EHEA Website Archive

Degree structure / Joint degrees 2007-2009

Joint Degrees

The Bologna Process has paved the way for increasingly innovative, cooperative, cross border study programmes. The so called "joint degree" has recently become one of the most cited examples, and such joint degree programmes are springing up across Europe.

Universities wishing to establish or develop joint degree programmes are advised to consult the European University Association (EUA) Guidelines for Quality Enhancement in European Joint Master Programmes and to visit the website of the Joiman project, which aims at creating common guidelines and good practice examples on the administrative issues related to Joint Degrees’ management.

Main Features

Six main features are usually associated with qualifications described as ‘joint degrees’:

  1. the programmes leading to them are developed or approved jointly by several institutions;
  2. students from each participating institution spend part of the programme at other institutions;
  3. students spend significant periods of time at the participating institutions (as opposed to short exchanges);
  4. periods of study and exams passed at the partner institution(s) are recognised fully and automatically by all institutions and countries involved;
  5. teaching staff from each participating institution devise the curriculum together, form joint admissions and examinations bodies and participate in mobility for teaching purposes;
  6. students who have completed the full programme ideally obtain a degree awarded jointly by the participating institutions, and fully recognised in all countries.

Benefits for students, staff and higher education institutions

Good joint degree programmes offer a series of interrelated benefits for students, staff and institutions alike. In particular, institutions are able to combine their strengths in a collective endeavour in which one unified programme becomes more valuable than the sum of its parts. In addition to opportunities for developing and practising language and cultural skills, joint programmes also offer the potential to develop more internationalised, multi-dimensional curricula. Students experience the intellectual stimulation of viewing their chosen subject through more windows, developing new learning methods and ways of thinking. In the same way, university staff can be exposed to unfamiliar approaches to their subject through more sustained contact with partner colleagues. In doing so, they may also explore how different methods of teaching and learning in their areas of specialisation can complement and enrich each other.

The following characteristics of soundly implemented joint-degrees are also of clear added-value to the European Higher Education Area:

  • Mobility is integral to the course content and design rather than an ‘add on’. Students are thus required and assisted to study in a partner institution in a different country.
  • The preparation of integrated joint degree study programmes encourages more transparent academic recognition procedures. The correct use of ECTS and the Diploma Supplement (DS) can greatly help.
  • Quality enhancement of programmes is encouraged through teaching staff devising curricula that are open to scrutiny from partner colleagues abroad.
  • Students who experience high quality joint programmes have a greater chance of becoming internationally employable graduates.
  • Teaching staff in joint programmes have opportunities for professional development outside their home country. Within joint degree networks, they can thus establish links that build a firm foundation for further international cooperation including transnational research.
  • Joint degree programmes, particularly at Master and doctorate levels, are of great potential interest to students from outside Europe, and opportunities for such students have been extended by the Erasmus Mundus programme. Institutions can thus use these programmes to position themselves strategically in an international market.

Bologna Activites

Actions carried out in the Bologna work programme 2007-2009

Most work was carried out in relation to ECTS. In 2007 and 2008, the European Commission launched two rounds of consultation to update first the “ECTS Key Features” and then the ECTS Users’ Guide. The Bologna Follow-up Group was involved in both consultations and a large number of BFUG members provided valuable input. The updated ECTS Users’ Guide was circulated by the European Commission in February 2009. The proper implementation of ECTS based on workload and learning outcomes is, indeed, still a priority for transparency and mobility. Yet, more work remains to be done in that field.

BFUG comments on ECTS Key Features

Bologna Seminars

ECTS Users Guide - 2009 - cover

ECTS Users Guide 2009

The ECTS Users’ Guide provides guidelines for implementation of the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS). It also presents the ECTS key documents. The Guide is offered to assist learners, academic and administrative staff in higher education institutions as well as other interested parties.
The previous version (2005) has been updated to take account of developments in the Bologna Process, the growing importance of lifelong learning, the formulation of qualifications frameworks and the increasing use of learning outcomes. It has been written with the help of experts from stakeholders’ associations and ECTS counsellors, and submitted for consultation to stakeholders’ associations, Member States’ experts and the Bologna Follow-up Group. The European Commission has coordinated the drafting and consultation process and is responsible for the final wording of the Guide.