Work programme 2015-2018

Glossary - National data collection for the Bologna Implementation report 2018

Glossary for the National data collection for the Bologna Implementation report 2018.

Content for Bologna Expert - 10/03/2017
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Access to higher education based on the recognition of non-formal and informal learning: refers to situations where candidates without upper secondary school leaving certificate are admitted to higher education based on the recognition of their non-formal and/or informal learning.

Academic structures: refers to internal structural organisation within higher education institutions to manage teaching and research activities, such as faculties, departments and other units.

Admission (to higher education institutions and programmes): the act of, or system for, allowing qualified applicants to pursue studies in higher education at a given institution and/or a given programme. (Lisbon Recognition Convention)

Alternative access routes to higher education: access routes to higher education with requirements other than the standard entry requirements.

Automatic recognition of qualifications: the automatic recognition of a degree should lead to the automatic right of an applicant holding a qualification of a certain level to be considered for entry to a programme of further study in the next level in any other EHEA-country (EHEA Pathfinder Group on Automatic Recognition, 2014).


Career guidance: services and activities intended to assist individuals, of any age and at any point throughout their lives, to make educational, training and occupational choices and to manage their careers (OECD, 2004).

Central level/Top level: The central/top level of authority with responsibility for education in a given country, usually located at national (state) level. However, for Belgium, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom, the Communautés, Länder, Comunidades Autónomas and devolved administrations respectively are responsible for all or most areas relating to education. Therefore, these administrations are considered as the top level authority for the areas where they hold the responsibility, while for the ones for which they share the responsibility with the national (state) level, both are considered to be top level authorities.

Completion: the successful finishing of a study programme (graduation).

Continuing Professional Development (CPD): An aspect of lifelong learning, sometimes referred to as Continuing Professional Education, CPD describes the skills, knowledge and experience that an individual gains formally and informally in his work and which builds on his basic qualifications and training. Increasingly in professional and vocational careers there is a formal requirement to continue to learn and develop knowledge, skills and competences throughout careers to keep up to date and be able to work safely, legally and effectively. Formal CPD which is a professional requirement is validated and documented. Increasingly employers expect to have a formal authenticated record of an individual’s CPD and it consequently has become an important element in the curriculum. (ECTS Users Guide, 2015, p. 67)

Credit accumulation: the accumulation of credits in ECTS is the process of collecting credits awarded for achieving the learning outcomes of educational components in formal contexts and for other learning activities carried out in informal and non-formal contexts. A student can accumulate credits in order to: 1) obtain qualifications, as required by the degree-awarding institution; and 2) document personal achievements for lifelong learning purposes. (ECTS Users Guide, 2015, p. 66)

Credit transfer: is the process of having credits awarded in one context (programme, institution) recognised in another formal context for the purpose of obtaining a qualification. Credits awarded to students in one programme may be transferred from an institution to be accumulated in another programme offered by the same or another institution. Credit transfer is the key to successful study mobility. Institutions, faculties, departments may make agreements which guarantee automatic recognition and transfer of credits. (ECTS Users Guide, 2015, p. 68)

Cycle: One of the objectives in the Bologna Declaration in 1999 was the "adoption of a system based on two main cycles, undergraduate and graduate." In 2003 doctoral studies were included in the Bologna structure and referred to as the third cycle. The EHEA has thus defined a hierarchy of three Higher Education cycles (first cycle, second cycle and third cycle). All higher education qualifications in the European Higher Education Area are located within these three cycles (ECTS Users Guide, 2015, p. 68).


Digital certificates: two types exist: a) Certificates that confirm participation in/ completion of a course, b) Certificates that verify the learner’s identity and confirm attainment of learning outcomes. Digital certificates typically include a URL which leads to the course information and/or the display of certificate information at the website of the course provider to prove the authenticity of the credential.

Diploma Supplement (DS): is a document accompanying a higher education diploma, providing a standardised description of the nature, level, context, content and status of the studies completed by its holder. It is produced by the higher education institutions according to standards agreed by the European Commission, the Council of Europe and UNESCO. The Diploma Supplement is also part of the Europass framework transparency tools.


ENIC: European Network of Information Centres

European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS): ECTS is a learner-centred system for credit accumulation and transfer, based on the principle of transparency of the learning, teaching and assessment processes. Its objective is to facilitate the planning, delivery and evaluation of study programmes and student mobility by recognising learning achievements and qualifications and periods of learning (ECTS Users Guide, 2015, p. 69).


Fee: Any sum of money paid by students with which they formally and compulsorily contribute to the cost of their higher education. This may include, but is not restricted to e.g. a registration fee, tuition fees, graduation fees, etc.

Fulfilment of higher education study programmes based the recognition of non-formal and/or informal learning: refers to the allocation of credits towards a qualification and/or exemption from some programme requirements.


Graduate tracking surveys: A survey of graduates from institutions of higher education (sometimes also called "alumni survey" or "follow-up survey") that usually aims at mapping the labour market situation (professional success, relevance of skills etc.) of graduates. Graduate surveys provide information for evaluating the results of the education and training of a specific institution of higher education.
Regular graduate tracking surveys are conducted repeatedly, in regular intervals.

Governing bodies: refers to structures with responsibility for the strategic orientation and organisation/management of higher education institutions.

Grant: non-repayable public financial support.
A need-based grant is awarded on the basis of financial hardship / socio-economic background of students.
Universal grants are awarded to (almost) all students. For the purposes of this questionnaire, grants can be regarded as universal if they are awarded to at least 50% of students.


Higher education qualification: Any degree, diploma or other certificate issued by a competent authority attesting the successful completion of a higher education programme. (Lisbon Recognition Convention)


Informal learning: learning resulting from daily activities related to work, family or leisure and not organised or structured in terms of objectives, time or learning support. It may be unintentional from the learner's perspective.  Examples of learning outcomes acquired through informal learning are skills acquired through life and work experiences, such as project management skills or ICT skills acquired at work, languages learned and intercultural skills acquired during a stay in another country, skills acquired through volunteering, cultural activities, sports, youth work and through activities at home (e.g. taking care of a child). (Council recommendation, 2012)

Integrated/long programmes: Programmes including both the first and the second cycle and leading to a second-cycle qualification.


Joint degree: A joint degree is a single document officially recognised by the appropriate (national or, if applicable, regional) authorities of at least two countries.

Joint degree programmes are usually inter-institutional arrangements among higher education institutions leading to a joint degree. Parts of joint programmes undertaken by students at partner institutions are recognised automatically by the other partner institutions. The same is true for joint degrees.


Labour market/skills forecasting: Forecasting skill needs involves estimating the expected future number of jobs available in an economy [in the medium or long term] and their particular skill or qualification requirements. Skills needs forecasts are complemented by forecasts of the number of people (supply) with particular skills. The comparison of demand and supply can indicate potential imbalances or skill mismatches in future labour markets. Most typically, skills supply and demand is forecasted in order to help different labour market actors – employees, employers, students and parents, social partners, policy makers – to take informed decisions and appropriate action concerning the labour market. Labour market forecasting is usually conducted by occupation and qualification levels (Cedefop, 2012).

Large-scale programmes/actions: refers to programmes/actions that operate throughout the whole country or a significant geographical area rather than being restricted to a particular institution or geographical location. These programmes/actions are intended as a long-term element of the system with resources planned to cover several consecutive years (as opposed to initiatives with short-term project-based funding covering only one or two years).

Learning outcomes: Learning outcomes are statements of what the individual knows, understands and is able to do on completion of a learning process. The achievement of learning outcomes has to be assessed through procedures based on clear and transparent criteria. Learning outcomes are attributed to individual educational components and to programmes at a whole. They are also used in European and national qualifications frameworks to describe the level of the individual qualification. (ECTS Users Guide, 2015, p. 72)

Lisbon Recognition Convention (LRC): The Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region was developed by the Council of Europe and UNESCO and adopted in 1997 in Lisbon. It aims to ensure that holders of a qualification from one European country have that qualification recognised in another.

Loan: repayable financial aid. Student loan models may differ in many aspects, such as in their repayment plans, the level of subsidy, the expenses covered, eligibility rules, etc. A student loan is subsidised when the government bears a part of the costs. This can take the form of a government guarantee, when student loans are guaranteed or insured by the government against the risk of default and loss.


Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) : courses which allow open entry, are free, and are delivered online usually with peer or automated support. They often have large enrolment numbers. For the purposes of this data collection, we consider MOOCs as (usually shorter) online courses which do not result in degree qualifications. MOOCs may be provided by higher education institutions as well as other providers.

Mobility window: a period of time reserved for international student mobility that is embedded into the curriculum of a study programme.


NARIC: National Academic Recognition Information Centres

National Qualifications Framework (NQF) (higher education): National qualifications frameworks describe qualifications in terms of level, workload, learning outcomes and profile. They relate qualifications and other learning achievements in higher education coherently and are internationally understood.

Non-formal learning: learning that takes place outside the formal education system through planned activities (in terms of learning objectives, learning time), where some form of learning support is present (e.g. student-teacher relationships). (Council recommendation, 2012)


Online programme: a higher education programme that is provided primarily or entirely through the use of an Internet-connected computer, rather than attending a programme in a traditional higher education institution/campus setting.


Performance-based mechanisms: funding mechanisms that are related to actual or intended results by an institution over a certain period. They may be based on outputs, such as number of graduates, or inputs, such as number of students/staff with certain characteristics. Performance-based mechanisms may take the form of performance agreements/contracts, performance set-asides and payments for results in research and/or education.

Preferential treatment: the treatment of one individual or group of individuals in a manner that is likely to lead to greater benefits, access, rights, opportunities or status than those of another individual or group of individuals. Regarding admission to higher education, preferential treatment can include, for example, entry quotas, the awarding of extra points in a selection process on the basis of belonging to an under-represented group, etc.

Public higher education institution: refers to higher education institutions directly or indirectly administered by a public education authority. Public higher education institutions thus include two categories of institution: "public institution" is an institution directly managed by a government agency/authority or governing body, and: "government dependent private higher education institution" ie an institution managed by a non-governmental organisation of where the governing body consists of members not selected by a public agency but receiving 50 per cent or more of its core funding from government agencies, or whose teaching personnel are paid by a government agency – either directly or through government (UNESCO, OECD and Eurostat 2013)


Qualification giving access to higher education: Any diploma or other certificate issued by a competent authority attesting the successful completion of an education programme and giving the holder of the qualification the right to be considered for admission to higher education (cf. the definition of access.(Lisbon Recognition Convention)

Qualifications Framework for the European Higher Education Area (QF-EHEA): an overarching framework that makes transparent the relationship between national frameworks of qualifications for higher education in Europe, and the qualifications they contain. It is an articulation mechanism between national frameworks.

Qualification in teaching in higher education: refers to a degree, diploma or a certificate that validates a programme targeting the development of teaching practice in higher education.


Required involvement of employers: regulations make it compulsory for higher education institutions to include employers / representatives of employers' associations in HEI planning/decision-making.

Retention: the successful continuation of a study programme.


Self-certification: a procedure when national authorities, other bodies and stakeholders certify the compatibility of their national qualifications framework for higher education with the overarching Qualifications Framework for the European Higher Education Area. A set of procedures for the transparent self-certification of compatibility by member states was agreed by higher education ministers in the Bologna Process.

Short cycle: degree programmes of less than 180 ECTS (or lasting less than 3 years), leading to a qualification that is recognised at a lower level than a qualification at the end of the first cycle.

Staff: All categories of staff are included i.e. researchers, teaching staff, doctoral candidates, administrative staff and others

Standard entry requirement: refers to the qualification that commonly confers the right of entry into higher education in the given country.

Steering documents: Different kinds of official documents containing guidelines, obligations and/or recommendations for higher education policy and institutions. They can refer to programme content and the governance of higher education institutions. Several types of steering documents can exist for higher education at the same time.

Strategy: An official policy document developed by the central authorities in an effort to achieve an overall goal. A strategy can comprise a vision, identify objectives and goals (qualitative and quantitative), describe processes, authorities and people in charge, identify funding sources, make recommendations, etc.

Systematic monitoring: refers to the process of systematic data gathering, analysis and use of information to inform policy. Systematic monitoring must include mechanisms of cross-institutional data gathering and allow cross-institutional data comparability. It can take place at various stages:

  • At entry to HE
  • During HE studies (refers to student retention)
  • At graduation (refers to HE completion rates)
  • After graduation (refers to the labour market transition of graduates)

Systematic use of information: Education authorities have established mechanisms with well-defined actors to make use of the information gained from monitoring systems. Examples of systematic use: using information in quality assurance procedures, in access policies / admission procedures, etc.


Teaching practice components in doctoral-degree programmes: refers to a temporary period of teaching in higher education integrated in a doctoral degree programme.

Typical involvement of employers: though regulations do not make the involvement of employers compulsory, a great majority of higher education institutions include employers / representatives of employers' associations in HEI planning/decision-making.


Universities: These higher education institutions display a largely academic orientation (without excluding some focus on applied research), have the right of awarding the doctorate and can bear the full name of 'University' (including variants like technological university, etc.). In general, awarding doctorates should be the main criterion to classify HEIs in this category.

Universities of applied sciences: These institutions are officially recognized as a part of higher education, though not as universities (see → 'Universities'). Commonly these institutions have a focus on professional education. In most cases they do not have the right of awarding a doctorate (exceptions are possible). National names are for example Fachhochschule (Austria, Germany), Hogescholen (Netherlands), colleges (Norway), Polytechnics (Finland). This institutional category applies strictly only to countries that have a binary HE system, where these institutions are given a specific legal status. Examples include Norway, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

Under-represented groups of students: societal groups that may be considered as not being proportionally represented in higher education in different countries. Examples might include people with disabilities, migrants, ethnic groups, lower socio-economic status groups, women/men etc.


Work placement/practical training: The term 'work placement' refers to experience gained in a working environment as an integrative part of a higher education programme. Most typically, it refers to the placement of students in supervised work settings (e.g. through internships) so they can apply the knowledge and skills learned during their studies. Alternatively, it can also refer to a period of voluntary work (also referred to as 'student-community engagement') that is intended to allow students to become familiar with the working environment in general, whilst also conveying some benefit to the community.

Workload: An estimation of the time learners typically need to complete all learning activities such as lectures, seminars, projects, practical work, work placements, individual study required to achieve the defined learning outcomes in formal learning environments. The correspondence of the fulltime workload of an academic year to 60 credits is often formalised by national legal provisions. In most cases, student workload ranges from 1,500 to 1,800 hours for an academic year, which means that one credit corresponds to 25 to 30 hours of work. It should be recognised that this represents the normal workload and that for individual learners the actual time to achieve the learning outcomes will vary. (ECTS Users Guide, 2015, p. 77)

Published: 10/03/2017 - Last modified: 24/03/2017
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Cedefop (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training), 2012. Building on skills forecasts – Comparing methods and applications. Conference proceedings. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.
Access the document

Council recommendation of 20 December 2012 on the validation of non-formal and informal learning, 2012/C 398/01.
Read the recommandation

European Commission, 2015. ECTS Users Guide 2015. Luxembourg: Publication Office of the European Union.
ECTS Users' Guide 2015

Lisbon Recognition Convention
Read more about the convention

EHEA Pathfinder Group on Automatic Recognition, 2014
Report by the EHEA Pathfinder Group on Automatic Recognition

OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), 2004. Career guidance. A handbook for policy-makers. Paris: OECD Publishing.
Available at the OECD website

Salmi, J. & Hauptman, A.M., 2006. Innovations in Tertiary Education Financing: A Comparative Evaluation of Allocation Mechanisms. Education Working Paper Series, Number 4. Washington: Human Development Network, Education Sector World Bank Group.
Available at the Worldbank website