should be free from any value judgements, equivalence statements or suggestions about recognition. Information in all eight sections should be provided. Where information is not provided, an explanation should give the reason why.


7.     The production of supplements is best done centrally and not devolved to different parts of academic institutions. This keep costs down and minimises variation in content and approach.


8.     Institutions should take appropriate action to minimise the possibility of forgery and misrepresentation of their supplements.



9.     Information on the higher education system (section eight) should be kept to a two-page maximum. Where possible, information could include diagrams and charts to aid clarity. As a part of the pilot diploma supplement project, finalised versions of this information are to be produced for each country with the help of national ENICs/NARICs (national information centres), Ministries and Rectors’ Conferences.


10.  It is best to issue supplements automatically at the time the qualification is completed. This is preferable to retrospective issue which becomes more difficult as programmes and educational awards are subject to continuous evolution and change. It is particularly important that section eight of the supplement describes the national higher education structure in force at the time the qualification was awarded.


11.  Great care should be taken with translations and terminology as many problems exist in this area. In order to overcome these, it is essential that the original language is used where indicated in the supplement.. In addition, the glossary of terms associated with the supplement has been specifically produced to overcome linguistic confusions. Supplements should be produced in whatever language(s) institutions think appropriate.


12.  Where they exist, institutional, regional and national quality assurance systems should include Diploma Supplements in their activities. This will help ensure the quality of supplements.


13.  Supplements are designed to be used with sensitivity. The evaluation of qualifications from another country should concentrate on the competence, experience and knowledge acquired, recognising that ‘fair recognition’ and  not exact equivalence should be sought.




(The numbers below refer to the numbered sections in the Diploma Supplement.)



1.1           Provide the full family or surname.   

1.2           Include all given/first names.

1.3           Indicate day, month and year of birth.

1.4           This should identify the individual as a student enrolled on the particular programme which is covered by the Diploma Supplement. A national or State personal identification number could be included for those countries that have such systems of identification.



2.1           Give the full name of the qualification in the original language as it is styled in the original qualification e.g. Kandidat nauk, Maîtrise, Diplom, etc. If the qualification is a dual award this should be stated. Indicate if the award confers any nationally accepted title on the holder and what this title is e.g. Doctor, Ingénieur etc. Indicate if the title is protected in law.

2.2           Show only the major field(s) of study (disciplines) that define the main subject area(s) for the qualification e.g. Politics and History, Human Resource Management, Business Administration, Molecular Biology etc.

2.3            Indicate the name of the institution awarding the qualification. This is often, but not always,  the same as the                institution administering the studies and delivering the programme (see 2.4 below).    Qualifications may be                 delivered by a sub-contracted institution that has been given a ‘franchise’ or some type of  ‘accreditation’  by             a senior competent authority. This might be  the state, a university or a  professional institution.   Sometimes                the senior authority may be a foreign institution. If this is the case it  should  be indicated here. Also indicate   the  status  of   the   awarding  institution:  Private/Independent,  Private and  State recognised,  State, and  if    applicable who  it  is  accredited  by etc. Finally, indicate  the  general national  educational  classification  of                 the  awarding  institution e.g. University,  Fachhochschule,  Professional Body, Technical College,  Grande                 Ecole  etc.  If  there is  a difference  between  the  awarding  institution and   the  institution   delivering   the    qualification indicate the status of both.


2.4           This refers to the institution which is responsible for the delivery of the programme. In some cases this can be different from the institution awarding the qualification (see 2.3 above). Also indicate the status of the institution delivering the studies: Private/Independent, Private and State recognised, State, and if applicable who it is accredited by etc. Finally, indicate the general national  educational classification of  the administering institution e.g. College of Higher Education, Private Institute etc.

2.5           Indicate the language(s) by which the qualification was delivered and examined.



3.1           Give the precise level of qualification and its place in the specific national educational structure of awards (explained and cross-referenced to the information in section eight).  The local educational framework should be explained, e.g. University Undergraduate/Postgraduate, Baccalaureate + x years  etc. Include any relevant information on ‘level indicators’ that are nationally devised and recognised and which relate to the qualification.

3.2           Explain the official duration of the programme in weeks or years and the actual workload including information on any major sub-components i.e. practical training. Preferably, the workload should be expressed in terms of total student effort required. This consists of the normal designated time on the programme including taught classes and private study, examinations etc. This can be expressed as x hours per week for x weeks, or just by using the normal local description of the length e.g. one year full-time study.

3.3           List or explain the nature and length of access qualification(s) or periods of study required for access to the programme described by this Diploma Supplement e.g. Bachelor Degree, Baccalaureate etc. This is particularly important when intermediate studies are a prerequisite to the named qualification.



4.1           The mode of study refers to how the programme was undertaken e.g. Full-time, Part-time, Intermittent/Sandwich, Distance, including Placements etc.

4.2            If applicable,  provide  details of  the  regulations   covering   the  minimum standards required  to secure the                 qualification,  e.g. any  compulsory  components  or  compulsory practical   elements,  whether   all elements    have to be passed  simultaneously, any thesis/dissertation regulations etc.  Include details  of   any  particular              features that   help  define  the  qualification,   especially  information on  the  requirements  for  successfully                passing  it.  If  available,  provide  details  of  the  learning  outcomes, skills, competencies  and   stated  aims                 and objectives associated with the qualification.

4.3            Give   details  of   each  of   the  individual   elements  or  parts of   the qualification  and   their     weighting.

                List   the actual   marks   and/or grades  obtained in   each  major component   of   the   qualification. Entries   should  be   as  complete as   possible and    in   accordance   with   what     is    normally    recorded    at  the              institution  concerned. Cover all  examinations and  assessed  components and/or  fields of  study offered   in          examination,  including  any   dissertation  or  thesis.  Indicate  if  the   latter  were  defended or  not. All this                 information    is  often  available   in    the   form  of  a   transcript    (a  useful   format   for  transcripts   was              developed    for   the  European  Credit  Transfer  System  [ECTS] (1)).  Many  credit-based  systems  employ  detailed  transcripts  that  can   be  integrated into  the  wider  framework  of  the  Diploma   Supplement   If     information  on  the   credit allocation  between   course components  and   units  is  available   it  should   be      included.  

4.4           Provide information on the grading scheme and pass marks relating to the qualification e.g. marks are out of a possible 100% and the minimum pass mark is 40%. Tremendous variations in grading practices exist within and between different national higher education institutions and countries. A mark of 70% in some academic cultures is highly regarded whilst in other countries it is regarded as average or poor. Information on the use and distribution of grades relating to the qualification in question should be included.

4.5           If appropriate, indicate the overall classification for the final qualification i.e. First Class Honours Degree, Summa Cum Laude, Merit, Avec Distinction etc. 



5.1           Indicate if within the country of origin, the qualification normally provides access to further academic and/or professional study, especially leading to any specific qualifications, or levels of study e.g. access to Doctoral studies in Hungary. If this is the case, specify the grades or standards that have to be obtained to allow progression. Indicate if the qualification is a terminal (end) award or part of a hierarchy of awards.

5.2           Give details of any rights to practise, or professional status accorded to the holders of the qualification. What specific access, if any, does the qualification give in terms of employment or professional practice and indicate which  competent authority allows this. Indicate if the qualification gives access to a ‘regulated profession’.



6.1           Add any additional information not included above but relevant to the purposes of assessing the nature, level and usage of the qualification e.g. the qualification involved a period of study/training in another institution/company/country or, include further relevant details about the higher education institution where the qualification was taken.

6.2           Indicate any further useful information sources and references where more details on the qualification could be sought e.g. the department in the issuing institution; a national information centre; the European Union National Academic Recognition Information Centres (NARIC); the Council of Europe/UNESCO European National Information Centre on Academic Recognition and Mobility (ENIC).



7.1           The date the Diploma Supplement was issued. This would not necessarily be the same date the qualification was awarded.

7.2           The name and signature of the official certifying the Diploma Supplement.

7.3           The official post of the certifying individual.

7.4           The official stamp or seal of the institution that provides authentication of the Diploma Supplement.



                Give information on the higher educational system: its general access requirements; types of institution and the qualifications structure (2). This description should provide a context for the qualification and refer  to  it.  A standard framework for these descriptions together with actual descriptions should  be available for many countries. These have been created as a result of this project and with the co-operation of the relevant National (European Union and European Economic Area) Academic Recognition Information Centre (NARIC), European (Council of Europe/UNESCO) National Information Centre on Academic Recognition and Mobility (ENIC), Ministries and Rectors’ conferences.



(1)             For further details see the ECTS Users' Guide published by the European Community (http://europa.eu.int/en/com/dg22).

(2)             Under the April 1997 Lisbon Council of Europe/UNESCO Convention on The Recognition of Qualifications Concerning Higher Education in the European Region" (http://culture.coe.fr), signatories are committed to making arrangements for providing such information. 






Definitions and usage of terms vary from country to country. To reduce the possibility of misunderstanding this glossary aims to cover all the main terms used in the papers associated with the Diploma Supplement initiative. It is partly based and fully consistent with the definition used in the 1997 Lisbon Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications Concerning Higher Education in the European Region..


ACADEMIC RECOGNITION refers to the recognition of courses, qualifications or diplomas from one (domestic or foreign) higher education institution by another. Usually this is sought as a basis for access to further new study at the second institution (cumulative recognition) or, as recognition allowing some sort of exemption from having to re-study elements of a programme (recognition with advanced standing). A further type of academic recognition is recognition of studies taken elsewhere in another institution that replace a comparable period of study at the home institution. This (recognition by substitution) operates under the European Credit Transfer System ((ECTS) mobility scheme (see ECTS).

ACCESS (to higher education) refers to the right of qualified candidates to apply and be considered for admission to higher education. Access is distinct from admission, which concerns the individuals’ actual participation in the higher education programme concerned.


ACCREDITATION is the process by which one higher education institution gains authority to award, and/or gains recognition of, its qualifications from another senior competent authority. This might be the State, a government agency or, another domestic or foreign higher education institution (see FRANCHISE). The term has its origins in the American system and is used in some European countries in the same way as ‘recognition’.

ADMISSION the act of, or system for, allowing qualified applicants to pursue studies in higher education at a given institution and/or a given programme.

ASSESSMENT i) (of institutions or programmes) the process for establishing the educational quality of a higher education institution or programme; ii) (of individual qualifications) the written appraisal or evaluation of an individual’s foreign qualifications by a competent authority; iii) (of individual students) the actual testing of a student's ability and skills within a programme (e.g. by examination). 

AWARD this is used synonymously with qualification.

COMPETENT RECOGNITION AUTHORITY a body officially charged with making binding decisions on the recognition of foreign qualifications.

COURSE a part of a programme of studies that is normally self-contained and assessed separately. Complete study programmes are normally composed of several courses.

CREDENTIAL a term sometimes used to refer to a qualification (see QUALIFICATION).

CREDENTIAL EVALUATOR the individual who makes a judgement on the recognition of foreign qualifications (see COMPETENT RECOGNITION AUTHORITY).

CREDIT the 'currency' providing a measure of learning outcomes achieved in a notional time at a given level. Usually associated with credit-based modular courses (see ECTS).

DE FACTO RECOGNITION refers to situations of unregulated professional recognition, such as where no national legal authorisation to practice a particular profession exists or is required. This is the most problematic area of professional recognition (see PROFESSIONAL RECOGNITION and RECOGNITION).

DE JURE RECOGNITION refers to the recognition of the right to work in a specific (European Union or European Economic Area) country in a legally regulated profession (e.g. medical doctor). These situations are subject to various European Union Directives whereby if a citizen is a fully qualified professional in one Member State, he or she has a right to be recognised as a professional in another Member State, including the right to use the relevant professional title (see REGULATED PROFESSION, PROFESSIONAL RECOGNITION and RECOGNITION).

DIPLOMA here refers to any qualification/credential. There is a possibility of confusion here. In some educational systems the term refers  to a specific category or type of qualification.  It is not being used in this restricted sense here.

ECTS the European Credit Transfer System (developed by the European Commission). This is a system based on ECTS credits (workload), designed to facilitate mobility, credit transfer and the international recognition of periods of study completed abroad (see ACADEMIC RECOGNITION).

ENIC European (Council of Europe/UNESCO) National Information Centre on Academic Recognition and Mobility.

FRANCHISE the situation where an institution agrees to authorise another institution (nationally or internationally) to deliver an approved programme whilst normally retaining overall control of the programme's content, delivery, assessment and quality assurance arrangements. However,  significant variations in franchise relationships exist.

FIELD OF STUDY the main disciplines or subject areas of a qualification.

HIGHER EDUCATION all types of courses of study, or sets of courses (programmes), training, or training for research at the post secondary level which are recognised by the relevant authorities as belonging to its higher education system. Higher education builds on the level of competence, knowledge and skills generally acquired through secondary education (see HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTION and PROGRAMME OF STUDY). Higher education normally comes after secondary education in time and is normally offered through higher education programmes at higher education institutions. However, it should be noted that higher education institutions may give courses of study that are not higher education level. Conversely, institutions which are  not considered as belonging to the higher education system may offer some higher education programmes. The exact definition of higher education and higher education institutions vary from country to country. For example, in some countries, nursing is considered to be a field of higher education, whereas in other countries, nursing is considered to be part of post-secondary education without being higher education.

HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTION an establishment providing higher education and recognised by the competent authorities as belonging to its system of higher education (see HIGHER EDUCATION and PROGRAMME OF STUDY). 


LEARNING OUTCOMES the specific intellectual and practical skills gained and tested by the successful completion of a unit, course or whole programme of study.

LEVEL the place of a qualification in the higher education system. Normally, a national hierarchy of qualifications exists. The number of levels of higher education qualifications vary between countries and/or kinds of higher education (see LEVEL INDICATORS).

LEVEL INDICATORS these can range from any general information on the role of the qualification to highly detailed specific statements about the nature, skills and competencies associated with the successful completion of parts or all of a qualification (see LEVEL).

LISBON CONVENTION refers to the Council of Europe/UNESCO Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications Concerning Higher Education in the European Region adopted in Lisbon April 1997.

MODULE a separate and coherent block of learning. Part of a modular programme of studies where the curriculum is divided into a range of similar sized segments.

NARIC National Academic Recognition Information Centre (European Union and European Economic Area). Some NARICs also have responsibilities for professional recognition.

PROFESSIONAL RECOGNITION refers to the right to practise and the professional status accorded to a holder of a qualification. In the European Union recognition for professional purposes is defined as the legal act by which a competent authority in a host Member State recognises that the qualifications obtained by an applicant in another Member State are suitable for the pursuit on its territory of a professional activity whose practice is legally regulated (see REGULATED PROFESSION, DE JURE RECOGNITION, DE FACTO RECOGNITION and RECOGNITION).

PROGRAMME OF STUDY a set of courses, the various components of which complement and build on each other in order to provide the student with a higher education qualification (see HIGHER EDUCATION, HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTION and COURSE). ‘Programme’ also denotes the academic fields of study and requirements that collectively define the qualification (see FIELD OF STUDY). 

QUALIFICATION  i) higher education qualification: any degree, diploma or other certificate issued by a competent authority attesting the successful completion of a higher education programme; ii) qualification giving access to higher education: any diploma or other certificate issued by a competent authority attesting the successful completion of an education programme and giving the holder of the qualification the right to be considered for admission to higher education (see HIGHER EDUCATION, HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTION and PROGRAMME OF STUDY). Also termed as any higher education award given for the successful completion of a programme of learning; a generic term that refers to the wide variety of higher education qualifications at different levels and across different countries.

QUALITY ASSURANCE refers to the internal and external processes by which the quality of academic provision is maintained.

RECOGNITION a formal acknowledgement by a competent authority of the value of a foreign educational qualification with a view to access to educational and/or employment activities. An assessment of individual qualifications. Such assessment may be any kind of statement on the value of (in this case) a foreign qualification. Recognition refers to a formal statement by a competent recognition authority acknowledging the value of the qualification in question and indicating the consequences of this recognition for the holder of the qualification. For example a qualification may be recognised for the purposes of further study at a given level (academic recognition), or for the use of a title, or for the exercise of employment purposes (professional recognition) (see COMPETENT RECOGNITION AUTHORITY, QUALIFICATION, ACADEMIC RECOGNITION and PROFESSIONAL RECOGNITION). Recognition can also refer to the accreditation of a higher education institution by another authority (see ACCREDITATION).

REGULATED PROFESSION refers to professions in the European Union and European Economic Area whose practice is regulated in some way by law or administrative rules (see DE JURE RECOGNITION). 

TRANSCRIPT an official record or breakdown of a student's progress and achievements. Many credit-based education systems employ detailed transcripts that show the credits and grades for units undertaken (e.g. ECTS Transcript of Records).

VALIDATION the process by which a recognised awarding institution judges that a programme of study leading to a qualification is of appropriate quality and standard. This can be a programme of its own or that of a subordinate institution (see FRANCHISE).



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