Analytic Quality Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2004-21, Analytic Quality Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 22 September, 2021 , © Lee Harvey 2004–2021.


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core definition

Recognition is the formal acknowledgement of the status of an organisation, institution or programme.

explanatory context

Recognition may be on a basis of mutual acknowledgement (often bilateral), through member ship of a network or established through a formal acknowledgement process such as accreditation.

analytical review

The Council For Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) (2002), defines recognition is the United States as:

Acknowledgment that an accrediting organization meets or surpasses standards set by the entity conducting the recognition review.


The UNESCO definition of recognition is:

Tuition fees: Formal acknowledgement of (i) individual academic or professional qualifications; (ii) programmes of a higher education institution; and/or (iii) quality assurance agencies, by a competent recognition authority that acknowledges certain standards and/or values with respect to special purposes that indicate the consequences of recognition. Recognition is usually of a cross-institutional and/or cross-border nature. As regards recognition of individual qualifications, learning experiences (e.g., degrees, diplomas, or periods of study) are validated with a view to facilitating the access of holders to educational and/or employment activities. Here, at least two kinds of recognition, those for academic and those for professional purposes, should be distinguished. Programme recognition generally refers to the recognition of a specific programme of study of one higher education institution by another. It functions on the basis of a peer-acknowledgement procedure and is meant to allow a student to engage in continued study at the latter institution or to exempt him or her from re-studying subjects and materials which are not significantly different in different higher education institutions. With regard to institutions, recognition refers to the acknowledgement of quality assurance agencies or accrediting organizations, deemed to be trustful, efficient, and accountable institutions of quality assurance, following particular recognition standards set by the competent (usually foreign) recognition authorities. (Vlãsceanu et al. 2004, pp. 54–55).

European Training Foundation (ETF) (2011, p. 10), sees recognition as a complex concept:

The concept of recognition is more problematic because it is often thought of in several ways, often at the same time. Based on the work of the OECD (2007) and the ILO (2007), Leney (2009) provides a multi-dimensional definition which is helpful. Firstly, the skills that a person has gained should be easily recognisable (legible or transparent) to the users of qualifications. Users are mainly education providers, employers and of course the person who has achieved the qualification. Secondly, qualifications should be recognised as having a real value, for example for entry into the labour market or for academic or professional progression (currency). Thirdly, qualifications should be used and trusted when a person changes job or decides to migrate to a different area or country (portability). Thus, according to Leney, recognition refers to the transparency, currency and portability of qualifications. (ETF, 2011, p.10)

ETF goes on to list three types of recognition:

• Unilateral recognition. It has been the most common form of assessing migrant workers’ skills and competences. Here a country of inward labour market migration decides on its own which skills and qualifications it will recognise. Many recognition schemes have public policy objectives like ensuring quality and standards of services and protecting consumer and national interests.

• Mutual recognition agreements (MRAs). These are formally agreed between sending and receiving countries and they focus on reciprocal recognition of certifications and competences of migrant workers. A wide range of MRAs exists, mainly in the area of regulated professions. According to the ILO, negotiating an MRA tends to be a difficult process, in particular where regulations, levels of development, education systems, standards of training, ethics and practice differ substantially between countries.

• Trade/regional agreements. These are multilateral recognition agreements, as in regional arrangements such as those developing between European countries through the European Qualifications Framework. (ETF, 2011, p. 10)

associated issues

related areas

See also

academic recognition

mutual recognition

professional recognition


Council For Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) 2001, Glossary of Key Terms in Quality Assurance and Accreditation, last updated 23 October 2002, accessed 18 September 2012, page not available 30 December 2016.

European Training Foundation (ETF), 2011, Transnational Qualifications Frameworks Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2011, available at$file/Transnational%20qualifications%20frameworks.pdf, accessed 6 September 2012, still available 10 January 2017.

International Labour Office (ILO), 2007, Portability of Skills, ILO Governing Body 298th Session March 2007, GB.298/ESP/3,

Leney, T., 2009, Qualifications that Count: strengthening the recognition of qualifications in the Mediterranean region – MEDA-ETE Thematic Studies, Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg.

Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), 2007, Qualifications Systems: bridges to lifelong learning, OECD, Paris.

Vlãsceanu, L., Grünberg, L., and Pârlea, D., 2004, Quality Assurance and Accreditation: A Glossary of Basic Terms and Definitions (Bucharest, UNESCO-CEPES) Papers on Higher Education, ISBN 92-9069-178-6, available at, accessed 20 September 2012, still available 29 December 2016.

copyright Lee Harvey 2004–2021

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