La Universitat - Universitat Oberta de Catalunya

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What is the EHEA?


In June 1999, the Ministers of higher education of 29 European countries signed the Bologna Declaration, which lays down the fundamental principles in order to create the European Higher Education Area (EHEA).

The EHEA mobilises a change in teaching methods which focus on the student’s learning process and it promotes improvement in the quality and international competitiveness of higher education in Europe, so that European university degrees may increase in mobility and recognition.

With a view to creating skilled and competent professionals, a programme or degree in the new EHEA framework is not only defined according to a prescriptive list of core, optional and free-elective subjects that have to be studied. Now the degree is established as an education project of the university that proposes it.

There are currently 46 European states participating in the EHEA. Apart from EU member states, these also include countries from the European Free Trade Association and countries from Eastern and Central Europe.



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What are the objectives of the EHEA?

The following objectives are hoped to be achieved with the construction of the new European Higher Education Area.


  • Promote the mobility of students, graduates and academics all around Europe.
  • Make it possible for new graduates to enter a unified European labour market.
  • Provide people with the skills and strategies necessary for permanent and lifelong learning.

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What principles is the EHEA based on?


The Bologna Declaration lays down the fundamental principles in order to create the European Higher Education Area, divided into four principles as follows:


  • Quality. Criteria and methodologies which are comparable among countries are established to evaluate quality in order to ensure the quality of the studies and degrees issued by the different European education institutions. Sharing criteria and methods promote mutual trust between institutions and it facilitates degree recognition.
  • Mobility. The aim is to remove barriers and make it easier for students, teachers and administration staff in European universities and higher education institutions to perform their academic and professional activity in other education institutions and in other countries.
  • Diversity. This does not involve implementing a unique, uniform and homogenous education system in the whole of Europe; it is to make the systems in the different countries transparent that everyone can compare and understand. In order to promote mobility and to preserve this diversity, tools such as the European Credit (ECTS), the Diploma Supplement and the European Qualification Framework have been created.
  • Competitiveness. European citizens will have to be able to receive a higher education that makes them competent in their profession while allowing them to be competitive in the labour market of a globalised world, taking into account the level currently offered by countries outside of Europe, such as the United States.

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What is the ECTS credit?


ECTS stands for European Credit Transfer System.

Unlike credits that are based on the student’s lecture time, the ECTS represents the student’s personal work in all activities of the learning process (lecture time, time dedicated to planning and organising tasks, time used for projects and practicals, time working with other students, time used for assessment tests, etc.) Essentially, it is the unit of measure of their work with regard to the dedication and effort necessary to complete programmes and subjects.

The ECTS credit is the unit of measure from which degrees within the EHEA framework are organised. The use of this standard, adopted by all universities of the new European Area, aims to share a single measuring system that enables degree study loads to be compared.

In the UOC, an ECTS credit is equal to 25 hours of study work.


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What is the Diploma Supplement (DS)?


This is the information document attached to the qualification and it contains relevant academic information on the level and content of studies completed, such as the competences obtained.

The fundamental objective is to make an easy-to-understood document of the university qualification and, particularly, one that is comparable in all EU countries. Therefore, it will further facilitate academic and professional mobility of graduates between the universities and professional markets of these countries.


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What is the European Qualifications Framework (EQF)?

A European Qualifications Framework has been developed that establishes a common reference where learning outcomes may be classified according to 8 levels to make qualifications easy to compare. It involves a set of recommendations which are currently not obligatory to comply with.

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What is the Spanish Qualifications Framework for Higher Education (MECES)?

The MECES is the reference framework adopted in Spain in order to structure qualifications at different levels. The framework is based on the “Dublin Descriptors”, which define the level of learning required for each stage of the higher education system (Bachelor, Master, Doctorate). The specification of these levels is currently being defined for each of the areas of knowledge contained in Democratic Reform 1393/2007.

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Is there a set catalogue of qualifications marked by the State Government or by Europe? Will all universities offer the same degrees?

No, the system has changed in this regard compared with the previous situation. Each university may present proposals of the qualification considered to meet a professional and academic demand in society. In order to do so, it is necessary to present a report of the education project linked to the proposed qualification. This report has to be assessed by ANECA, the National Agency for Quality Assessment and Accreditation, and if the assessment is positive, it needs to be approved by the Council of Universities and registered in the Spanish Registry of Universities, Centres and Qualifications (RUCT)

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Do the qualification proposals presented by universities have to meet any requirements?

They have to comply with the regulations established in Spanish Royal Decree 1393/2007, on 29 October, with regard to the assessment and accreditation structure and protocol.

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What are regulated professions?


These are professions whose professional competence is regulated by the State. That means that a group of attributions are marked that can only be carried out by a professional who has been accredited by an academic qualification, by meeting certain requirements and an aptitude test that grants concession, or by the government authorisation that grants profession access. Eg. Doctor, Architect, Telecommunications Engineer.

The State will indicate specific guidelines with regard to the competences that need to be studied for degree qualifications that grant access to a regulated profession.


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What is the Spanish Registry of Universities, Centres and Qualifications (RUCT)?

This is the registry where all universities and higher education centres have to be registered, as well as their official accredited degrees (bachelor, master and doctorate).

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What is the structure of the university studies?

The structure of the university studies has been divided into three cycles in the Spanish State: Bachelor, University Master and Doctorate.

First cycle: Bachelor’s degree

This allows the student to obtain the official Graduate degree and its aim is to provide general education in one or several disciplines, oriented at preparing the student to carry out professional activities. It is necessary to have completed 240 credits to obtain it.

All bachelor degrees are ascribed to one of the following fields of study:

  • Arts and Humanities
  • Science
  • Health sciences
  • Social and legal sciences
  • Engineering and Architecture

The study programme contains a minimum of 60 ECTS credits of general studies, at least 36 of which are linked to subjects of the area of knowledge ascribed to the bachelor’s degree. In addition, all bachelor degrees include a final thesis which may have between 6 and 30 ECTS credits.

Second cycle: Master’s degree:


Masters studies aim to provide the student with advanced education that is specialised and multidisciplinary, oriented at academic or professional specialisation, or promoting research task initiation.

It is necessary to complete a minimum of 60 credits to obtain the University Master’s degree. However, the study programme of some masters degrees may increase the number of credits to be completed to a maximum of 120 credits.


Third cycle: Doctorate degree


Doctorate studies aim to give the student advanced education in research techniques. They may include courses, seminars and other activities oriented at research training and they include the preparation and presentation of the corresponding doctorate thesis which consists of an original research project.

Completion gives the student the right to obtain the Doctorate degree, which is still the maximum graduate level.


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