European label and diploma: increasing the recognition of diplomas and the employability of graduates

The Conference of Deans of French Schools of Engineering (CDEFI) notes the initiatives presented by the European Commission on March 27, 2024, in support of transnational cooperation in higher education, particularly regarding the creation of a European diploma. We reaffirm our commitment to any effort aimed at strengthening the value of obtained diplomas, enhancing graduates' employability, and promoting student and researcher mobility in Europe.

From this perspective, CDEFI endorses any initiative aimed at bolstering European collaboration in higher education and research. It emphasises that the value of the European diploma should primarily be evaluated based on its capacity to enhance graduates' employability and create new avenues for international mobility.

A notable advancement in this regard occurred in 2006, when the European Network for Accreditation of Engineering Education (ENAEE) established the EUR-ACE label. This label grants international prestige and acknowledgment to engineering qualifications, being awarded to programmes that fulfil the outcome standards outlined in its framework. Presently, we recognise its crucial role in facilitating professional mobility for engineering schools, especially graduates. It currently serves as the sole operational European common reference framework. This previous experience positions engineering schools as pivotal actors in executing the European Commission's directives for the European diploma.

However, we recognise its limitations. Unlike the EUR-ACE label, which certifies the quality of engineering programmes, the preparatory European label aims to foster collaborations between European institutions and seek recognition in all EU countries, thereby facilitating mobility—particularly degree-related—of students and graduates within the EU. Moreover, the process of awarding the preparatory European label relies on agreed common criteria at the European level, including teaching quality, multilingualism, programme diversity, international mobility opportunities, cross-cutting skills, and pedagogical innovation. This makes it highly complementary to the EUR-ACE label, which primarily emphasises the quality of engineering programmes and the recognition of technical skills. Therefore, we believe that the preparatory label proposed by the Commission presents a new opportunity for engineering schools. It is inherently designed to foster collaboration and mobility at the European level, with the goal of establishing a European diploma.

Nevertheless, CDEFI questions the practical implications of the initiative proposed by the European Commission, particularly concerning the entities responsible for issuing this label and the procedures that will be adopted in this regard. We maintain our opposition to the proliferation of accreditation bodies, favouring a harmonised and coherent approach to ensure the quality of higher education programmes

Moreover, the European diploma label is expected to diversify the international talent pools of engineering schools. It will respond to the pressing need for skilled graduate engineers to propel Europe's reindustrialisation process. The global acknowledgment of these new diplomas offers the EU a significant chance to reaffirm its worldwide leadership in this domain.

Yet, the development of this initiative must take into account the existence of individual school brands, ensuring that their recognition and sustainability are not compromised. It is essential that these school brands continue to be recognised for their academic excellence and specific expertise, regardless of the institutions' participation in this initiative. The European diploma should establish itself in coexistence with these brands.

Considering this perspective, French engineering schools see the preparatory European label as a promising stride towards achieving a European diploma. Nonetheless, they eagerly anticipate more clarity regarding its implementation and practical implications.

Additionally, it's worth considering the future of EUR-ACE and whether it should evolve into a more widely recognised preparatory European label, encompassing a broader and more shared set of criteria. This would better serve the needs of European students, institutions, and businesses.

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