EU urged to implement law on “mutual recognition” of professional qualifications across member countries
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EU urged to implement law on “mutual recognition” of professional qualifications across member countries

The European Union has been urged to speed up implementation of an EU law that requires “mutual recognition” of professional qualifications. In the past, a fully qualified professional in one EU country would not necessarily have met the requirements to practice in another member state unless he/she had completed a training course in that country.

EU rules on mutual recognition of qualifications were introduced to overcome this.

The law is supposed to make it easier for workers, such as engineers, to have their professional qualifications recognised in another member state.

The directive came into force in 2005 and has been amended once, in 2013, but concerns persist about its transposition into national law.

A recent review of the legislation introduces new features like the “European Professional Card” while at the same time reaffirming the underlying philosophy of mutual recognition.

In a bid to raise awareness of the issue, various organisations representing the engineering world have joined forces in a bid to speed up full implementation of the directive.

Representatives from 13 authorised agencies came together in Brussels on Wednesday to sign a “mutual recognition agreement” (MRA) which commits them to accept each other´s accreditation decisions.

The agencies agreed to make “every reasonable effort” to ensure that bodies responsible for recognising engineering qualifications, or registering professional engineers, accept the comparability of the EURopean-ACcredited Engineer (EUR-ACE®) label.

The European Network for Engineering Accreditation (ENAEE) authorises accreditation agencies, now present in 13 member states, to award the certificate/label to engineering degree programmes which they accredit.

Since 2006, the label has been awarded to more than 1,600 engineering programmes, delivered in more than 300 universities in 30 countries in Europe and worldwide.

The EUR-ACE® scheme is authorised by ENAEE with initial set up support from the EU Tempus programme.

Launched in February 2006 by 14 European associations concerned with engineering education, ENAEE is rooted in the so-called Bologna process.

This aims to build a European “higher education area” by strengthening the competitiveness and attractiveness of European higher education and fostering student mobility and employability.

ENAEE addresses the education of engineers and authorises accreditation and quality assurance agencies to award the EUR-ACE® label to their accredited engineering degree programmes.

The MRA signing ceremony took place at Brussels´ Hotel de Ville in the presence of several senior figures from the world of European engineering.

These included Bernard Remaud, president of ENAEE, who told the audience that the importance of engineers is increasing in the global economy.

He said, “We expect that this agreement will further facilitate the implementation of the EU directive.”

Mr Remaud said mobility was important because of the demand for flexible deployment on an international basis and different availability of engineers across national borders.

About 740 categories of regulated professions exist in member states and one means of boosting mobility is the EU engineering card which is available in Germany, Netherlands, Poland, Czech Republic and Croatia. It will soon be introduced in Portugal, Ireland, Slovenia, Macedonia, Luxembourg and Serbia.

Another keynote speaker, Denis McGrath, ENAEE vice president, said the EUR-ACE® label benefits both employers, students and engineering gradutes.

“It is a very useful tool in encouraging labour mobility and means, for example, than an engineer in Spain who finishes a course can go to  France and the French will have to accept his professional qualifications in the same way as Spain does.”

He added, “By the very nature of their work, engineers ensure that the public is protected from harm.

“But to do so, engineers must possess the relevant underpinning knowledge and maintain their technical and managerial competence so they can deliver value to their clients.”

He added, “The importance of quality assessment of their initial and continuing education needs to be recognized.”

Certificates of authorisation were presented to Spain´s National Agency for Quality Assessment and Accreditation, the Finnish Education Evaluation Centre and the Swiss centre of accreditation and quality assurance in higher education.

Other speakers at the event included Professor Hu Hanrahan, of the Washington Accord, which recognises substantial equivalence in the accreditation of qualifications in professional engineering. He spoke in a session on the “global mobility of engineering graduates.”

By Martin Banks