Higher education concordat (2008): Text and commentary
This is a wedge concordat which masquerades as a necessary consequence of Europe's harmonising of the recognition of academic degrees. Without a vote in the French legislature, President Sarkozy gave state recognition to Catholic theology diplomas, which opened the door for Protestants to get this, too. The ultimate aim appears to be to secure state funding for both Catholic universities and the study of Catholic theology and to overcome opposition by extending this to other religions.
This concordat looks like a Trojan horse. It provides the
academic recognition necessary for eventual state funding.
Once degrees from Catholic universities are recognised as academically equivalent to those from state universities, the pressure will be on treat them equally in terms of state subsidies. The same will hold true once theology degrees are recognised as equivalent to other subjects.
Echoing the remarks of French President Nicolas Sarkozy a year earlier , the preamble of the education concordat appeals in vague terms to the Bologna process. Begun in 1998, this is an ongoing process by 29 European countries committed to “harmonising the architecture of the European Higher Education system”.  However, the Bologna process in no way obligates France to conclude this pact with the Vatican. In fact, the Vatican State is not even a signatory. 
The harmonising of European degrees only means that degrees from Catholic universities or departments of theology would gain French recognition by the back door when they originated in other European signatory countries that considered them valid. It’s hardly necessary for France to recognise similar degrees from French institutions – let alone to conclude a concordat with the Vatican on this.
The last article of this concordat contains the unusual provision that “It may be terminated by each of the Parties”. This “escape clause” is only used in concordats with very reluctant partners. It also occurs at the end of the 1989 Brazilian military concordat, which remains unratified, (although it has been put into effect), as well as in the final article of the 2003 Czech concordat which is also unratified.
Because this agreement is classified by the French as an “accord” (agreement), rather than a “traité” (treaty), and because it doesn't concern weighty matters like changes in the nation's territory, government or finances , it only needed to be signed by the President and ratified by another authority, generally, as in this case, by the Foreign Minister. 
First Catholic diplomas, then Protestant ones...
Naturally, the Protestant theologians wanted their diplomas recognised by the state, as well. The sole theological faculty in France had been a part of the University of Paris until 1905 when the Separation Law was passed. The Protestant theological faculty then had to leave the university, since Articles 11-14 obliged the state to stop funding them. 
However, President Sarkozy appears, without any vote in the French legislature, to have begun an encroachment on this. The concordat below gives state recognition for Catholic diplomas, and on 27 May 2010 he announced to the Protestants theologians that their degrees would get equal recognition.  He concluded this announcement by with the remarkable claim that this was in accord with “strict fidelity to the principles of secularism”. But, of course, he means his own version of secularism, the notion of “positive secularism” which was actually coined in 2005 by the then Cardinal Ratzinger. And once theological faculties of all stripes are recognised by the state the next step will be to have them funded just like other recognised disciplines. This is already the case in Alsace-Moselle which is still under Napoleon's concordat.
Agreement between the French Republic and the Holy See
on the recognition of degrees and diplomas in higher education
(together with a Supplementary Protocol implementing it)
signed in Paris, 18 December 2008.
The French Republic, as the first party
The Holy See, as the second party,
hereafter referred to as ‘The Parties’,
Taking into account the Convention recognising qualifications in higher education within Europe, signed in Lisbon on 11 April 1997 and ratified by both Authorities;
Reaffirming their commitment, as set forth in the Bologna process, to participate fully in the higher education structure within Europe and clarify degrees and diplomas awarded by higher education establishments authorised for that effect by improving the clarity of degrees and diplomas of higher education establishments bestowed by the institutions authorised for this,
agree to the following:
Aim of the Agreement
The present agreement, according to the terms stated in the Supplementary Protocol, has as its objective:
1. mutual recognition of periods of academic study, of degrees and diplomas for higher education awarded by the competent authority of one of the Parties, for the pursuit of studies to the equivalent of degree level or to a level superior to that in establishments teaching to a higher level than that of the other Party, as outlined in Article 2 of the present agreement;
2. the clarification of degrees and diplomas of higher education awarded under the competent authority of one of the Parties by a competent authority of the other Party.
Scope of Implementation
The present agreement is applicable:
— to French higher education establishments, teaching to degree and diploma levels under the auspices of the State
— to Catholic universities, theological faculties and establishments of higher education duly authorised by the Holy See: for teaching to degree and diploma levels in subject areas/disciplines as set out under the terms of the Supplementary Protocol. A list of institutions, as well as of the degrees and diplomas concerned, will be drawn up by the Congregation for Catholic Education, regularly updated and communicated to the French Authorities.
Entry into force
The present agreement will enter into force on the first day of the second month following date of the last notification received by the Parties, informing them of the completion of the internal procedures required for it to come into force.
Method of implementation
A joint additional protocol to the present agreement, and constituting an integral part of this, sets out the terms under which the principles contained in this present agreement shall be implemented.
This document may be clarified by the competent authorities appointed by both Parties through an exchange of letters.
Resolution of differences
In the case of differences concerning the interpretation or implementation of the present agreement and its additional protocol, the two Parties will consult with each other with a view to settling these differences by amicable negotiation.
Duration of the Agreement
The present agreement is concluded for an indeterminate period. It may be terminated by each of the Parties and this decision will enter into effect three months after this official notification.
In witness thereof, the undersigned, with due authorisation, have signed the present agreement.
Concluded in Paris, Thursday, 18 December 2008, in duplicate copies, in the French language.
For the French Republic:
Minister of Foreign and European Affairs
For the Holy See:
Mgr Dominique Mamberti
Secretary for Relations with States
Agreement between the French Republic and the Holy See
on the recognition of degrees and diplomas in higher education
In accordance with Article 4 of the agreement between the French Republic and the Holy See on the recognition of degrees and diplomas in higher education, signed in Paris on 18 December 2008, both Parties have agreed to apply the principles contained in the agreement in accordance with the following conditions:
Scope of implementation of the Supplementary Protocol
The present protocol applies:
— to French higher education establishments: to degrees and diplomas conferred under State authority by authorised establishments of higher education.
— for Catholic universities, theological faculties and establishments of higher education duly authorised by the Holy See: for teaching to degree and diploma levels in subject areas/disciplines as set out under the terms of the Supplementary Protocol.
A list of institutions, as well as of the diplomas concerned will be drawn up by the Congregation for Catholic Education, updated on a regular basis and communicated to the French authorities.
Information on the degrees and diplomas
In French higher education establishments, degrees are set at the principal levels of reference of [other] European higher education establishments. There are in total four: the baccalaureate is a [basic] qualification for university entrance; the licentiate (180 European credit ECTS on the basis of 60 ECTS credits per year); the master (300 European credit ECTS on the basis of 60 ECTS credits per academic year); the doctorate.
The degree is awarded as a diploma conferred under State authority and a person qualified in the speciality.
For Catholic universities, theological faculties and establishments of higher education duly authorised by the Holy See:
— diplomas awarded by Catholic universities and the establishments of higher education duly authorised by the Holy See
— theological diplomas directly awarded by theological faculties under the authority of the Holy See.
Recognition of diplomas conferring a degree within [this agreement’s] scope of implementation
For the implementation of the present protocol, the term “recognition” signifies that a diploma obtained from either Party’s [institutions] is deemed to be of the same level to produce the effects set out by the Agreement.
On prior request of those concerned, the following are recognised to be of the same level:
a) French doctorates and theological degrees at doctoral level
b) French master diplomas (300 ECTS credits) and theological licentiate diplomas;
c) French licentiate diploma (180 ECTS) and the theological baccalaureate diploma.
The authorities responsible for recognising diplomas are:
— to clarify degrees and diplomas of higher education awarded under the competent authority of one of the Parties:
— in France: the Centre national de reconnaissance académique et de reconnaissance professionnelle (National Centre for Academic and Professional Recognition)
— Centre ENIC-NARIC (the French centre for information about academic and professional recognition of diplomas) and the Centre International d’Etudes Pedagogiques (CIEP).
— for the Holy See: the Office of the Holy See for Academic Recognition, which is located at the nunciature in France.
— for pursuing studies:
— in the establishments of French higher education: the establishment of higher education in which the where the student wishes to be registered;
— in Catholic Universities, theological faculties and the establishments of higher education duly authorised by the Holy See: the Office of the Holy Siege for Academic Recognition, which is located at the nunciature in France.
Recognition of the periods of study and diplomas not conferring a degree
1. The studies and the establishments where these are pursued must abide by the conditions set out in article 1 of the present Protocol
2. Upon prior request by [any] interested parties, the examinations or part-time studies
Validated in higher-education establishments offering teaching at degree level and leading to the award of a recognised diploma for each of the Parties are to be taken into account, notably on the basis of the European Credit System ECTS, to pursue a programme of study within establishments delivering an education at higher level, recognised by the other Party.
3. The competent authority for the recognition of periods of study is:
— in French establishments of higher education: the establishment of higher education within which the candidate wishes to pursue his studies
— in Catholic universities, the theological faculties and the establishments of higher education duly authorised by the Holy See: in agreement with the Congregation for Catholic Education, the Office of the Holy See for Academic Recognition, which is affiliated with the French nunciature.
Follow-up to the present protocol
The competent agencies of both Parties will meet as and when necessary to implement the present Protocol.
The bodies responsible for information on diplomas awarded for each of the Parties are:
— for the French state: the ENIC-NARIC Centre;
— for the Holy See: in agreement with the Congregation for Catholic Education, the Office of the Holy See for Academic Recognition, which is located at the nunciature in France.
Concluded in Paris, on 16 April 2009.
By the President of the Republic:
The Prime Minister,
The Minister for Foreign and European Affairs,
Accord entre la République française et le Saint-Siège sur la reconnaissance des grades et diplômes dans l'enseignement supérieur, signé à Paris le 18 décembre 2008
AAS 101 (2009) 59-64
Translated by Dr. David Holohan