Equivalency Agreements

The Federal Republic of Germany has concluded bilateral intergovernmental agreements regarding "Equivalencies in Higher Education" (equivalency agreements) with several countries.

In the German federal system, the conclusion of the agreements (German Federal Government; Federal Foreign Office (AA)) requires the consent of the federal states (represented by the KMK) and the universities (represented by the HRK, Decree of the HRK Plenary Assembly).

The preparation, negotiation and subsequent implementation (expert committees) of the detail of the agreements are carried out jointly by the KMK and HRK (Working Group Equivalencies) under the official management of the AA.

There is an (informal) division of labour for the regulation of matters of equivalency through formal agreements: the governmental agreements generally relate to European countries; for non-European areas there are corresponding regulations in the "Agreements for Cooperation in Higher Education", which the HRK concludes with universities in these countries.
The agreements specify the regulations for recognising time spent studying, credits and academic degrees for foreign students studying in Germany, and for Germans studying abroad, and, to an extent, for further academic qualifications required to work in higher education (doctoral degree, post-doctoral ‘Habilitation’ for the title of professor) and (under state jurisdiction) for the recognition of foreign degrees and titles.

The regulations are highly binding for universities and government bodies due to the links to conditions for recognition and accreditation of credits set out in examination regulations. In certain cases, these agreements are important for applications for student loans (‘BAFöG’) to study abroad. They therefore operate on a number of levels as instruments for the organisation and the promotion of international academic mobility.

Most of the agreements contain lists of the universities in both countries participating in the agreements. In Germany, the definition of university (‘Hochschule’) always includes all government-funded and government-accredited universities. The current list of German universities can be found in the HRK's Higher Education Compass.

As a result of the developments in treaty practice since the beginning of the 1980s, some of the details of the agreements are of a different conceptual design and often make use of general abstract phrases to define issues regarding equivalency and recognition.