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The Lisbon Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education

The Lisbon Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region was harmonised and adopted in April 1997 in Lisbon and constitutes one of the most important documents in higher education; numerous countries in and outside Europe (55 so far) have made it a part of their national legislation by subsequent ratification.

The preparation and adoption of the convention were harmonised by UNESCO and the Council of Europe, while Slovenia was among the first countries to ratify it in 1999. The Convention defines the basic terms used in higher education (access, acceptance, assessment, study programme, qualification, recognition etc.) and the competences of recognition bodies, determines the basic principles in qualification assessment and the recognition of qualifications, both those enabling access to higher education (e.g. general upper secondary school-leaving external examination) and recognition of shorter study periods (e.g. one semester) and full qualifications (e.g. diploma).

One of the basic principles of the convention is that signatories should mutually recognise qualifications unless substantial differences can be shown. Since these differences cannot be precisely defined by a legal instrument, their identification is carried out by special services mostly active at national ministries competent for higher education (ENIC-NARIC centres).

The Convention also governs the recognition of qualifications of refugees and displaced persons, stresses the importance of quality assurance in higher education, and provides for information systems. The Lisbon Convention has undergone full confirmation also in the context of the Bologna process and is, at the moment, the only instrument of international law within this process.