Recognition of the exchange year

Why is it important?

The experience acquired during an exchange year enables young people to enhance their communication skills, develop social competences and a deeper cultural understanding. Exchange participants learn to communicate in foreign languages and improve their interpersonal skills. Additionally, an exchange year challenges a student’s adaptability and limits, which ultimately increases his/her independence. Ultimately, these skills increase the student’s employability in a globalised world.

Policy Challenges

The following policy challenges are barriers to long-term exchange years:

  • Lack of academic recognition in the educational system;
  • Lack of accessible scholarships for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to participate in long-term exchanges;
  • Lack of support and guidance from formal education providers - many teachers and headmasters are not aware of the value of long-term exchanges for young people - as well as from high-level policy institutions.

Policy Solutions

EEE-YFU promotes the following policy solutions:

  • Increase the flexibility of educational systems to allow for long-term exchanges (a trimester, semester or year abroad) without obliging students to repeat academic work;
    Advance the integration of exchange years into the life-long learning programmes;
    National government financial support for pupils participating in quality long-term exchange programmes;
    For more information, read EEE-YFU's position paper on the recognition of long-term youth exchanges.
  • Resources on Recognition, Accreditation, and Validation

Council recommendation on the validation of non-formal and informal learning (2012)

The recommendation sets that, no later than 2018, Member States have to put in place arrangements for the validation of non-formal and informal learning.

European guidelines for validating non-formal and informal learning (2009)

This publication by CEDEFOP presents the conclusions of more than two years of intensive exchange of experiences - involving representatives from more than 20 European countries - in validating non-formal and informal learning.

Recommendation on the European qualifications framework (2008)

A common reference framework will help Member States, education institutions, employers and individuals compare qualifications across the EU’s diverse education and training systems. This tool is essential for developing a European employment market.

Mobility of Secondary School Pupils and Recognition of Study Periods Spent Abroad, EFIL

This study explores challenges and opportunities for improving the mobility of pupils. The survey would not have been possible without the assistance of 20 Member Organisations of the European Federation for Intercultural Learning who co-ordinated and conducted the survey at national level.

What are long-term exchanges?

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Long-term youth exchanges are educational programmes of one or two semesters designed for secondary school students who stay with a volunteer host family and attend a local secondary school. They provide transferable skills and experience beyond the classroom possibilities.


“Recognition or accreditation of the exchange year is a topic discussed in each European country independently, and in Germany even in each State. Thus one can start changing things for the better on a small scale and then, having created good examples, share and transfer them to have multiplier effects.” (Clemens, Germany)


Best Recognition Practices