If a degree never expires, than how does any certification? A cert is like Algebra -- you have taken it and passed. What's the difference between CCNA 1.0 and 2.0? New commands and about 100 bucks. The packets are still the same.
While there is a certain amount of truth in what you say about the fundamentals one must master to get a certification, it's also true for many certs -- especially those that are part of vendor-sponsored programs, like the various Cisco credentials -- that the sponsor (and, probably more important to those who pursue certs, hiring managers who evaluate job and promotion candidates) seeks to imbue them with a "freshness label" so that those who consider whether or not a person's credentials make any difference when it comes to involving or keeping them on some specific job will know whether or not what they claim to know is relevant to what is in use in the workplace right now.
To take CCNA 1.0 versus 2.0 as an example, possession of a current CCNA 2.0 guarantees reasonable knowledge of current IOS versions, command sets, routers and switches. Possession of a 1.0 credential indicates familiarity with prior Cisco versions and so forth, but doesn't say as much about a person's abilities to deal with what's most likely to be put in front of them.
Like it or not, those programs with recertification requirements often have more value in the eyes of the marketplace because they help to assure employers (both current and prospective) that a candidate with such a credential has a reasonably current and accurate knowledgebase.
HTH, and thanks for posting,
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