Regional Convention on the Recognition of Studies, Diplomas and Degrees in Higher Education in Latin America and the Caribbean 2019
Buenos Aires, 13 July 2019
The States Parties to the present Convention,
Considering the strong ties of solidarity which unite them, expressed in the cultural and educational fields by the conclusion of numerous bilateral, subregional and regional agreements, including the Regional Convention on the Recognition of Studies, Diplomas and Degrees in Higher Education in Latin America and the Caribbean of 1974;
Mindful of the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations of 1945; the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966; the Convention against Discrimination in Education of 1960; the Convention on Technical and Vocational Education of 1989; the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees of 1951 and its Protocol of 1967;
Taking into consideration the Recommendation on Science and Scientific Researchers of 2017; the Recommendation on the Recognition of Studies and Qualifications in Higher Education of 1993; the Recommendation concerning the Status of Higher-Education Teaching Personnel of 1997; the Cartagena Declaration on Refugees of 1984 and the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement of 1998;
Recalling the principles established in the Buenos Aires Declaration of 2017 and in the Cochabamba Agreements of 2018, adopted during the first and second Regional Meetings of Ministers of Education of Latin America and the Caribbean, held in the Argentine Republic and the Plurinational State of Bolivia, respectively;
Recognizing the contributions made by Member States and Associate Members of UNESCO representing Latin America and the Caribbean at any of the following meetings:
a) the first Regional Intergovernmental Consultation Meeting, held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from 5 to 6 April 2018;
b) the second Regional Intergovernmental Consultation Meeting, held in Córdoba, Argentina, from 13 to 14 June 2018; and
c) the International Conference of States for the adoption of the present Convention, held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from 11 to 13 July 2019;
Taking into account that education is a fundamental human right and a public good, and therefore that there is a need to ensure inclusive and equitable access to quality learning for all, from early childhood care and education (ECCE) to tertiary and higher education, regardless of social status, gender, nationality, community or group, or differences of any other nature;
Reaffirming their responsibility to promote inclusive education, equitable quality of higher education, and lifelong learning opportunities for all;
Recognizing that the management and social distribution of knowledge are key elements in achieving equity and inclusion, and that there is a need to develop common regional spaces for higher education;
Recognizing the importance of sustaining, strengthening and preserving the scientific, technological and professional capacities of States Parties as a key factor in sustainable development and in their sovereignty;
Convinced that the recognition of studies, diplomas and degrees in higher education in Latin America and the Caribbean, based on clear criteria, by ensuring greater regional mobility of students, graduates, teachers and university researchers, is an appropriate and highly positive driver for promoting internationalization processes and accelerating the development of the region, involving the training and full use of the services of a growing number of scientists, technicians and specialists;
Convinced that academic mobility is an element of particular value in today's world, where the exchange and shared management of knowledge are of great importance in improving the quality of higher-education institutions and the training of students, teachers and researchers;
Reaffirming the principles set forth in cultural and educational cooperation agreements already concluded between them and strongly determined to implement them at the regional level, as well as to consider the application of new concepts developed in the recommendations and conclusions adopted thereon by the relevant bodies of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), particularly the promotion of lifelong learning, the democratization of education, assessment for quality assurance, adoption and implementation of an educational policy which takes into account structural, economic and technical transformations, political and social change, as well as cultural and environmental contexts;
Recognizing the need to take into consideration the relevance of national, sub-regional and regional quality assurance and accreditation systems for learning outcomes in higher education;
Aware that the use of information and communication technologies has an impact on educational models, knowledge transfer and learning methods, thus enabling innovation, as well as expanding access to quality higher education;
Considering higher education as a public good, provided by public and private institutions, and aware of the need to uphold and protect the principles of academic freedom and of the autonomy of higher-education institutions;
Bearing in mind that this Convention on the Recognition of Studies, Diplomas and Degrees in Higher Education is an effective instrument for:
a) promoting the best use of the learning opportunities offered by higher-education systems in the region;
b) ensuring greater mobility of students, teachers and researchers;
c) facilitating the recognition of studies, degrees and professional diplomas for use in accordance with national legislation;
d) reducing the recognition difficulties encountered by individuals who have completed higher-education studies, diplomas and degrees;
e) reducing the recognition difficulties encountered by individuals who have completed a certified period of studies in a higher-education programme;
f) encouraging the retention of qualified human resources in the region and reducing brain drain;
g) increasing measures to improve inclusion in higher education;
h) generating and supporting greater confidence in national higher-education evaluation and accreditation systems;
i) fostering the creation and strengthening of networks to support the improvement of higher education;
j) promoting the creation and strengthening of quality assurance and accreditation systems in States Parties;
k) advancing the initiatives of regional and subregional networks regarding the recognition of studies through mechanisms which ensure their quality;
l) fostering and improving international cooperation and the sharing of accessible, updated, reliable, transparent and relevant information between stakeholders;
Understanding the internationalization of higher education as a process of development and implementation of policies and programmes for integrating international and intercultural dimensions into the missions, aims and functions of higher education institutions;
Convinced of the need to create and strengthen national systems of quality assurance and accreditation, interlinked at the regional, interregional and global levels;
Valuing the importance of systems for the assessment and accreditation of higher education, as well as of the readability and transparency of academic diplomas, degrees and certificates issued by universities and higher-education institutions of the States Parties to this Convention in facilitating their recognition;
Determined to continue to develop their collaboration in this field by means of a new regional convention to strengthen and recognize the role of the national and regional bodies created for this purpose;
Taking into account the role played by UNESCO in this area, by facilitating the adoption of regional conventions on the recognition of studies, diplomas and degrees in higher education,
Have agreed as follows:
SECTION I. DEFINITIONS
Article I - Definitions
For the purposes of this Convention, the terms below shall have the following meaning:
Access: the right of candidates who have undertaken studies and obtained diplomas or degrees to apply and to be considered for admission to higher education
Accreditation: a process of assessment which is undertaken by the competent authority and which enables a higher-education programme or institution to be recognized or certified as meeting appropriate quality assurance standards
Admission: the act of, or system for, allowing holders of qualifications to pursue higher education at a given institution and/or in a given programme
Lifelong learning: all learning activity through formal, non-formal, or informal studies covering the entire lifespan and with the aim of improving knowledge, skills and competence
Open and distance learning: ways of providing higher education through different forms of face-to-face learning, distance learning, or non-traditional training modes using information and communications technologies (ICT), or a combination of the foregoing
Prior learning: the knowledge, skills and competence an individual has acquired as a result of formal, non-formal, or informal, assessed against a given set of learning outcomes or standards
Formal learning: learning derived from activities within a structured learning setting provided by an education institution authorized to deliver such learning activities
Informal learning: learning resulting from daily life activities related to work, family, or leisure or other informal activities
Non-formal learning: learning acquired within the framework of an education or training institution not belonging to a formal education system
Quality assurance: an ongoing and participatory process of assessing and enhancing the quality of a higher-education system, institution, or programme by means of acceptable quality standards
Competent recognition authorities: governmental or non-governmental bodies with competence in higher education officially recognized in compliance with specific regulations and authorized to make decisions on the recognition of studies, diplomas and degrees obtained abroad
Qualification giving access to higher education: any degree, diploma, or other certificate issued by the authorized entities in the country of origin, attesting the completion of an education programme, and giving the holder of the qualification the right to be considered for admission to higher education
Secondary education: the stage of studies of any kind, as defined by a State Party, which is immediately before higher education and which is sufficient for continuing to higher education
Higher education: any form of teaching and research after the secondary education level, legally recognized as such, including university education and various forms of tertiary education; this level may be accessed by all persons with the competences required for higher education, supported by a diploma, degree, or certificate of secondary school completion, or by other mechanisms for this purpose determined by the State Party concerned
Assessment of institutions or programmes: the process for establishing the level of educational quality of a higher-education institution or programme
Assessment of qualifications: the written evaluation by a competent body of the certifications of foreign qualifications obtained by an individual
Higher-education institution: an institution providing higher education and recognized by the competent authorities of a State Party as belonging to its higher-education system and authorized to issue diplomas, degrees and certificates at the higher-education level
Qualifications framework: a system for the classification, publication and organization of quality-assured qualifications according to a set of criteria
Academic mobility: the movement of individuals outside their own country for the purpose of studying, researching, teaching, or conducting other academic activities
Period of study: any component of a higher education programme which has been evaluated and documented and, while not a complete programme of study in itself, represents a significant acquisition of knowledge or skill
Refugee: any person who, as a result of well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his or her nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail him- or herself of the protection of that country, or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his or her former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it
Displaced persons: persons or group of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights, or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized State border
Recognition: an administrative act by competent recognition authorities which, within the regulatory framework of each State Party, corroborates the official status and academic level and value of a diploma, degree, or certificate of a foreign education qualification, or of prior learning, or of partial studies; the said act generates academic rights equal to those held by national citizens with similar diplomas, degrees, or certificates; these rights refer to:
(a) the continuation of studies;
(b) engagement in academic teaching or research activities in higher education;
(c) the facilitation of the recognition of professional qualifications for use in accordance with national legislation
Learning outcomes: statements of what an individual is expected to know, understand and be able to demonstrate upon completion of a learning process
Academic credit system: a regulated way of describing an education programme by assigning credits to its components, based on different parameters such as the workload of the student, learning outcomes and face-to-face contact hours
Diploma supplement: a reference document describing the nature, level, context, content and status of the studies successfully completed by the person whose name appears on the original diploma to which the supplement is annexed
Degree, certificate or diploma: document that constitutes official proof of the qualifications acquired by an individual after having passed a stage of training or completed full training
SECTION II. OBJECTIVES OF THE CONVENTION
Article II - Objectives
The States Parties undertake to adopt all necessary measures to gradually achieve the objectives set forth in this Article II, collaborating with other States Parties in the region through bilateral, sub-regional, or regional agreements to:
1. Recognize studies, diplomas and degrees in the countries of the region of Latin America and the Caribbean under the terms of this Convention and the specific regulations of each country;
2. Promote academic mobility among the States Parties;
3. Promote the harmonization of higher-education systems for the recognition of studies, diplomas and degrees and facilitate the recognition of professional qualifications for use in accordance with national legislation;
4. Harmonize, wherever possible, conditions for admission to authorized or recognized higher-education institutions in order to ensure equitable and inclusive access and to promote academic mobility among States Parties;
5. Ensure the joint use of available higher-education resources, guided by principles of transparency, quality and mutual trust, by contributing to the comprehensive development of all peoples of the region through their education, research, innovation and globalization institutions, for which purpose they shall take measures for:
a) adopting through the diploma supplement, or through a similar instrument, similar terminology, levels of achievement and classification, including UNESCO’s International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) and its UNESCO-approved revisions, in order to facilitate the implementation of a system establishing the comparability of studies;
b) promoting the comparability of professional profiles to foster academic mobility and recognition among States Parties;
c) promoting the comparability of certified periods of study to encourage mobility and recognition among States Parties;
d) establishing cooperation mechanisms designed to create quality assurance agencies and bodies where they do not exist, to strengthen existing such agencies and bodies, and to converge towards assessment and accreditation systems and criteria for higher-education institutions and programmes which may be recognized by all States Parties;
e) working towards interlinking national, regional and global quality assurance systems;
f) taking into account prevailing national legislation and adopting, in relation to the admission to further studies, a dynamic approach which takes into account the knowledge, skills, and academic and professional capacities accredited by diplomas, degrees and certificates, and prior learning, based on a holistic vision of education;
g) establishing the conditions for the timely recognition of studies, diplomas and degrees for the purpose of enabling the pursuit of studies, of academic teaching and of research, considering the legislation of each State Party with reference to quality certified through national systems of assessment and accreditation in higher education;
h) facilitating the recognition of diplomas and degrees for use in the labour market in accordance with national legislation;
i) promoting the exchange of information and documentation on education, science, arts, technology and innovation and on national and regional assessment and accreditation processes which may contribute to the implementation of this Convention;
6. Encourage inclusive and equitable access to quality higher education and support lifelong learning opportunities for all;
7. Promote interregional and intraregional cooperation to facilitate the recognition of studies, diplomas and degrees;
8. Encourage academic mobility of qualified individuals in the region which contributes to the comprehensive development of peoples and States Parties, enabling a fluid exchange of knowledge and skills;
9. Create or strengthen national bodies responsible for the effective implementation of this Convention and their collaboration with peer bodies in the region.
SECTION III. OBLIGATIONS OF STATES PARTIES
Article III.1 - Obligations
The States Parties undertake to:
1. Promote the defining of the terms of a diploma supplement, or other similar instrument, as a tool for facilitating the recognition process;
2. Continue to encourage higher-education institutions to establish and enter into agreements for academic mobility, meeting the necessary legal conditions and creating incentives for that purpose;
3. Continue to foster and promote, among higher-education institutions, the establishment and implementation of integrated academic programmes, including research and graduate and postgraduate training;
4. Establish, where they do not exist, mechanisms for assessment and accreditation which ensure the quality of higher education, and strengthen existing such mechanisms, as well as foster the exchange and convergence of criteria among the national agencies responsible;
5. Develop and maintain national repositories and/or centres for disseminating and sharing information on higher-education systems, institutions, assessment and accreditation systems and criteria, and opportunities for academic mobility;
6. Establish or strengthen national qualifications frameworks as tools for the recognition of studies, diplomas and degrees;
7. Use, where they exist, the accreditation processes of countries as a criterion for the recognition of studies, diplomas and degrees;
8. Establish, in collaboration with the relevant national bodies, the conditions and procedures for the timely recognition of studies, diplomas and degrees for the purpose of enabling the pursuit of studies, of academic teaching and of research work;
9. Establish or strengthen fair and transparent mechanisms for the recognition of studies, diplomas and degrees, without any form of discrimination.
Article III.2 - Recognition for the Pursuit of Studies
1. For the purpose of the pursuit of studies in higher education, States Parties shall grant recognition of studies, diplomas and degrees obtained in other States Parties, in accordance with current national legislation. This will require that such certificates relate to completed periods of studies or to periods certified under a programme of higher education, and which are expressed in academic credits or the respective units of measurement used in each State Party.
2. The recognition referred to in the preceding paragraph shall be granted without discrimination with respect to the acquisition of formal or informal learning, or the method of learning, whether traditional or not, including open and distance education, by which the studies were undertaken or the degrees or diplomas obtained, subject to the quality assurance established by the competent authority.
3. The recognition of periods of study certified under a higher-education programme shall be subject to established requirements, in accordance with national legislation and reasonable equivalence.
4. Any diploma, certificate or degree giving access to higher education in a State Party may enable access to the higher-education system in another State Party, subject to assessment by the competent authorities.
5. Each State Party whose national legislation so permits agrees to recognize the level of competency or learning outcomes, if said level corresponds to equivalent studies in a higher-education programme for which recognition is required.
Article III.3 - Results of Recognition
In one State Party, recognition that is aligned with what is expressed in the regulatory framework of that State Party and which is in respect of studies, diplomas and degrees in higher education awarded in another State Party shall have similar effects as those of its own studies, diplomas and degrees awarded by officially recognized higher education institutions, including:
1. Access to various levels of higher education, under the same conditions as those applicable to individuals who have completed studies and holders of diplomas and degrees of the State Party in which recognition is sought;
2. The continuation of higher-education studies for students with studies carried out within the framework of a higher-education programme resulting in recognized credits or other units of measurement, based on national legislation and the conditions established by higher-education institutions;
3. The use of an academic title, subject to the laws and regulations of the State Party, or of a jurisdiction thereof, in which recognition is sought;
4. Access to employment opportunities, subject to the laws and regulations of the State Party, or of a jurisdiction thereof, in which recognition is sought.
Article III.4 - Terms of Recognition
1. The States Parties shall take appropriate measures, in accordance with their national legislation, to ensure that holders of diplomas or degrees issued by a higher-education institution in another State Party shall have adequate access, upon request to the appropriate national authority, to an assessment of these qualifications in a timely manner.
2. Decisions on recognition shall be made within a reasonable time limit specified beforehand by the competent authorities in the area of recognition and calculated from the time all necessary information in the case has been provided. If recognition is withheld, the reasons for the refusal to grant recognition shall be stated, and information shall be given concerning possible measures the holder of the qualification may take in order to obtain recognition at a later stage. If recognition is withheld, or if no decision is taken, the holder of the qualification shall be entitled to make an appeal within the time limit established in the national legislation.
Article III.5 - Provisions regarding Refugees and Displaced Persons
Each State Party shall take all reasonable measures within the framework of its higher-education system and in accordance with its national constitutional and legal provisions, in the case of refugees or displaced persons, to develop procedures, including the recognition of prior learning, to enable the fair and expeditious assessment of eligibility for access to higher-education programmes or for the recognition of studies, diplomas and degrees, even in the absence of the necessary documentation for recognition.
Article III.6 - Beneficiaries
1. The benefits established in this Convention shall be applicable to all persons who have completed their studies, fully or partially, in public or private higher-education institutions recognized by the competent authorities in one of the States Parties, regardless of their nationality and without discrimination of any kind.
2. The States Parties agree to take measures to facilitate the continuation of education in higher-education institutions of their respective countries for individuals who have completed studies and holders of diplomas and degrees of other States Parties, which meet the requirements for admission to the appropriate higher-education programme in accordance with national legislation.
3. The provisions of the present Convention shall apply to all forms of higher education as defined in Article I.
Article III.7 - Implementation Bodies
The States Parties undertake to achieve the objectives defined and to ensure the implementation and fulfilment of the commitments set out in this Convention, through the following:
1) national bodies;
2) bilateral and regional bodies;
3) accreditation and/or assessment agencies and bodies;
4) professional bodies, if provided for in the corresponding national legislation.
SECTION IV. IMPLEMENTATION
Article IV.1 - Convention Committee
1. A Convention Committee composed of representatives of all States Parties is hereby established. It shall have a Secretariat, provided by the Director-General of UNESCO.
2. The Convention Committee shall promote this Convention and shall oversee its implementation. It shall receive and examine the periodic reports which the States Parties shall communicate to it, every two years, on the progress made and the obstacles encountered by them in the implementation of this Convention, and it shall also receive and examine the studies carried out by its Secretariat on the said Convention.
3. The Convention Committee shall address to the States Parties recommendations of a general or individual nature through subsequent subsidiary texts to facilitate recognition.
4. The Convention Committee shall maintain links to the other UNESCO regional committees for the implementation of conventions on the recognition of studies, diplomas and degrees in higher education adopted under the auspices of UNESCO.
5. The Convention Committee shall adopt its own Rules of Procedure. The Committee shall meet at least once every two years.
Article IV.2 - Network of National Implementation Structures
A network of national implementation structures shall be established so as to provide information on mobility and recognition in order to assist with the practical implementation of this Convention by the competent authorities in the area of recognition by facilitating the exchange of recognition and mobility information among the States Parties.
Article IV.3 - Collaboration
The States Parties shall take the necessary steps to collaborate with organizations and stakeholders at the national level, including the institutions responsible for quality assurance systems, with the aim of ensuring the effective implementation of this Convention. They shall establish with them the agreements and forms of collaboration, which they deem most appropriate.
SECTION V. FINAL CLAUSES
Article V.1 - Signature, Ratification, Acceptance, Approval, or Accession
1. This Convention shall be open for signature and ratification, acceptance, approval, or accession by:
a) UNESCO Member States of the Latin America and Caribbean Region as defined in the Definition of regions with a view to the execution by the Organization of regional activities adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO;
b) other UNESCO Member States belonging to the other regions of the world; and
c) the Holy See.
2. The consent to be bound by this Convention may be expressed by one of the following means:
a) a signature without reservation as to ratification, acceptance, approval, or accession;
b) a signature subject to ratification, acceptance, approval, or accession, followed by ratification, acceptance, approval, or accession; or
c) the deposit of an instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval, or accession.
3. The instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval, or accession shall be deposited with the Director-General of UNESCO.
Article V.2 - Entry into Force
This Convention shall enter into force one month after the date on which four (4) UNESCO Member States of the Latin America and Caribbean Region have consented to be bound by the Convention by any of the means specified in Article V.1.2. It shall enter into force with respect to any other States Parties one (1) month after they have expressed their consent to be bound by the Convention by any of the means specified in Article V.1.2.
Article V.3 - Relationship to Other Instruments
1. This Convention shall not affect, in any way, other international agreements or national regulations in force in the States Parties, which grant greater advantages than those granted by this Convention.
2. The States Parties to the present Convention which are also Contracting States to the 1974 Regional Convention on the Recognition of Studies, Diplomas and Degrees in Higher Education in Latin America and the Caribbean (hereinafter referred to as “the Convention of 1974”):
a) shall apply the provisions of the present Convention in their mutual relations;
b) shall continue to apply the Convention of 1974 in their relations with any other Contracting State to the Convention of 1974, which is not a State Party to the present Convention.
3. The States Parties to the present Convention undertake to abstain from becoming Parties to the Convention of 1974 in the event that they are not already Contracting States to that Convention.
Article V.4 - Withdrawal
1. A State Party may withdraw from this Convention.
2. The withdrawal shall be notified by an instrument in writing deposited with the Director-General of UNESCO.
3. The withdrawal shall take effect twelve (12) months after the instrument of withdrawal is received by the Director-General of UNESCO. It shall have no retroactive effects, nor shall it affect the recognition of studies, certificates, diplomas, degrees, or other qualifications, which has taken place in accordance with the provisions of the Convention previously.
Article V.5 - Amendments
1. Any State Party may propose amendments to modify this Convention.
2. Proposed amendments to this Convention shall be submitted, in writing, to the Director-General of UNESCO, who shall transmit them to the States Parties, within thirty (30) days of receipt thereof.
3. The Convention Committee shall examine these proposals within a period of twelve (12) months following notification of the States Parties.
4. Amendments shall be adopted by the Convention Committee by a two-thirds majority of the States Parties present and voting.
5. Any amendment so adopted shall be incorporated into a Protocol to this Convention. The Protocol shall specify the modalities for its entry into force, which, in any event, shall require the expression of consent by the States Parties to be bound by it.
Article V.6 - Depositary Functions
1. The Director-General of UNESCO shall be the depositary of this Convention.
2. The Director-General of UNESCO shall inform the States Parties and other Member States of UNESCO of the deposit of the instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval, or accession referred to in article V.1.2 and the withdrawals referred to in article V.4.
Article V.7 - Registration
In conformity with Article 102 of the Charter of the United Nations, this Convention shall be registered with the Secretariat of the United Nations at the request of the Director-General of UNESCO.
Article V.8 - Authentic texts
This Convention has been drawn up in English, French and Spanish, all three texts being equally authentic.
IN FAITH WHEREOF, the undersigned representatives, being duly authorized thereto, have signed this Convention.
Done at Buenos Aires, this thirteenth day of July 2019, in the English, French and Spanish languages, the three texts being equally authoritative, the original version shall be deposited in the archives of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization. A certified copy shall be sent to all States referred to in Article V.1 and to the Secretariat of the United Nations.