Greece Exploring Advanced Recognition

in Higher Education – GEAR

(Project number 577798-EPP-1-2016-1-EL-EPPKA3-BOLOGNA)


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Project Coordinator:

Dr. Panagiota DIONYSOPOULOU, Director General for Higher Education of the Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs

Key Staff:

Alexia KARVOUNI, Panagiotis MATSOUKAS, Christos SKOURAS, Emmanouil Zacharakis Director General for Higher Education of the Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs

Konstantina Giannou, State Scholarships Foundation (IKY)

Nikolaos MARANGOS, Director General for Higher Education of the Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs (Technical Support)


Experts Team:

Dr. Rea WALDEN, Researcher, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

Yiannis KIOUVREKIS, Researcher, National Technical University of Athens

Adonis BOGRIS, Associate Professor, Technological Educational Institute of Athens

Dr. Georgia PAPADOPOULOU, Special Laboratory Teaching Staff, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens

Giannis TSILIKAS, Researcher, National Technical University of Athens

Dr. Anastasia CHATZIGIANNIDI, Researcher, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens





Fine-Tuning Recognition Processes: Challenges, Strategies, Tools

International Peer Learning Activity

Wednesday – Thursday, 26 – 27th April 2017

Divani Palace Acropolis Hotel, Athens


List of Participants

Adonis BOGRIS Associate Professor, Technological Educational Institute of Athens
Akrom NEZAMOV Incoming student, T.E.I of Athens
Alexia KARVOUNI Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs
Anastasia CHATZIGIANNIDI Researcher, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
Angeliki ARONI Working Group on the Management, Coordination and Monitoring of the Refugee Education, Special Advisor to the Secretary General of the Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs
Angeliki KARAGIANNAKI Director of the Athens Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation of the Athens University of Economics and Business
Ann MAISURADZE Head of the Department for International Education, LEPL – National Center for Educational Quality Enhancement of Georgia
Caroline BELAN-MENAGIER International Relations & LLL strategies for Confederal University Leonardo da Vinci of France
Christos SKOURAS Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs
Constantinos KOUTSOJANNIS Associate Professor, Vice President, Technological Educational Institute  of Western Greece
Dimitrios DEKAVALLAS Outgoing student, Athens University of Economics and Business
Eleni PAPADOPOULOU President of the Hellenic NARIC
Elisavet  EFTHYMIOU Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs
Emmanouil  ZACHARAKIS Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs
George ANDROULAKIS Professor, Department of Primary Education, University of Thessaly, Vice President of the Hellenic Open University
Georgia ANASTASOPOULOU National President of Erasmus Student Network Greece
Ioannis GEROTHANASSIS Professor, University of Ioannina, Vice President of Hellenic Quality Assurance & Accreditation Agency (HQA)
Ioannis TSILIKAS Researcher, National  Technical University of Athens
Irene Ntroutsa Head of ERASMUS+ Unit, State Scholarships’ Foundation-IKY
Katerina GALANAKI  Bologna ECTS-DS expert
Konstantina GIANNOU State Scholarships Foundation  (IKY)
Kyriakos ATHANASSIOU Emeritus Professor, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, President of the State Scholarships Foundation (IKY)
Madalena FONSECA Professor, Secretary General, A3ES – Agency for Assessment and Accreditation of Higher Education of Portugal
Noel VERCRUYSSE Senior project leader on internationalisation of higher education of the Flemish Community of Belgium
Panagiota CHAPSI Outgoing student, Panteion University
Panagiota DIONYSOPOULOU Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs
Panagiotis MATSOUKAS Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs
Panicos GIORGOUDES Senior Education Officer, Ministry of Education and Culture of Cyprus
Rea WALLDEN Researcher, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
Spyros SYROPOULOS Associate Professor,  Vice Rector for International Relations, Student Affairs and Alumni, University of the Aegean
Yannis GALANAKIS Outgoing student, Athens University of Economics and Business
Yiannis KIOUVREKIS Researcher, National Technical University of Athens


Background information

The Directorate General for Higher Education of the Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs of Greece, together with its National Agency for Erasmus+, the State Scholarships Foundation (IKY), designed and is currently implementing the project GEAR (Greece Exploring Advanced Recognition in higher education) a project selected under the Restricted Call for Proposals 49/2015 of EACEA (Project number 577798-EPP-1-2016-1-EL-EPPKA3-BOLOGNA).

The project is strongly linked to the Yerevan Communiqué commitment:

“Implementing agreed structural reforms is a prerequisite for the consolidation of the EHEA and, in the long run, for its success. A common degree structure and credit system, common quality assurance standards and guidelines, cooperation for mobility and joint programmes and degrees are the foundations of the EHEA. We will develop more effective policies for the recognition of credits gained abroad, of qualifications for academic and professional purposes, and of prior learning…..We need more precise measurement of performance as a basis for reporting from member countries. Through policy dialogue and exchange of good practice, we will provide targeted support to member countries experiencing difficulties in implementing the agreed goals and enable those who wish to go further to do so.”


It acts as a reminder for the need for a consolidated EHEA only to be achieved through structural reforms. Recognition remains an issue relevant to this consolidation and its tools are a corner stone for the smooth implementation of the reforms needed.

For Greece, unobstructed mobility is a national goal, as it enhances higher education as a whole and it broadens mindsets and behaviours.

The main objective of the PLA was to present the results of an extensive survey on recognition processes and the use of recognition tools among Greek Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), and how they affect students’ and personnel’s mobility. The survey was based on: (a) an e-questionnaire addressed to all 40 Greek HEIs, (b) an e-questionnaire addressed to all 480 academic Departments, (c) interviews with institutional stakeholders and experts, and (d) questionnaires addressed to a considerable sample of incoming and outgoing mobile students.

The preliminary report is already available online in GEAR website and was aimed to contribute to the preparation of the discussions before the PLA.

This PLA attempted to address issues such as:

  1. Which successful internationalisation strategies have countries implemented to increase mobility of students, as well as academic and administrative personnel?
  2. Which of the recognition tools and strategies are implemented in the higher education system: ECTS, Diploma Supplement, quality assessment, learning outcomes?
  3. Which are the processes for the recognition of foreign academic degrees in different countries (who is responsible, which are the preconditions for recognition, what recognition entails, how much time the process takes)?
  4. What are the most frequent challenges for a student being mobile?
  5. Are recognition tools enough to deal with global challenges and radically changing environments?

Participants were urged to respond to the above questions before the PLA took place, upon registration, in order to assist the GEAR Experts and Key-staff teams in preparing the PLA.

There were also two thematic sessions (a) on ECTS, Programs and Policies of Student Mobility; and (b) on Diploma Supplement and Degree Recognition.

To guarantee a broader perspective on the issue of recognition and its tools, the participation of an important representation from the EHEA countries was sought and ensured with the participation of representatives from Cyprus, the Flemish Community of Belgium, France, Georgia and Portugal. Representation from the EHEA was deemed very crucial for comparing strategies and approaches, spotting differences and common challenges, providing experiences and exchanging best practices.

Further to that, the PLA succeeded in establishing the contribution of a very diverse audience welcoming for discussion around the same table all relevant stakeholders: incoming/outgoing students, Organisations representatives (NARIC, HQA, National Agency for Erasmus+, ESN), representatives at institutional level (both from Universities and Technological Educational Institutes), Ministry representatives and Bologna Experts.

Also, a number of different issues around recognition were addressed like the refugee issue and the recognition of their qualifications, the digital dimension in higher education and the challenges this may impact on recognition processes and the entrepreneurial dimension in higher education.



The PLA use the predecessor survey on recognition that attempted to depict an accurate update on recognition in higher education in Greece and to map the current situation as regards recognition tools. The milestones of this survey, conducted by the GEAR Experts’ team, included an extensive survey via an e-questionnaire to all HEIs (83% responded) and their Departments, as well as their incoming and outgoing students, seven open interviews with key higher education stakeholders (the National Agency for Erasmus+, the Hellenic NARIC, HQA, ESN, Bologna Experts). The Experts also carried out a thorough SWOT analysis of data concerning higher education provision in Greece based on the Bologna Process Implementation National Reports (2009, 2012, 2015), the HQA report of 2015 and the MOHE project results of 2016 (a predecessor selected proposal of the DG for Higher Education on the modernization of higher education in Greece under EACEA 20/2014 Call for Proposals).

Main conclusions drawn from the survey:

  • Mobility remains one of the main objectives for Greek HEIs and recognition is a key prerequisite for it including its tools: the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS), the Diploma Supplement (DS), the Quality Assurance Standards and Guidelines and the learning outcomes.
  • Internationalisation is listed as one of the three criteria for allocating additional funding to HEIs and mobility is a key approach for enhancing their internationalisation strategy
  • More the 90% of HEIs have implemented at least 3 out of the 5 standards of the ESG.
  • A substantial number of HEIs use HEIs use international ranking tools in order to enhance their visibility and internationalization (U-multirank, QS World university rankings, Times Higher Education, Thomson Reuters, and Shanghai Ranking)
  • A substantial number of HEIs provide their students with Greek language courses while an even greater number provide courses in languages other than the Greek language to increase incoming students and personnel


A succinct report on the thematics discussed and the conclusions drawn is as follows:


  • Through the dynamic feedback and the fruitful discussion among all the participants, it remains evident that removing barriers and smoothening procedures via an awareness-raising policy improves mobility. Mobility paves the way for a successful internationalization strategy and remains its focal constituent. The need to establish and cultivate a culture of mutual trust and confidence among HEIs persists as a corner stone in the bilateral agreements and relations among HEIs. This trust can simplify procedures for students and administration and thus boost mobility
  • The importance of recognition tools (ECTS, DS, QA and learning outcomes) is unquestionable so they need to be further developed to depict skills and competences, students will have acquired by the end of their studies. Flexibility and adaptability is required in order to assist students in the international labour market and the contemporary needs
  • Similar challenges seem relevant among members of the EHEA, at a different rate, as for instance low mobility owing to factors like the language barrier, the low socioeconomic background, special needs and difficulty in sharing best policies among others. The fact that France prides itself on some extremely substantial mobility rates, still only 1 out of 3 its students manages to be international and mobile gives us room for further discussion
  • All EHEA members and their Quality Assurance Agencies should be accredited by the European Quality Assurance Register (EQAR) to ensure high quality educational programmes relevant for the international market and, above all, compatibility among the EHEA members
  • There are thoughts over the overarching quality of higher education and the learning outcomes over whole programmes and not just units
  • It is crucial to invest more in the accumulated best practice and experience already acquired (as the one of the Tuning project that various participants stressed out) and the strong cultural links some countries share for geographical and other reasons
  • Mobility is an important facilitator not just of formal and non formal education but also of the soft skills which are deemed highly important for the global community (creativity, analytical thinking, multitasking, communication skills, time management and leadership, intercultural skills) and new needs of the labour market
  • At institutional level, courses in widely spoken languages attract more students so there is a great need that HEIs adopt internationalization strategies. Moreover, a more structured integrated approach is necessary to ensure a smooth transition of incoming students, including accommodation, guidance, counseling, language assistance and cultural support
  • A holistic approach is required to tackle the refugee issue and the way refugees can be integrated not only in the school system but also in higher education even in the case of absence of reliably assessed documentation
  • Distant learning is roughly estimated to increase resulting in 15% of the sum of students to be distant learners in 5 year’s time. Though challenges persist in quality, sustainability, infrastructure and accreditation and recognition, digital education remains very important and systemic alterations, adjustment and adaptability are urgently demanded (for instance, learning outcomes are differentiated when it comes to distant learning requiring a different set of skills like knowledge management)
  • Unbundling of higher education is often in need by providing smaller units of studies and modules, short learning programmes and MOOCs (roughly 70 million learners around the globe have already taken up a MOOC already, with a lot of discussion nowadays among since they often impose fees)
  • Virtual mobility is getting more and more in the discussion and seems to be a policy to be funded. Recognition tools seem to be a challenge for the recognition of e-modules. The Changing Pedagogical Landscape study recommends that the national governments revise their legislative and regulatory frameworks to fit digital learning and prior learning and blended learning in general
  • Entrepreneurship is key for growth and development in recession periods, so all relevant stakeholders should closely cooperate to adopt entrepreneurship strategies, redesign curricula respectively and promote it
  • Policy dialogue and exchange of good practice are the foundation in discussing policy challenges and issues and provoke regulated restructuring
  • Although nowadays HEIs, staff, and experts are more involved and there are more chances for intercultural communication and cooperation, obstacles remain for automatic recognition due to several reasons as over-regulation and bureaucracy. There is need for such initiatives and other stirring processes for rethinking, discussing and debating over such fervent issues.