Evaluation methodology

Evaluation methodology used in the procedures for the recognition of foreign qualifications in Italy

In its procedures for the evaluation of foreign qualifications, CIMEA applies a methodology in line with the criteria established by the Lisbon Recognition Convention and in line with the practices shared at international level by the centres linked to the ENIC and NARIC networks. During the evaluation procedures, CIMEA also takes into account the characteristics of the qualification and the features of the foreign system to which it belongs as shown below, comparing them to Italian qualifications and the Italian system of higher education, not least to verify whether there are cases of "substantial difference”.

General principles

CIMEA, during its evaluations, in addition to the founding elements provided for by the Lisbon Recognition Convention, applies the following general principles:

  • The evaluation of foreign qualifications is performed on a case-by-case basis, evaluating the individual qualification in correspondence with and according to the purpose for which recognition is requested in Italy.
  • The refusal of recognition is based on the concept of "substantial difference", both in consideration of the elements of the corresponding foreign and Italian qualifications, and also taking into consideration the structural elements of the foreign system in question on the basis of the general organization of the legislative code and the Italian higher education system.
  • The different attribution of cycle/level of a foreign qualification in reference to that required in Italy for admission to a specific course of study should always be considered as a "substantial difference". However, attribution of this foreign qualification to the same cycle/level as that required in Italy for admission to a specific course of study does not always signify an equivalence and/or recognition, given that the cycle/level is only one of the elements that constitute a qualification, which must be evaluated together with all the other elements of the foreign qualification.
  • The mere absence of a document required in the recognition procedure does not imply the impossibility of an evaluation, unless this document is crucial in proving the authenticity of the qualification, its award or contains one of the fundamental elements of the qualification that is crucial for a correct evaluation.
  • In the case of refusal of recognition with reference to the requested purpose, the possibility of partial recognition of the foreign qualification will be taken into consideration.
  • The assessment of the foreign qualification is only possible for official qualifications in the system of reference, that is, as issued by accredited/recognized institutions: not all qualifications considered official in a foreign system will be found acceptable for recognition in Italy in cases where one or more substantial differences exist.
  • The evaluation of a foreign qualification takes into account the status of the institution that issued the qualification, which must be fully recognised/accredited for the entire national territory in which it operates. The sole authorisation to operate, the mere fact that it is active in a specific territory, the fact that there are different authorisations, accreditation and/or recognition other than those mandated at national level for the issue of qualifications in the national higher education sector, or any other authorisation that does not prove that an institution has completed all the phases envisaged by the accreditation/recognition procedures in place in the foreign system of reference for higher education institutions, including cases of temporary and/or conditional accreditation, cannot be considered as proof of the official status of the foreign institution with the scope of recognising the qualifications issued by it.
  • The assessment of a foreign qualification takes into account the status of the institution that issued the final credential ( awarding institution), and of the one where the studies actually took place or which organized them (teaching institution).
  • It is possible to evaluate a foreign qualification where there is correspondence within the Italian system, both in terms of type and subject.
  • The assessment is based on official documents in the original language issued by the country or by the foreign institution in of reference, bearing the names of the institutions and the names of the qualifications of the reference system: any other document, such as a translation, self-certifications, and any other comparison and/or comparability referring to the official Italian qualifications, are to be considered as a support for the evaluation, but do not replace the delivery of the official documentation requested and do not influence the relative evaluation process.
  • The award of a foreign qualification through "special" procedures or paths, which differ from the ordinary methods of awarding the qualification or which are the result of methods of evaluation carried out by foreign institutions or centres, are generally to be considered as cases of "substantial difference".
  • In addition to the understanding of the contents of the qualification, the assessment also takes into account the modalities in which the foreign qualification was obtained/awarded.
  • A previous assessment concerning similar qualifications has no binding power over future evaluations, as the education path is to be considered as a single and unique case.

Automatic recognition of a qualification

CIMEA and Italian HE institutions recognize the right for holders of a qualification of a certain level that has been issued by another country to be evaluated according to the principles of the Lisbon Recognition Convention for entry to a higher education programme at the next level in Italy, without having to go through any separate recognition procedure. This does not prejudice the right of a higher education institution or the competent authorities to set specific evaluation and admission criteria for a specific programme, and it does not prejudice the right to check if the qualification is authentic and in the case of a school leaving qualification, if it really gives access to higher education in the country of issuance in line with the Council Recommendation of 26 November 2018 on promoting automatic mutual recognition of higher education and upper secondary education and training qualifications and the outcomes of learning periods abroad.

Elements of the foreign qualification

CIMEA, in order to guarantee the correct evaluation of foreign qualifications, gathers the following information for each individual qualification to be evaluated:

  • Official name of the qualification (in the original language)
  • Official name and status of the institution that has awarded the qualification (awarding institution)
  • Official name and status of the institution which provided the tuition – where different from the former case (teaching institution)
  • Accreditation/recognition of the course
  • Nature of qualification
  • Level of qualification
  • Length of course
  • Number of credits
  • Academic and professional rights
  • Specific elements (e.g. the presence of a final thesis)
  • Study curriculum

These elements can be found directly in the official documentation provided by the holder of the qualification, or through official sources in the country that awarded the certificate.

Elements of the foreign system

CIMEA, in order to arrive at a correct evaluation of foreign qualifications, obtains the following information on each single foreign system of school and higher education, as well as on the basis of and in consideration of any reforms that have modified these elements at national level:

School education and final qualification

  • Years of schooling required for access to higher education
  • Existence of different scholastic institutions and of different final qualifications in upper secondary schools (diversified/non-diversified systems)
  • Denomination of diploma(s) awarded at end of secondary school and the higher education institutions they provide access to
  • Existence of a mandatory national exam to proceed to higher education
  • Existence of specific elements required by institutions to access higher education
  • Institution or body that awards final qualification

Higher education

  • Binary or unique system of higher education
  • Denomination of academic qualifications and their specific qualifications
  • System of evaluation of progress and methodology used by institutions for grades
  • System of credits or of measurement of “weight” of each course
  • Institution or body which awards final qualification
  • Qualifications which permit access to subsequent courses
  • Consequential or non-consequential higher education system
  • Nature of higher education courses in consideration of the status of the institution and the type of final qualification
  • Obligation of a final exam and its type
  • Existence of an academic qualification awarded together with the study title
  • Existence of a professional qualification awarded together with the study title

Further elements

  • International, bilateral or multilateral agreements on the subject of recognition of qualifications and/or the standardisation of systems
  • Rules for accreditation/recognition of higher education institutions
  • Rules for accreditation/recognition of single study programmes
  • Existence of a quality control system at a central or local level, or devolved to other bodies
  • Existence of a quality control system for institutions belonging to a national system that operate abroad

Required documentation

The documentation requested by CIMEA is relevant in order to understand the elements of the foreign system and those of the qualification to be evaluated.

As the assessment is carried out on a case-by-case basis, and also considering the fact that a qualification may have been obtained following different paths, the documentation requested by CIMEA is based on each individual case and may vary depending on the foreign country of reference of the qualification, where the studies took place and the institution(s) involved in the procedure..

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