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In cooperation with the European Programme of UCN & Azteca Universities | The Official Branch Campus in Switzerland

In cooperation with UCN & Azteca Universities
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Universities Studies CenterAzteca UniversityDr. Univ. in Competence Studies

Dr. Univ. in Competence Studies

What Is a Competence Studies Degree?

By Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) Programme

Universidad Azteca provides a viable alternative for many working professionals who cannot afford the time away from jobs and families required, or the expenses dictated by traditional universities.

Know more about the Doctor of the University
Our University recognizes that “Prior Learning“—through previous study, work, or personal experiences—may be equivalent to college-level credit. Universidad Azteca is committed to the belief that students deserve credit for college-level learning no matter how it was acquired. Every person’s experience is distinct, and the portfolio process allows you to package your specific set of skills. Subjects of submitted portfolios include professional studies, advanced studies, business administration, science and arts. Many people have developed learning outside of the traditional classroom and this knowledge is as valuable as knowledge gained through more formal learning situations. Through an online Prior Learning Assessment programme, you can earn college credit for your previous studies and life experience. Whether you learned through another educational programme, through independent study, or through experience, we can award you credit. Credit is granted for verifiable learning. This learning can be identified and assessed in a variety of ways to determine if college credit should be awarded. The evaluation of Prior Learning and the development of an individualized degree programme go hand in hand and credit is awarded when it fits appropriately into a student’s degree programme. The Prior Learning Assessment Portfolio is a collection of qualifications, skills and knowledges, and supporting evidence which documents how your prior job, volunteer, military, corporate training, or other relevant experience aligns to the learning objectives of specific academic courses or programmes. Reviewed by expert faculty member subject matter experts, these portfolios provide an accepted basis for awarding credit for prior college-level learning gained outside the traditional classroom. Application to the PLA process does not guarantee credits will be applied.

Our students are able to earn credits toward their degree through our Prior-Learning Assessment (PLA) programme, significantly expediting degree completion. Portfolio provides a unique way to document college-level learning through previous experience. There is no limit to the amount of credit a student can earn through Prior Learning Assessment. At our University we value experiential learning and will assist you with the development of a portfolio that addresses as many subjects and courses for which students are capable of demonstrating their knowledge. A portfolio enables you to identify and articulate this knowledge and, potentially, earn credit for it. Students learn the process of identifying areas of course-equivalent learning and portfolio development skills through the Portfolio. Once you have studied a course as part of a previous qualification, you are not required to take a particular course or module of our University degree. Prior Learning can be evaluated and validated against particular learning outcomes of courses or modules within your degree syllabus. An academic subject specialist will consider your earlier learning, and will confirm the credit value if the learning is relevant to your programme of study.

Making a claim involves producing evidence of the learning you have achieved so you can start your new learning from where you are now. You can only claim for Prior Learning that is relevant to your proposed award. This evidence must demonstrate that your learning is equivalent to the learning of the individual units that make up the degree for which you have been registered. The sort of evidence depends on the type of Prior Learning for which credit is being claimed.

Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) is a process of identifying and measuring previous learning that has the potential to receive academic credit and could reduce the amount of courses to take to complete a degree programme.

College credit for life experience is defined by the U.S. Department of Education as credit earned by students for what they have learned through independent study, noncredit adult courses, work experience, portfolio demonstration, previous licensure or certification, or completion of other learning opportunities (military, government, or professional). In France the system of PLA, called VAE, is highly developed and applied, where all degree levels Bachelor, Master and Doctor are subject to official degree award by public universities.

It is a method of higher education supported by UNESCO guidelines and by the European Qualifications Framework EQF as well as by National Qualifications Frameworks in various countries, and regulated or legally possible in many national study systems and legal frameworks, including Mexico. In Mexico a University with official recognition (RVOE) and incorporated into the national education system can also offer the university own programmes and award degrees without official recognition (RVOE) as long as the students are made fully aware of this fact. The degrees are awarded legally and can be used in most jurisdiction globally and may also be professionally recognised individually by empoyers or certification agencies. Grado propio or university own degrees are a common feature in the international higher education landscape and widespread.

According to CAEL “Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) is the process of earning college credit for college-level learning acquired from other sources, such as work experience, professional training, military training, or open source learning from the web.” CAEL postulates: “When people receive college credit for what they have learned from life and work experiences, they earn their degrees and credentials faster, saving money on tuition. They also learn the value of their experience, which gives them confidence to complete their degrees.”

The goal of recognition of Prior Learning is to promote the progress of studies and to enable students to take an individual study path. PLA is based on a working life and competence-oriented curriculum.

Students have the opportunity to apply for the recognition of Prior Learning if they possess the kind of competence that meets the aims of their curriculum.

Many higher education institutions will award credit to potential students for knowledge they have gained through prior experiences. Colleges might look at your professional portfolio, skills you developed through work or even knowledge related to your military service. Different schools handle Prior Learning credits differently.

During your lifetime, you will have acquired various skills, competencies and experiences. This learning – which may have taken place outside of formal education and training – is valuable regardless of where or when it was obtained. You may have acquired skills or knowledge from a combination of training conducted while at work, experience you gained in the workplace, short courses or from community work in a relevant field. PLA permits you to gain credits within formal degree qualifications offered by the University based on the level and extent of your knowledge. Your Prior Learning will be measured against specified prescribed learning outcomes.

There are various forms of experience that lead to college level learning. These include your professional career, training, community and volunteer work, self-directed learning projects, personal life experiences and much more. Many degree students, especially mature students, already know and understand some of the things that are taught on their degree. Portfolio Assessment is a collection of materials compiled to demonstrate previous college-level learning relevant to a student’s degree plan. The knowledge you’ve gained from a variety of areas such as corporate and on-the-job training, military training, community service, parenting, volunteer work, seminars, home management, workshops, travel study and independent research can be evaluated for credit toward your bachelor’s degree through the Prior Learning Assessment programme.

Universidad Azteca offers numerous options for you to apply Prior Learning toward your degree coursework. Whether you’re enrolled in an Associate, Bachelor’s, Master’s, or doctorate programme, you’re eligible to have your Prior Learning assessed.

PLA is a process through which students identify areas of relevant learning from their past experiences, demonstrate that learning through appropriate documentation, and submit their materials so that they can be assessed and possibly awarded academic credit relative to specific course objectives. Students can acquire learning from a variety of sources outside the traditional classroom, and they can earn appropriate credit in their work towards a degree for verifiable college level learning acquired through life or work experience, not for the experience itself. Students who acquire the level of knowledge that meets the expectations and the learning outcomes of a specific course may get credit for that course, provided the students can demonstrate proficiency in that specific course.

Students interested in portfolio assessment should first review their degree plan and discuss possible portfolio opportunities with their academic advisor. Requests for credit through assessment of Prior Learning must differ substantially in title, content and documentation from course credit achieved or attempted.

The Prior Learning Assessment grado propio programmes of the Universidad Azteca are ideal for qualified professionals earning a university degree based on their qualifications, licenses, skills and experience and who do not need an accredited or recognised degree rather than a university own degree awarded by a recognised university to demonstrate their individual level of education in a given area or field of expertise. A grado propio or university own degree reflects that the graduate has earned a degree at postsecondary education level awarded by an officially recognised university.

The Universidad Azteca offers a number of assessment options that might be appropriate for students who have acquired college-level learning from prior study or experience. Our University applies the university own standards, combining the following guidelines and frameworks: ACUERDO NÚMERO 286 (Mexican Secretary of Public Education), the French VAE: Validation des Acquis de l’Expérience, and the Irish HETAC Standards for PLA, and the US CAEL standards. Ireland and France are countries explicitely allowing for the recognition of Prior Learning at all three academic levels including EQF level 8.

This process assesses learning as interdisciplinary that corresponds to the content of courses taught at university; learning which can be documented by certificates, letters of recommendation, CEU (Continuing Education Unit) transcripts, it assesses learning that corresponds to coursework from any accredited college or university or recognised learning programme, which can be documented.

The first stage in the assessment process is the determination of whether the learning has already been evaluated as part of an assessment of Prior Learning programme. If it is determined that credit has already been so evaluated, applicable credit is awarded based on the prior evaluations of the corresponding evaluators and no individual assessment is conducted. The University accepts any official validation of Prior Learning conducted in accordance with the laws of the country where the validation was issued, particularly the European Validation Framework, Canadian, Australian, US (California Prior Learning Assessment & Recognition (PLAR) Manual; Excelsior College Flexible Assessment; Thomas Edison State College Assessment of Prior Learning Handbook; Empire State College Credit by Evaluation; Ohio State University Portfolio Assessment; Charter Oak State College Portfolio Assessment), and similar standards based on CAEL recommendations are accepted.

The second stage in the assessment process is the determination of whether the learning claimed by the student can be evaluated by a combination of any of the university own degrees for which our University awards credit.

Objectives of the Programme

The modular Universidad Azteca Doctor of the University programme in Competence has as a general aim of provision of an academically rigorous education designed provide opportunity for selfdevelopment in relation to career enhancement and as life-long learners.

Doctoral candidates may specialize in areas such as;

  • Social and Economic Sciences
  • Health Sciences
  • Education
  • Psychology
  • Engineering Management
  • Health Care Management
  • Informatics
  • Environmental Policy
  • Environmental Technology
  • Environmental Management
  • Environmental Science

The programme offers students the opportunity to develop their own capabilities, skills and competencies within a supported environment.

Admission requirements

The entry requirements are a graduate degree of at least 240 ECTS credits in total, an MBA, MSc, or similar Masters degree, or equivalent qualifications at level 7 MMC (EQF), or in a functional field by examination awarded by a professional body. We may also ask for significant experience in a arearelated position involving responsibility for decision-making issues.

Doctor of the University

All Doctorates of University are terminal degrees, similar to a professional research doctorate. The Doctorate requires coursework and research beyond the Masters degree requiring a dissertation or journal publication that contributes to practice. The portion of the programme, consisting of coursework and examination, is equivalent to that of a PhD. The part of the programme, consisting of independent research and the writing of a thesis, is geared towards more applied research in the given study area, with the research making a direct contribution to professional practice. The doctorate requires a significant thesis, dissertation or final comprehensive project including a formal defence and approval by nominated examiners or an officially sanctioned and qualified doctoral review committee.

The degree is conferred when all coursework, testing, and written portfolio are completed and reviewed and approved by the jurors of the examination commission.

Duration and workload of a course

Successful completion of a course with a workload of 6 ECTS credits is estimated to be approximately 150 hours. Students should allocate approximately eight hours a week for reading, personal study, completion of reflection activities and submission of assignments. There is one marked assignment per module. Courses are offered on a part-time basis and are designed to be completed within four months. The asynchronic e-learning mode of the programme allows students to proceed at their own pace. Official study time for the professional doctorate programme is two years (120 ECTS).

Study language: The programme is conducted in English or German. English or German proficiency is required for the doctoral programme.

Student Support: The programme is administered and provided by Universidad Azteca European Programmes.

Students are eligible for Universidad Azteca European Programmes student support regarding tutoring and assistance in the programme.
Tuitions: Tuitions vary by the duration of programme (short or regular) and the single or dual degree options. For applicable tuitions, please, see the tuitions sheet of the programmes of Universidad Azteca European Programmes.

Tuitions are due in full with enrolment for the complete programme.

Refund policy: Tuitions are due in full with enrolment. Once the programme has started (tuitions collected) no tuitions will be repaid. Students, who do not pay tuitions after admission are not enrolled.

Degree Regulations: The applicable degree regulations for doctoral degree programmes of Universidad Azteca apply.

University own degrees and awards

The university own degrees are not to be confused with the officially recognised programmes and degrees with RVOE offered by the University and can be earned via the following ways:

  • Option 1) Recognition of Transfer Credits.
  • Option 2) Professional Certification.
  • Option 3) Validation of Prior Learning.
  • Option 4) Validation of Degree.

Título propio or Grado propio or University-own degree programmes are a common academic and professional offer of numerous universities worldwide and are based on the respective applicable study laws. They are regulated in Austria as “Universitätslehrgänge”, “Fachhochschullehrgänge”, “Hochschullehrgänge”, in Italy, Spain (Arto. 34 Ley Organica de Universidades) and France they are known as “own degrees”, to name but a few.

The Mexican Constitution and the General Law of Education (Ley General de Educación) entitle a private Institution of Higher Education (IES particular) to offer programmes with RVOE, „Reconocimiento de Validez Oficial de Estudios“ or „Official Recognition of the Validity of Studies“, which is a programmatic accreditation, and also entitle recognised private universities to offer programmes and award degrees without programmatic RVOE in accordance with Article 59 of the General Law of Education.

The regulatory authority SEP has confirmed to the Rector of the University, that Universidad Azteca is entitled to offer national and international programmes without RVOE and award university own degrees, however, students need to be made fully aware of this circumstance.

Título propio degrees are awarded by the University sui generis and are based on Article 59 of the General Law of Education (Mexico).

University own degrees are, therefore, legally awarded by the respective university, and despite they lack official recognition of the validity of studies, a degree may be recognised as professional specialisation and competence by Professional, Regulatory and Statutory Bodies and Guilds, independent and non-governmental credential evaluators as well as individual employers. Some university own degrees may also be accepted for credit transfer to official study programmes (e.g. in Austria, or DEA in Spain). Some university own degrees are recognised for regulated professions (e.g. MBA in Austria for licensed Management Consultants), others like the DEA in Spain and France qualify for admission to doctoral research without further coursework.

In either case, a título propio or university own degree reflects that the graduate has earned a degree at postsecondary education level awarded by an officially recognised university.


  • Recognition of transfer credits
  • Professional certification
  • Validation of prior learning
  • Graduation examination / By Thesis

Universidad Azteca has developed a professional and academic certification programme and awards the university own „título propio“ degrees to persons meeting the corresponding degree requirements.

Students’ Prior Learning is recognised regardless of how, where and when they have acquired it. The aim is that students can evaluate their competence in relation to the competence goals of their courses. Students are responsible for demonstrating, proving and providing adequate information on their competence.

The recognition of Prior Learning can take place through credit transfer or be based on evidence. We use different methods for recognising prior learning:

Transfer credits recognition

As a recognized university focusing on the needs of professional students, we accept transfer of credit from other institutions. All graduate and undergraduate students admitted to the University are eligible to apply for Prior Learning credit. However, a portfolio is evaluated only after transfer credits have been evaluated.

Automatic assessment of prior learning

There are certain qualifications which we will recognise as Prior Learning automatically, having assessed the courses of these qualifications and considering them to be acceptable for validation in the context of a given academic degree.

Universidad Azteca values professional experience and learning experience in order to transfer professional certifications into academic credit for a number of our online degree programmes. We offer transfer credit to members of professional organizations and to individuals who hold the professional certifications. Industry-recognized certifications, work-based trainings, and professional licenses might provide you additional opportunities for earning academic credit. There are a number of industry-standard certifications that have been evaluated as aligned to specific course competencies. Because you’ve already demonstrated your knowledge by earning your certification, all you need to do is submit the required documentation that verifies that you possess the current professional certification. Once approved, credit for the course is counted toward your degree.

To be considered for automatic accreditation you must make a formal application and provide the necessary evidence when you apply for your programme. The following programmes will recognise and accredit specific prior learning, achieved for qualifications awarded by specified institutions or professional bodies.

  • Level 6 EQF qualifications – award of a Bachelor´s degree
  • Level 7 EQF qualifications – award of a Master´s degree
  • Level 8 EQF qualifications – award of a Doctor degree

Individual assessment of prior learning

You may also apply for other courses you have studied to be recognised as Prior Learning on an individual – i.e. discretionary – basis. You need to include this in your programme application. The University offers credit recognition and opportunities for professional and experiential learning. Your previous learning may be recognised and validated if you have successfully completed a programme of study which compares in level, content and standard to a course or module of your degree programme. You will need to provide us with evidence of your previous learning.

Not all learning takes place inside a classroom. Universidad Azteca respecst your life experience and recognizes that college-level learning often takes place outside of academic settings. Individualized Prior Learning Assessment is the process by which students are able to explain and document their college-level learning and be assessed by an expert evaluator. The knowledge, skills and experience you have gained through training courses, employment, professional development courses, voluntary work, private study and previous attendance at college and university could be counted toward your degree. This learning is often unrecognised because it has never been formally assessed or because the course was not completed. This learning can be recognised and given credits that count to your degree. Prior Learning credit can be awarded for college-level learning students have already acquired from work, training, and life experiences. Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) is a method of documenting a student’s experiences and to learn more about the knowledge gained from those experiences. The Universidad Azteca does not grant credit for experience alone. The student must demonstrate an understanding of theory and application as they pertain to a specific set of competencies. Our Prior Learning model is based on “competencies” rather than on course “ equivalents,” and the credit awarded can be applied to your degree programme. The competency model allows you to have your college-level learning recognized. For any of your learning from work, training, and life experiences to be considered for credit, you will need to assemble a portfolio that explains and documents the experiences and what you learned from them (i.e., what “competencies” you have acquired). A key in component of the portfolio is your “self-assessment” of learning, which explains the learning that occurred through the experiences. Your portfolio will then be evaluated to determine whether credit can be awarded for undergraduate or graduate-level competencies. Many students bring a wealth of Prior Learning to their studies, and we offer the option to convert this learning into academic credit through appropriate documentation, self-reflection, and evaluation by a qualified faculty member.

Course Examination

Prior Learning can be recognised either in full or partially. Partial recognition means that the student must supplement his or her competence in the manner determined by the degree programme.

Through Course Examination, you can earn credit by passing the equivalent of a final exam. Credit can be earned for almost any course for which the University can prepare and administer a suitable examination or assessment. Alternative methods, such as exams, are a convenient, affordable option for students to earn academic credit for some courses in their degree programme.


PLA for a complete degree programme lasts at least six months, a student will prepare a portfolio in as little as three months, but most take six months or longer. At the end of those 6 months, students may need to spend additional time completing their portfolios; the amount of time spent in the process can vary. The University assesses all applications for PLA to ensure the required learning and competency outcomes for a particular course have been achieved. The process of preparing a portfolio varies substantially from one student to the next. Students who make the portfolio a top priority often finish the project within one semester, even if the portfolio is a large one. The time involved will depend on work responsibilities, family obligations, volunteer activities. Other factors include the number of years to be covered, the number of experiences submitted, and the availability of verification documents. The processing time depends on the complexity of your application and the academic staff workload at the time. It also depends on you submitting a complete and signed application. Incomplete applications will be returned to you for correction. Under normal circumstances you could expect to know the outcome of your application within eight weeks. If you haven’t received notification within this period contact your faculty or department.

Validation tuition and fees

The University offers affordable flat rate tuitions for the entire programme awarding the university own Bachelor, Master and Doctor degree based on PLA. There is a one-time validation tuition fee per degree pursued in your programme.

Tuitions and fees (non-refundable) for the grado propio online programmes provided in English are invoiced in EURO and due with enrolment.


  • TYPE: Universidad Azteca internal award, university own programme acc. Art. 59 General Law of Education.
  • LEVEL: Third cycle, level 8 MMC university own award.


AWARDING UNIVERSITY: Universidad Azteca, Chalco, Mexico.

UNIVERSITY DEPARTMENT IN EUROPE: Universidad Azteca European Programmes.

TARGET GROUP: Doctoral students interested in doctoral study in Environmental Studies with Universidad Azteca pursuing the completion of the doctoral programme by competence based professional doctorate examination.

SPECIALISATION: Competence studies at level 8 MMC (EQF)


  • Social and Economic Sciences
  • Health Sciences
  • Education
  • Psychology
  • Engineering Management
  • Health Care Management
  • Informatics
  • Environmental Policy
  • Environmental Technology
  • Environmental Management
  • Environmental Science.

STUDY LANGUAGE: English, German, Spanish

ADMISSION REQUIREMENT: Master or equivalent degree and postgraduate coursework or qualifications for credit transfer to the programme or research experience.

Modality and Course Team

MODALITY: e-learning and distance education modality.

COURSE TEAM: Prof. Dr. Gerhard Berchtold, Prof. Dr. Friedrich Luhan, Prof. Dr. Felipe Fernández Rivadulla.

Study Plan

Transfer credits – Elective courses (72 ECTS) Test mode ECTS
Transfer from MPhil doctoral programme/ level 8 EQF Credits Transfer CT
Recommended credits from professional qualifications Validation – Recogniton RC
Advanced Standing from individual skills, knowledge, experience and practice, demonstrated by Portfolio PLA Portfolio – Examination EC
Mandatory APL Module (18 ECTS) Test mode ECTS
PLA Portfolio Project Presentation 18
Rigorosum Examination (30 ECTS) Test mode ECTS
PLA Portfolio Presentation and defense 30
ECTS Defence / Rigorosum 120

CT credits transfer | RC recommended credits | EC earned credits in the programme

Qualification: Level 8 of Mexican Qualifications Framework MMC

Mexican Qualifications FrameworkRegulations

Academic Degree

1) In compliance with the provisions of the Ley General de Educación, applicable to Universidad Azteca in Mexico, after passing the examination of the thesis the following academic degrees are conferred by Universidad Azteca:

  • Spanish Doctorate: Doctor Universitario en Estudios de Competencia, abbreviated „Dr.Univ.“
  • Translation as English diploma: Doctor of the University in Competence Studies, abbreviated as “DCS”.

2) The sui-generis degree of Universidad Azteca is legally awarded university academic degree in accordance with Article 59 Ley General de Educación and not a degree awarded with RVOE according to Article 60 of the law.

3) The University excludes any responsibility for the lawful use of the academic degrees or recognition of the studies acc. to Paragraphs 2 outside of Mexico, being regulated by national provisions in third countries, however, the University generally expects the application of multilateral and bilateral agreements and recommendations of UNESCO.

Distance Learning Mode

1) Notification: the International Doctoral Programme is a distance education programme only to be completed by means of electronic media of tele-communications and e-learning directly on the University in Mexico and its international extensions.

2) Mexican study law applies to Universidad Azteca. Place of delivery and court jurisdiction is Mexico City, Mexico.

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Studying thesis-based programs is possible in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Arabic. However, you must know that the site has been electronically translated from English (sometimes from German or Spanish to English) into the other languages. Therefore, it should be noted that the non-English language may not be accurate and some information may be wrong. The translation is used for promotional reasons and it is better not to rely on it 100%.
Take into consideration that the study (writing the thesis) is possible in any language mentioned above. However, all official documents and correspondence are submitted and made only in English. If your English is not good enough, on your responsibility, you can ask anyone to help you to communicate with the institute.