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Foreign education certificate helps find a job. Yet the official recognition is necessary.

One of the current trends on the global labour market is to strongly tighten the conditions of the recruitment of foreigners in many countries. The situation in the Czech Republic is not different. The negative impact of the global economic crisis, increasing unemployment or an attempt to find an all-purpose way of selecting suitable employees might be the cause. The restrictions affect particularly low-qualification workers without permanent residence permit, but some of the changes of the rules will concern everybody, including highly qualified experts. They have to go through the procedure of nostrification, i.e. a recognition of their completed education. This is to facilitate the systematisation of a wide range of various diplomas and certificates issued all over the world. Nevertheless, it brings several complications, too.

Galyna has also encountered the process of nostrification. She completed her Master’s degree in Ukraine and wanted to continue in her PhD studies in Prague. However, Charles University recognised only her Bachelor’s degree. That is why Galyna currently studies the Master’s programme again, which is somehow a waste of time.

The requirement to provide the certificate of the official recognition of their foreign education is one of the new conditions for obtaining a work permit or for enrolling in a study programme. It is stipulated by Act No. 500/2004 Coll., the Code of Administrative Procedure, as amended, and the Directive of the Director General of the Labour Office No. 19/2012. It means that a high-school leaving certificate as well as a diploma from a high-quality foreign university must be recognised by a corresponding institution in the Czech Republic, i.e. the degree of the education of a foreigner must be acknowledged. The recognition procedure may be carried out by the primary, secondary, or higher education institutions. The applicant must provide an officially authenticated copy of the foreign education certificate including an officially authenticated translation into Czech, supported by the list of courses taken and the number of hours, the transcript of records or the diploma supplement. The institution where the applicant submitted their application then assesses the level of equivalence of the foreign education to its similar accredited study programme and, if the decision is favourable, issues the confirmation of equivalence or the certificate of recognition. In case of higher education, the academic degree title stated in the diploma is also recognised.

In practice, the recognition procedure can however be quite complicated. If there are substantial differences between the two compared study programmes, the application can be rejected. According to the information provided by Charles University in Prague, the number of requests for recognition of foreign university education is increasing every year. In 2012, the numbers rose especially in case of translation, interpretation and teacher training programmes by at least 30%. The majority of applicants come from Russia and Ukraine. Around 1,326 requests were submitted in 2012, 511 of which were rejected.

With regard to considerable disparities in the educational systems of various countries, even the recognition of completed secondary education might be refused. For example, there is a system of eleven-year secondary education followed by compulsory final exams (similar to maturita, Czech state graduation) in Ukraine or Russia. Upon completion of these exams, the graduate may directly enrol at university. The student may leave the school after the 9th year, but the secondary education is then not considered to be completed. Unlike in Ukraine or in Russia, students in the Czech Republic leaving primary school must complete 4 years of secondary-school education before being able to be admitted to university.

Problems arise also in case of the recognition of academic degrees awarded by foreign universities. The Bachelor’s study degree programme lasts 4 years in Ukraine and in most cases only one year is needed to obtain a Master’s degree. This may often prove insufficient for the acknowledgement of the Master’s degree in the Czech Republic.

There is no doubt that the recognition of foreign education as such significantly contributes to the organisation of the vast number of various diplomas and certificates issued in different countries. For this reason, it is a positive and sometimes a necessary step in the procedure of the job applicants’ assessment. The differences in educational systems may unfortunately cause discrepancies concerning the completion of secondary or tertiary education. Foreigners may therefore be asked to complete their studies or exams. A person who completed their studies at a respected foreign university and had first-rate education would presumably have higher chances to have their diploma acknowledged. Yet there is no guarantee.

By the way, even a Czech citizen may be asked to have their studies abroad acknowledged. “The nostrification of the US graduation, or rather the recognition of its equivalence to the Czech graduation is quite a nuisance and the procedure usually takes weeks,” complains for instance one blogger.[1]

Example of nostrification No. 1: my own

In Ukraine, I graduated in the field of Biochemistry from V. N. Karazin Kharkiv National University, School of Biology (it is a state university; in the “Top-200 Ukraine” rating conducted by the UNESCO Chair has been ranking third for several years among all Ukrainian HEIs). To be on the safe side, I decided to have my diploma recognised some years ago, when the nostrification of Ukrainian diplomas was not obligatory. My Master’s degree diploma was successfully recognised by Charles University in Prague as well as my academic degree title Mgr. I have already completed my postgraduate studies at Charles University and now I hold the academic degree of PhD.

Example of nostrification No. 2

Galyna completed her Master’s degree also at V. N. Karazin Kharkiv National University, School of Philology. In 2012, she wanted to start her PhD studies at the Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague. She submitted a request for a recognition of her Master’s degree diploma. The diploma was acknowledged, but only the Bachelor’s degree. Galyna is now studzing two additional years of Master’s degree programme in the Czech Republic in order to have her education fully recognised and to be able to continue in postgraduate studies. It is a waste of time for her, since she has to study a slightly different Master’s degree programme instead of already working on her PhD project. The only positive outcome is that she will integrate better in the Czech environment and improve her knowledge of the Czech language.

Example of nostrification No. 3

Valeriya completed her higher education at the Siberian State Medical University in Tomsk, Russian Federation. Upon graduation, her specialisation was doctor-biochemist. She started work in a research institute in the Czech Republic some years ago, when the recognition of foreign education was not required. She decided to have her diploma recognised in order to extend her employment opportunities, also to the field of medicine. The recognition of her diploma was rejected at the Third Faculty of Medicine, Charles University in Prague, because her final exams could not have been recognised as equivalent to the state exams that need to be passed at medical faculties in the Czech Republic. They pointed out that the medical education would not be recognised in her case and that it would not suffice to complete only some parts of the programme. They recommended her to refer to another higher education institution to have at least her tertiary education recognized as such. Valeriya submitted her request for recognition of foreign education in the field of Biochemistry to the Institute of Chemical Technology, Prague. It was recognised, but unfortunately only with the academic title Mgr. and not MUDr., as stated in the original diploma, as this institute does not award Doctor of Medicine degree.

Based upon the figures provided by Charles University, it might be supposed that the decision to reject the request for recognition is delivered to quite a high number of people with diplomas from foreign education institutions. While their education is not recognised, these people either consider returning to their countries or they start searching for jobs in other EU countries, where the rules of recognition as well as for obtaining the work permit are different. The Czech Republic can thus lose a certain number of highly qualified experts. If they wanted to continue in their studies in the Czech Republic or to obtain a work permit and find a job that corresponds to their qualification, they would have to start their studies at the Czech HEI from the beginning. However, another issue is that, for many reasons, it is unfortunately impossible for most adults to take up their studies again.


[1] http://www.moolker.cz/2010/06/nostrifikace-americke-maturity-v.html

Author: Tetyana Kobets

The article is part of the Migration to the Centre project funded by the EU’s program “Europe for Citizens,” the Visegrad Fund, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic.




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