The UNIcert® certification system was created in 1992 by the Arbeitskreis der Sprachenzentren (working group of language centres – AKS), with the aim of moving away from the heterogeneous systems for certifying language proficiency in place at universities at the time and forming instead a common standard focusing on content and skills relevant for students and early career researchers.
One of the most important features of the UNIcert® system is that it is based on the Common European framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) and its implementation in the university context, whilst at the same time aiming to achieve universal quality standards and a strong focus on the needs of universities. The system is split into five levels (Basis, I, II, III and IV), which are roughly equivalent to the levels A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2 CEFR.
The close connection between training and certification is a further feature of the UNIcert® concept, according to which taking the examination is merely the last step in a process focusing on well-founded training in the language which students have to complete before they take the final step of completing the UNIcert® examination for the relevant level.
Even at lower levels, language teaching on the basis of UNIcert® features rapid progression, a focus on university-specific and career-specific topics and communicative situations, and encourages students to develop intercultural skills applicable to an academic context. From level B2, students also have the option to focus on language for particular specialist areas.
UNIcert® hopes to meet the increased requirements for language training in view of the increased internationalisation of research and aims therefore to put students in a position to communicate and act in an appropriate and adequate manner in an academic and professional context in the host country/in the target language, depending on the skills level obtained.
In order to achieve this objective, a hands-on and skills-oriented approach is taken during lessons, meaning that class sizes are deliberately restricted. UNIcert® states that classes must have no more than 25 students.