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Recognition of diplomas, certificates and titles awarded after higher education of at least three years' duration

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Recognition of diplomas, certificates and titles awarded after higher education of at least three years' duration

This directive aims to enable higher-education professional diplomas gained in a Member State to be recognised - without prior harmonisation of training - in the host Member State which regulates the profession.


Council Directive 89/48/EEC of 21 December 1988 on a general system for the recognition of higher-education diplomas awarded on completion of professional education and training of at least three years' duration [See amending acts].

Amended by the following act:

Directive 2001/19/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 May 2001 amending Council Directives 89/48/EEC and 92/51/EEC on the general system for the recognition of professional qualifications and Council Directives 77/452/EEC, 77/453/EEC, 78/686/EEC, 78/687/EEC, 78/1026/EEC, 78/1027/EEC, 80/154/EEC, 80/155/EEC, 85/384/EEC, 85/432/EEC, 85/433/EEC and 93/16/EEC concerning the professions of nurse responsible for general care, dental practitioner, veterinary surgeon, midwife, architect, pharmacist and doctor [Official Journal L 206 of 31.07.2001].

This directive will be repealed and replaced by Directive 2005/36/EC as of 20 October 2007.


The Directive provides definitions for the terms "diploma", "host Member State", "regulated professional activity", "professional experience", "adaptation period" and "aptitude test".

A Member State which regulates a profession must recognise the qualifications obtained in another Member State and allow their holder to pursue his profession on the territory of the Member State on the same conditions as apply to its own nationals.

The Directive applies to all the professions for which higher education is required and which are not covered by specific Directives governing recognition. Professional activities are deemed to be regulated professional activities if they are exercised by the members of private associations which are recognised in a special form by a Member State (for example chartered bodies in the United Kingdom and their equivalents in Ireland). The diplomas held by Community nationals and obtained in a third country are also covered by the Directive in one of the two following cases:

  • the education and training was largely dispensed in the Community;
  • the holder has three years', certified professional experience in the Member State which has recognized the diplomas.

The Directive provides for the following recognition procedure:

  • the basic principle is recognition by the host Member State;
  • the exception is recognition by the host Member State after compensation in the form of either:

- an adaptation period;

- an aptitude test, if there are substantial differences between the training required and the training received;

- or professional experience if the duration of the migrant's training is shorter than that required in the host Member State.

The applicant has the choice between the two methods of compensation. For the legal professions, this choice is left to the host Member State.

The Directive provides for a co-ordinating group to be set up under the aegis of the Commission, composed of the national co-ordinators and responsible for facilitating the implementation of the Directive.

Once it has entered into force the Directive obliges:

  • the Member States to communicate to the Commission every two years a report on the application of the system introduced;
  • the Commission to report to the European Parliament and the Council on the state of application of the Directive and its conclusions as to any changes that need to be made to the system.

In particular, Directive 2001/19/EC aims to:

  • incorporate into the present Directive the concept of "regulated education and training", already enshrined in Directive 92/51/EEC. The goal is to require the host Member State to take into account the education received by the applicant, including education received in a Member State in which the profession in question is not regulated. Under this new rule host Member States will not be permitted to require two years' professional experience;
  • ensure that the host Member State, when examining an application for recognition of a diploma, takes into consideration the experience acquired by the applicant after obtaining it. The host Member State may no longer systematically require the applicant to take compensation steps, such as aptitude tests or an adaptation period, but must simplify and if possible eliminate these measures;
  • ensure legal certainty with regard to the recognition of diplomas obtained by Community nationals in third countries; the envisaged system gives each Member State the right to recognise or reject these diplomas except when a first host Member State has already recognised the applicant's professional experience. In this case a second host Member State may not directly reject the application for recognition but must justify its rejection;
  • extend the automatic recognition procedure, already applicable to general practitioners, to other physicians and to nurses responsible for general care, dental practitioners, veterinary surgeons, midwives and pharmacists. The main simplification lies in the updating of the lists of diplomas recognised at European level, since the Commission will from now on be able to publish lists of diplomas notified by the Member States on a regular basis (annexed to this document).



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 89/48/EC



OJ L 19 of 24.1.1989

Amending act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 2001/19/EC



OJ L 206 of 31.7.2001

Last updated: 28.03.2008