FAQ – From one study programme to another 

From one study programme to another – all the important questions and answers
“Tell me again how it works?” Our FAQs provide concise, straightforward answers to important questions about academic recognition of your achievements and competences from your prior studies.

In principle, for the purpose of academic recognition it doesn’t matter at which type of university you previously studied. The decisive factor is whether a substantial difference in the acquired competences can be determined from the different form of institution. The assessment is based on the following criteria of the Lisbon Recognition Convention Committee:

  • Quality of the university or the respective study programme
  • Level of competences acquired and to be acquired
  • Workload
  • Profile of the study programme
  • Learning outcomes

The assessment of the quality of the university or the programme is the necessary precondition for the assessment of the other criteria. The further assessment focuses on learning outcomes. Thus, the assessment of the level, workload and profile must always be seen in relation to the comparison of the learning outcomes acquired and those to be acquired or the competences to be achieved. These three criteria indicate a divergent competence acquisition, but do not in themselves establish a substantial difference.
In order to assess the level, it is necessary to establish the formal level of the course of study. This means that the semester or study level in which you studied will be checked against the semester or study level for which the recognition of your achievements is planned. If, for example, you attained the achievements as part of your bachelor’s degree, academic recognition for a master’s degree is unlikely. When transferring from a university of applied sciences (HAW or FH) to a university, however, recognition should not be a problem if the level of study is equivalent.

Universities can decide for themselves how to proceed in such cases. For example, the achievement could be recognised without grading, which would cause the removal of the grading from the overall grade calculation and a changed weighting of the grades from other modules. Not all universities allow ungraded academic recognition. If necessary, an individual solution must be developed, e.g. in an additional technical discussion or subsequent grading by the recognising university. Find out more about this at your university.

The Lisbon Convention does not impose a limit on the recognition of a qualification as long as there is no substantial difference in the acquisition of competences. This view was also clearly affirmed by the Higher Education Committee of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany at the end of 2016. The Accreditation Council additionally points out that no state higher education act provides for such a restriction either (https://www.akkreditierungsrat.de/fileadmin/Seiteninhalte/AR/Beschluesse/AR_Lissabon_Konvention.pdf).

It is in keeping with the nature of the recognition of acquired competences that achievements can be “used” several times. However, the recognition of a full study programme is a misuse and should therefore be rejected. See also letter from the Accreditation Council dated 6 October 2016, “Zur Anwendung der Lissabon-Konvention”.

Therefore, if there is no substantial difference, your achievements must be recognised, regardless of when and in which study programme you attained them and whether they have already been recognised elsewhere.

As long as it can be proven that the required competence or achievement exists at the time of application, it is irrelevant when you acquired it. For this to be the case, however, there must be no substantial difference between the learning outcomes. For example, if you studied computer science in the nineties, your university cannot assume that your competences correspond to the current state of science or technology. However, if there is no substantial difference between existing and required competences, achievements and competences can be recognised throughout life.

The form of assessment plays a subordinate role in the question of recognition of achievements. If the examination form of the achievement (e.g. oral/written, written exam/seminar paper) does not match, this is not a general obstacle to recognition. A different form of examination could be an indication of differences between the competences acquired and those to be acquired. However, the (intended) learning outcomes must be linked to the examination in order to justify a substantial difference. For example, in sports science it makes a difference whether the exam involved is practical or theoretical. However, the difference between testing basic knowledge in an oral or in a written examination does not constitute a substantial difference.

Firstly, it depends on the quality of the institution offering the service (e.g.: Is the provider an university or a non-university provider?). Secondly, MOOCs, for example, are often only offered for a shorter duration, so that the necessary information for evaluation may no longer be available. And thirdly, for recognition of prior learning or academic recognition, an aggregation of several achievements is often useful or necessary, since the scope of competence acquisition in these courses is smaller than in most study modules. In particular, the borderline cases between the academic recognition of competences obtained at universities and recognition of prior learning, i.e. competences acquired in non-academic contexts, must be examined in greater detail and clearly assigned to academic recognition or recognition of prior learning, as the relevant legal bases and assessment criteria vary.

The legally binding requirements are contained in the Lisbon Recognition Convention, which was transposed into German federal law as the “Gesetz zu dem Übereinkommen vom 11. April 1997 über die Anerkennung von Qualifikationen im Hochschulbereich in der europäischen Region” and in the regulations in the higher education laws of the Länder. In addition, the state ordinances on the State Treaty on the Accreditation of Studies are relevant. As a rule, state law requires universities to regulate academic recognition procedures in their (framework) examination regulations. The following resolutions and similar are also relevant as interpretative notes and working instruments: