As is to be expected, effectiveness and accessibility of recognition procedures varies depending on the kind of recognition. The situation has slightly improved in the last few years in terms of accessibility of recognition of qualifications and credits, especially regarding transparency of the procedures, which the students’ unions also perceive as an improving aspect of automatic recognition. Other than transparency however, in the last three years, students’ unions do not perceive a significant change for the better. Even more worryingly, within this kind of recognition further subdivisions are visible. In credit recognition there is a huge difference between credits achieved as a part of the mobility period and those achieved outside of it. Even though the situation with recognizing credits gained through mobility periods is still far from satisfactory, it nonetheless demonstrates that mobility programmes (usually Erasmus+) have had a positive effect on recognition since they provided institutions with a framework and streamlined procedures which are non-existent in other forms of recognition. Characteristics such as transparency and simplicity of procedures are to be taken into account while developing new ways to improve recognition in those areas where it is currently lacking.
This is particularly clear in the case of recognition of prior learning. In the large number of national contexts such recognition is still not available to students and there seems to be no improvement since the previous Ministerial Communique. Lack of trust in validation procedures being seen as the main barrier to development of recognition of prior learning is probably a signal that detailed, reliable and transparent procedures need to be developed and promoted in order to stimulate recognition authorities to improve their recognition of prior learning. Another interesting point for future exploration and development is how recognition of informal and non-formal learning can help achieve flexibilisation of study programs with the goal of individualising learning paths as much as possible.
Finally, when it comes to automatic recognition, which is one of the main goals of the Bologna process, it is a very important finding that the students’ unions perceive the fact that not all EHEA countries have consistently implemented all the Bologna tools as the biggest barrier to automatic recognition. With the second biggest barrier being a lack of trust between EHEA countries, it is likely that the second is a consequence of the first. These results are not surprising; uneven and superficial implementation is something that ESU has been warning about for a very long time, as the students’ unions clearly see that Bologna reforms have not been carried out at a similar level across countries. Looking to the future, besides Bologna working bodies, European-level quality assurance also has a crucial role in ensuring that degrees in different EHEA countries fulfill the basic criteria of quality, which is impossible without proper implementation of Bologna tools. Only this can truly foster trust between the countries which is a necessity for automatic recognition.