EU Court Backs Legitimacy of Overlapping Degree Programs

(CN) – Though Italy expressly prohibits simultaneous enrollment in multiple degree courses, it must recognize the degrees of a doctor who studied dentistry and medicine at the same time, Europe’s highest court ruled Thursday.

Hannes Preindl, an Italian citizen, brought the challenge here after the Italian Ministry of Health declined in 2014 to recognize his qualification to practice as a surgeon because he obtained the qualification at the same time that he got a degree in dentistry.

While students in Italian degree programs are obliged to undertake full-time training, Preindl obtained his degrees from the Medical University of Innsbruck in Austria.

Italy’s Council of State referred the case to the European Court of Justice, seeking input on whether EU law requires a member state to automatically recognize academic qualifications obtained as a result of taking partially overlapping courses.

On Thursday, the Third Chamber of that Luxembourg-based institution sided with Preindl.

“Recognition of evidence of formal qualifications, including a degree in medicine with basic training and a degree in dentistry, is automatic and unconditional, in that it obliges member states to accept the equivalence of evidence of formal qualifications covered by Directive 2005/36 and cannot require the persons concerned to comply with requirements other than those laid down by that directive,” the ruling states. “That recognition is based on the member states’ mutual trust in the adequacy of the evidence of formal qualifications issued by other member states, such trust being based on a training system the standards of which were determined by mutual agreement.”

Italy also sought leave to verify the rigor of part-time training programs, but the court noted Thursday that such discretion would jeopardize the system of automatic and unconditional recognition of qualifications that the law supports.

“It is for the competent authorities of the home member state, and not for those of the host member state, to ensure that the overall duration, level, and quality of the part-time training are not lower than those of continuous full-time training, and, more generally, that all the requirements laid down by Directive 2005/36 are fully complied with,” the ruling states.

The ruling concludes with the point that EU law also permits host member states to settle any justified doubt by requiring “confirmation from the competent authorities of a member state of the authenticity of the attestations and evidence of formal qualifications awarded in that other member state, as well as, where applicable, confirmation of the fact that the beneficiary fulfills, for the professions referred to in that directive, the minimum training conditions required by it.”

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