APPROACHES TO INTERNATIONAL DEGREE RECOGNITION:

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1 APPROACHES TO INTERNATIONAL DEGREE RECOGNITION: A COMPARATIVE STUD November Emily Tse 2012 International Research Foundation, Inc.

2 NOTE: Approaches to International Degree Recognition is copyrighted and may not be reproduced for commercial purposes. No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any meanswithout permission in writing from the author. 2

3 THE PIONEER FUND This resource was supported in large part by the Pioneer Fund. With the help of donations, this grant was established in 2003 to honor the memories of those individuals who contributed to the field of international admissions and credentials evaluation. The funds are used to encourage research as well as professional development in this area. I am very honored and grateful to be a beneficiary and particularly wish to thank the members of the Steering Committee for their guidance and patience. They are Rebecca Dixon, Christine Kerlin and Leo Sweeney. For other publications sponsored by the Pioneer Fund, please see FURTHER ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would also like to express my appreciation to International Research Foundation (IERF) for its support of this research project. In particular, I am grateful to Susan Bedil, the Executive Director, and to the Board. I am also fortunate to have benefitted from the feedback and assistance of Traci Wells and Amy Santiago at IERF. I am also thankful to Kay McIntosh, Patricia Arinto, and Mami Umayahara at the Institute of in London for their encouragement and counsel. I also wish to express my thanks to the European Association of International (EAIE) for allowing me to sit in and observe their workshop on international credentials evaluation. I learned a great deal from the trainers, Jessica Stannard of NUFFIC and Erwin Malfroy of the Flemish Ministry of. 3

4 CONTENTS Background 5 Focus of Study and Data Collection 6 A Review of Related Studies 8 Criteria Used in the Evaluation of Foreign al Credentials 9 The Data 10 Data Analysis: The Approach 10 Data Analysis: The Approach 11 Data Analysis: The Approach 14 Data Analysis: The Approach 15 Data Analysis: The Bologna Process 17 Challenges and Limitations 19 Summary and Concluding Remarks 20 Bibliography 21 Appendices: Introduction 24 Appendix I: Table of Equivalencies for -Level Credentials 25 Appendix II: Table of Equivalencies for First University Degrees 60 Appendix III: s on US Qualifications 97 4

5 BACKGROUND Due to advances in technology, the movement of students and professionals globally has become commonplace today. Not only do individuals gain from widening their opportunities across countries in education and in employment, but the receiving countries benefit as well, whether it is economically or in terms of having access to a broader range of candidates and skill sets. Where the marketplace is concerned, one only has to think of industries in the health sciences and information technology, where the best are often recruited internationally and aggressively (Aiken et al 2004 and OECD 2002). Despite the global recession, data also shows that international education is on the rise (Redden 2009). In the academic year, a record number of foreign students pursued higher education in the US, contributing $18 billion to the economy (LaFranchi 2009). International education is also one of the top industries in Australia, surpassing even beef and wool (Altbach 2003 and Ashwill 2003). As a result, regions like Australia and the UK have marketed heavily, also investing in international student services on university campuses and streamlining the student visa process. The Bologna Process is perhaps the best example of collected efforts to participate more actively in the international education market. During a meeting in Bologna, Italy in 1999, officials in Europe proposed to harmonize their post-secondary educational systems and to offer programs in English, with the aim of facilitating more interest in their educational programs and the recognition of their corresponding degrees globally (Teichler 2001 and Teichler 2003). This harmonization has resulted in a common three-cycle educational system for tertiary-level studies: the bachelor s, master s and doctorate degrees. With currently 46 signatory countries, this kind of pan-european movement is unprecedented in the history of education. As international mobility has increased within the last several decades, the need for formal credentials evaluation services has also emerged. Credentials evaluators typically provide advisory services with regard to determining the educational equivalency of a foreigner s credentials. In most cases, however, the final decision for admission, employment or professional licensure is left to the institution or organization that is screening the applicant. The credentials evaluation field is a relatively young one and its development varies from region to region. In many countries, there is one centralized office appointed by the ministry or department of education. In Europe, for example, these are frequently known as ENIC-NARIC centers which form a network (European Network of National Information Centres on Academic Recognition and Mobility). On the other hand, there are still countries where a formalized service has not yet been developed, such as in Japan (Assefa and Stannard 2008). 5

6 In the United States, there are many agencies which provide credentials evaluations; however, this has not always been the case. In 1919, a Foreign Credentials Evaluation Service (FCES) was created within the US Office of, a branch of the Department of the Interior, to handle requests for assistance in this area. However, by the 1960s, the volume of requests far exceeded the resources of FCES, and the service gradually dissolved (Frey, date unknown). In the meantime, a voluntary collaboration among various organizations resulted in the establishment of the National Council for the Evaluation of Foreign al Credentials in 1956 (Kerlin 2010). Relying on peer review, the Council, as it came to be called, helped develop guidelines and processes that facilitated s in the evaluation of international credentials. The Council further facilitated the refinement of these guidelines in 1996 with the Milwaukee Symposium (Fletcher and Aldrich-Langen 1997). Although the Council dissolved a decade later in 2006, the evaluation methodologies and s it devised continue to form the backbone of most current approaches to credentials evaluation in the US. The latter part of the twentieth century also saw growth in private evaluation agencies and there are now over a hundred in the field. Many specialize in particular areas and offer evaluations in these areas only, such as for immigration or licensure in a specific profession. Although these agencies are not government-regulated, there is an industry effort to assure s through the voluntary association of NACES, the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services. This association was established in FOCUS OF STUD AND DATA COLLECTION This paper examines the approach to credentials evaluation in the following regions: Australia, y, the U.K. and the U.S. According to the statistics available on international student mobility, these regions make up four of the top five destination countries ( Council on 2009). Each of these four has also developed a database of educational equivalencies, organized by country and credential. Most of the databases are accessible by membership and they will be used as the basis for this study. When thinking about credentials evaluation, one might assume, for instance, that the qualification that represents completion of secondary education in one country would be considered equivalent to completion of secondary education in another and that the first university degree in one region is also regarded as such in another. However, this is not always the view upheld across countries. A comparison will be drawn among the findings and placement recommendations for these credentials, as indicated in the databases. They are hosted and maintained by the following organizations engaged in the evaluation of foreign qualifications for their countries: 6

7 Databases on the Recognition of Foreign Qualifications 1 AUSTRALIA Office: Database: Website: International (AEI) Country Profiles (CEP) (by membership only) GERMAN Office: Database: Website: Zentralstelle für Ausländische Bildungswesen Anabin: Anerkennung & Bewertung ausländischer Bildungsnachweise UNITED KINGDOM Office: Database: Website: National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC) International Comparisons (by membership only) UNITED STATES Office: Database: Website: Association of Collegiate Registrars & Admissions Officers (AACRAO) EDGE: Electronic Database for Global (by membership only) The comparison, as such, will be focused on the placement recommendations for: (1) the secondary / high school leaving credential for each country and (2) the first university degree for each country, as they relate to the current educational system. Vocational and professional qualifications will not be considered (e.g., law or medicine), nor will intermediate degrees, such as the two-year associate degrees in the United States. The high school credential and the first main university degree have been chosen as the subjects of study, as they are typically the most sought after qualification and the most evaluated internationally. 1 It is important to note that these dabases were developed in an advisory capacity for determining the educational equivalency of a foreigner s credentials. As mentioned previously with regard to credentials evaluation-related services, the final decision for admission, employment or professional licensure is left to the institution that is screening the candidate. 7

8 A REVIEW OF RELATED STUDIES So far, very few comparative studies have been conducted in the field. Much of the general literature has been in the U.S., primarily focusing on the educational systems of other countries and the corresponding placement recommendations of their credentials, where applicable. Examples include the World Series, the Projects for International Research (PIER) Reports, and the country studies by the Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO). These publications were developed chiefly in response over the past several decades to the growing numbers of people who enter the US for education, training and employment, as they request schools, agencies, and organizations to recognize their educational credentials. Other regions, such as the U.K. and Australia, have also made publications available. There have also been many articles written on mobility and recognition in Europe due to the large number of exchanges among countries in this region, even before the Bologna Declaration. 2 UNESCO, often jointly with the Council of Europe, has hosted a number of conventions on recognition and mobility to address the need for transparency and the improvement of the practice of recognition of qualifications. The resulting papers outline definitions and general practices regarding fairness and the procurement of appropriate documentation (Council of Europe 2005, UNESCO 2003 and UNESCO 2007). The few comparative studies which took place previously have focused more on aspects of bilateral and multilateral agreements (International Association of Universities 1970 and UNESCO 2004) or the recognition of Dutch qualifications in other countries (Kouwenaar 1994). One comparative study which focused specifically on credentials evaluation was conducted by the Nordic ENIC-NARIC centers from (NORRIC 2006). The offices in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden evaluated 31 cases, with a total of 35 credentials. The challenge, however, lay in the fact that the cases were chosen on the basis of their level of difficulty or uniqueness from cases normally received. As such, this led to a greater potential for disagreement in the outcome of their assessments. It was found that 37% of the cases had similar evaluations. The differences in outcome were identified as due to two main factors: (1) the differences in their respective educational structures and (2) the differences in the respective functions of their offices. As an example, Finland s center provides evaluations primarily for professional purposes whereas Iceland s center evaluates primarily for academic purposes. As Rauhvargers succinctlypoints out in his guidebook on the recognition of foreign qualifications, it is possible that the same credential 2 Examples include the SOCRATES and ERASMUS schemes for academic training and the LEONARDO DA VINCI program for vocational training. 8

9 from the same foreign country may be recognized for one purpose but not another (Rauhvargers 2004b). CRITERIA USED IN THE EVALUATION OF FOREIGN EDUCATIONAL CREDENTIALS The NORRIC study indicated the following as common criteria used for evaluation: Status of the institution Level of the qualification Length of the program Entrance requirement Access to further studies Upon further research, one will find that there is much overlap with other countries in the criteria used. The following chart provides an overview of factors considered in Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. Summary of Evaluation Criteria 3 Australia United Kingdom United States al system Entrance requirements in the UK al system Status of the institution Duration of the program Entrance requirements Level, length, structure and nature of the program Level of academic achievement Course structure and content Purpose of the assessment Length of the program What the credential gives access to The workshops for credentials evaluation among the s and the Europeans also appear to take a similar approach in training for the field. From , I served as lead trainer for 3 The criteria has been taken from the websitefor the Australia International, the website for UK NARIC, and the Milwaukee Symposium (U.S.), respectively. Please note that the list is not exhaustive and may include criteria not listed. 9

10 NAFSA-the Association of International Educators. In 2008, I also had the fortunate opportunity to sit in on the workshop provided by NAFSA s European counterpart, the European Association for International (EAIE). In their workshops, both organizations structured their training on the basis of the following topics: accreditation and institutional recognition, resources in credentials evaluation, determining the documents needed, researching the foreign educational system and looking at actual case studies. The key difference in training from the perspective was the focus on the calculation of credits and grade point averages (GPA), which has typically not been a concern for Europeans 5. From the European perspective, the key difference in training was the discussion of the Lisbon Convention, which promotes mobility and the recognition of credentials where substantial differences are not found. The substantial differences, however, are left to each individual country to determine. These can link back to many of the criteria already mentioned in this section. As we dig deeper, however, we find that the interpretations may differ, despite the many (overlapping) similarities.he DATA THE DATA The equivalencies for the high school leaving credential and the first university degree for nearly 200 countries have been tabulated in Appendices I and II, respectively. These tables summarize the views taken by Australia, y, the United Kingdom and the United States, as indicated in the respective databases listed on page 7. Note that these tables reflect the placement recommendations presented databases at the time of research. As such, the listed equivalencies may change over time. DATA ANALSIS: THE AMERICAN APPROACH Among the four countries examined, the U.S. appears to be the most straightforward in approach. This is partly a result of the educational system, which by comparison to those of the and s, is not as complex. As an example, in the U.S., there is one secondary-level credential and one first university degree: the High School and Bachelor s degree, respectively. One could also possibly argue there is also the equivalency of advanced college credit, which is commonly recommended for secondary-level credentials which require more in- 5 However, this may change with the implementation of ECTS credits from the Bologna Process. 10

11 depth study in a small designated number of subjects 6 (Turner 1979). In contrast, the have three different secondary-level credentials and three different university-level credentials as possible equivalencies. The placement recommendations from the U.S. view are also much more straightforward. The approach is usually that a qualification is considered equivalent or it is not. When we look at other countries, however, we will see that there may be varying degrees of comparability (e.g., bedingtvergleichbar which means formally the same, but not so in substance, in y) or that there may be conditions placed, depending on the student s grade or the level of recognition of the school (e.g., in the U.K. and Australia). From the perspective of the s, the student s performance and the ranking of the school do not inflate or deflate the equivalency of the credential, as long as the minimum s are met 7. For the most part, in the AACRAO EDGE database, unless it is a vocationally-tracked qualification, the secondary credential of a country is generally regarded as equivalent to the High School in the U.S., regardless of the number of years of study represented. As an example, the secondary credential in the Philippines is typically awarded after ten years of study. Although the high school qualification is awarded after twelve years in the U.S., there is no penalty in the difference in years, since the holder is eligible for university admission in the home country 8. The pattern with regard to equivalencies for university degrees is quite different, however. Most credential evaluation practices in higher education and professional licensure practices require the consideration of credits. Credits are tied into the length of time instruction is provided. As such, most three-year university degrees abroad are not considered equivalent to the first university degree in the U.S., unless preceded by studies such as the A Levels, for which advanced is recommended. Bachelor s degrees in the U.S. are typically four years in length, requiring a minimum of 120 semester credits. DATA ANALSIS: THE AUSTRALIAN APPROACH The and educational systems share some similarities. The secondary credential in Australia is also awarded after twelve years of study. While the name may differ by state, it is often referred to as the. The first university 6 This concept is supported by the possibility of advanced from the Advanced Placement examinations (AP exams) conducted in the U.S. 7 Grades and school ranking may be a contributing factor in an admissions decision; however, they do not influence the equivalency of the credential referenced in the database. 8 This was not always the case. However, the view changed on the basis of new research findings that came about for the PIER publication on the Philippines in

12 degree in Australia is also referred to as a Bachelor s degree. There are two types the threeyear Bachelor and the four-year Bachelor Honours. However, the equivalencies in the database do not make a distinction or reference to the Bachelor Honours (unlike the database). The Country Profiles (CEP) of the database developed by Australia International (AEI) includes some secondary credentials; however, its coverage of higher educational qualifications is much more extensive. Where secondary credentials are concerned, in some countries, such as Mongolia, Myanmar and Oman, they are advised as not being equivalent. The reasons may vary, including lack of quality assurance and regulation, instability and reforms in progress, lack of rigor, and / or lack of focus on required subjects such as mathematics. For the first university degree, quality assurance, regulation and student achievement can significantly impact the outcome of an equivalency. If the school ranking or student s grade is too low, the first university degree of the country in question may be found comparable to an associate s degree instead (which is also a two-year postsecondary qualification in Australia). The following is an excerpt taken from the database for recommendations on India. 12

13 Australia s Placement Recommendations for Bachelor s Degrees from India TPE AND RATING OF INSTITUTION LEVEL OF CREDENTIAL RECOMMENDATION OF EQUIVALENCE VER GOOD INSTITUTION WITH NAAC RATING OF A Bachelor degree (3 years) Regardless of Division Bachelor Degree Bachelor Degree (3 years) Associate Degree GOOD INSTITUTION WITH NAAC RATING OF B SATISFACTOR INSTITUTION WITH NAAC RATING OF C 3 rd or Pass Division or Class Bachelor Degree (3 years) 1 st or 2 nd Division or Class Bachelor Degree (3 years) 2 nd, 3 rd or Pass Division or Class Bachelor Degree (3 years) 1 st Division or Class Bachelor Degree Associate Degree Bachelor Degree The NAAC rating refers to the rankings provided by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council which was established in 1994 by the University Grants Commission in India. The ratings come with a letter grade and cumulative GPA on a four-point scale (Sahasrabudhe and Muthanna 2009). While the process is a voluntary one at present, the outcomes are used in the determination of the educational equivalency in Australia. AEI s CEP advises evaluation on a case-by-case basis for those that do not have an NAAC rating. 13

14 DATA ANALSIS: THE BRITISH APPROACH As mentioned previously, the educational system is more complex with regard to the number of options available for the secondary-level credential and the first university degree. In the database International Comparisons, there are three possible qualifications earned at the end of the secondary education cycle in the U.K.: General of / GCSE 9 (11 years) Advanced Subsidiary Levels / AS Levels (12 years) Advanced Levels / A Levels (13 years) While the GCSE marks the end of compulsory schooling in the U.K., the AS Levels and A Levels represent pre-university-level studies. For the first university degree, there are also three possible equivalencies, all representing three years in length: Bachelor Bachelor honours Bachelor The Bachelor is meant to refer to a generic bachelor s degree, without reference to status as the honours or non-honours version (UK NARIC 2009). The U.K. s International Comparisons also reveal a multi-layered approach in the determination of its equivalencies. As an example, an equivalency is not forced to match a certain credential. Instead, if applicable, a foreign qualification may be determined as being between two existing qualifications. The secondary credentials of the following countries have been determined as being between a GCSE and an Advanced Subsidiary (AS) Level examination in the U.K.: Cameroonian Baccalaureate (13 years) Hong Kong of Examination 10 (11 years) Paraguayan Bachillerato (12 years) Turkish Devlet Lise si (12 years) 9 Previously Ordinary Levels or O Levels 10 Being phased out 14

15 Moreover, grades may play a role, either as a determining factor or as a possible outcome in the educational equivalency. An overall performance between A and C+ on the Kenyan of (KCSE), for instance, is considered equivalent to between a GCSE and an AS Level, whereas an overall performance between a C and D- on the KCSE is considered equivalent to the GCSE only. A student who finishes part I of the Guinean Baccalaureate is considered as having the equivalent of a GCSE (grades D G). On the other hand, a student who finishes part II is regarded as having a higher achievement (grades A C) on the same qualification. Like the counterpart, the ranking of a school or program may impact the outcome in the UK. The first university degree in Indonesia is the four-year Sarjana. The Badan Akreditasi Nasional Perguruan Tinggi (National Accreditation Board for Higher ) is responsible for the accreditation of all postsecondary programs, ranking programs from A D, where A stands for very good and B for good, whereas a C represents a satisfactory ranking and a D grade means unsatisfactory. In order to become accredited, programs must maintain a C grade. The UK equivalency may differ depending on these rankings: Sarjana from a program with an A rating = Bachelor honours Sarjana from a program with a B rating = Bachelor Sarjana from a program with a C rating = of Higher 11 Course content may also play a crucial role. Due to the emphasis of practical training in the four-year Bakalavr in Turkmenistan, it is not regarded as being equivalent to university-level degree, but rather to a vocational qualification, such as the Advanced Vocational of (AVCE) 12. The approach, in contrast, tries to give more consideration to the status of the credential in the home country and where it fits within the educational structure. As such, an equivalency of a US bachelor s degree is given for this qualification in AACRAO EDGE. DATA ANALSIS: THE GERMAN APPROACH y is a participant in the Bologna Process, so its educational system is one which is in transition. The Anabin database does give consideration to both pre-bologna and Bologna 11 Typically awarded after two years of postsecondary study 12 Now phased out in the UK 15

16 reform qualifications at the university level 13. As such, there are four possible equivalencies for the first university degree: The 3-year Bakkalaureus (Bologna) The 4-year Bakkalaureus (Bologna) The Diplom from Fachhochschulen (Universities of Applied Sciences): 3 4 yrs (pre-bologna) The Diplom / Magister from Universities: a minimum of 4.5 yrs (pre-bologna) The equivalencies found in Anabin are perhaps the most different from the three other countries already examined. y provides distinctions within its equivalency statements, indicating three varying degrees or levels of comparability. Entspricht refers to a credential that is formally the same and more or less comparable overall (i.e., what the degree represents and where it is positioned within the country s overall educational system), whereas bedingtvergleichbar refers to a credential that is deemed formally the same, but not so in substance (e.g., quality, level and amount of study within the program). Gleichwertig is reserved for those qualifications which are deemed equivalent in all aspects. For example, many of the three-year qualifications from Europe and the Commonwealth are considered to be gleichwertig or equivalent in all aspects to their 3-year Bakkalaureus. These include the di Laurea from Italy and the Bachelor from the Netherlands, Australia, Hong Kong and South Africa. et the parallel Flemish and French degrees in Belgium are treated differently. The Belgian Flemish 4-5 year Licentiate is considered gleichwertig or equivalent in all aspects to the university Diplom / Magister. On the other hand, a distinction is made from the Belgian French counterpart of the Licentiate, which is only considered to be entspricht, or formally the same to the university Diplom / Magister. While the first university degree from many countries within the Commonwealth are regarded as gleichwertig or equivalent in all aspects to their 3-year Bakkalaureus, a number of those from South Asia are considered to be only bedingtvergleichbar (formally the same, but not so in substance). These include the three-year Bachelor degrees from India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan 14. The four-year degrees from many other Asian countries are also not considered comparable in substance, such as those in Laos and Indonesia. 13 I would like to extend my thanks to Barbara Buchal-Höver from ZAB, who has indicated that the Anabin database also provides assessment of secondary-level credentials. Coverage of secondary-level credentials by Anabin will be included in the next edition of this study. 14 The bachelor s degree programs in Pakistan are being changed from 2 years in length to 3-4 years. 16

17 Less acceptable are the four-year Bachelor degrees from Japan, Korea, Thailand and the US, which are not considered comparable in substance to the Vordiplom. TheVordiplom is not a terminal qualification in y, but rather represents the first two years of university study in a program leading to the Diplom. In other words, the Bachelor qualifications from these countries are not or are barely considered substantially comparable to two years of postsecondary study in y. The most poorly regarded is perhaps the four-year Bachelor from Cambodia. It is regarded as entspricht, more or less comparable, to studies at a Fachschule, which is advanced vocational study in y. While the and databases have indicated it as equivalent to the first university degree in their respective countries, UK NARIC advises that their office be contacted for more information and does not provide a published comparison. DATA ANALSIS: THE BOLOGNA PROCESS Earlier we discussed the Bologna Process and how 46 countries in Europe are harmonizing their higher education systems. By offering bachelor, master, and doctorate degrees, the participating regions hope that the reforms will facilitate easier recognition of their qualifications internationally. This portion of the study explores how similarly the credentials of the signatory countries are viewed by Australia, y, the U.K. and the U.S. While the Bologna reforms focus on systems of higher education, the placement recommendations for the secondary-level credentials will also be reviewed here, as these qualifications give access to university study in the home country. The AACRAO EDGE database, which represents the view, shows that the secondary-level credentials of most of the participating countries are regarded as equivalent to the US high school diploma. For a number of countries, however, up to a year of advanced university-level credit is also possible for recommendation. These are: y (12-13 yrs) Iceland (14 yrs) Italy (13 yrs) Luxembourg (13 yrs) Malta (13 yrs) Switzerland (12-13 yrs) United Kingdom (13 yrs) While the secondary-level credential is generally regarded as being equivalent, the view towards the bachelor degrees from the Bologna signatory countries differs. Typically, a U.S. Bachelor s degree equivalency is recommended for the Bologna-patterned degrees, when the minimum duration of the program is four years. However, only three years of university credit is recommended when the qualifications are three years in length. When the minimum entrance 17

18 requirement into the program is a secondary-level qualification for which advanced is possible, they may be combined for consideration for a U.S. Bachelor s degree equivalency. In Australia, the CEP database indicates that the secondary-level credentials of the signatory countries covered are regarded as equivalent. Similarly, the bachelor degrees for the countries covered are listed as being comparable, with the exception of the following: Azerbaijan (joined in 2005) Hungary (joined in 1999) Estonia (joined in 1999) Latvia (joined in 1999) Georgia (joined in 2005) These countries happen to fall within eastern European region; however, individually, they have joined the Bologna Process at different times. The CEP database recommends assessment on a case-by-case basis. While no other details were provided, the outcomes suggest that the Bachelor programs within these regions were not found to have met a minimum to warrant a uniform equivalency statement. In the U.K., the placement recommendations for the secondary-level credentials are the most complex, as referenced previously. This is due to the range of possibilities, which include the A Levels, the AS Levels and the General of (GCSE) among others. These represent a total of 13 years, 12 years and 11 years of study, respectively. From an perspective, it is surprising is that the secondary-level credential from most of the Bologna signatory countries is regarded as comparable to the A Levels in the UK. They are the following: Austria (12 yrs) Hungary (12 yrs) Portugal (12 yrs) Belgium (12 yrs) Iceland (14 yrs) Romania (12 yrs) Croatia (12 yrs) Italy (13 yrs) Serbia (12 yrs) Czech Republic (13 yrs) Liechtenstein (12 yrs) Slovakia (12-13 yrs) Denmark (12-13 yrs) Luxembourg (13 yrs) Slovenia (13 yrs) Finland (12 yrs) Malta (14 yrs) Spain (12 yrs) France (12 yrs) Netherlands (12 yrs) Sweden (12 yrs) y (12-13 yrs) Norway (13 yrs) Switzerland (12-13 yrs) Greece (12 yrs) Poland (12 yrs) As such, the number of countries with advanced credit given by the U.K. far exceeds the number given by the U.S. The International Comparisons database also recommends an AS Level equivalency for six countries. With the exception of one country, these also fall within the eastern European region. They are: Bulgaria (12 yrs) Estonia (12 yrs) Ireland (11 yrs) Latvia (12 yrs) Lithuania (12 yrs) Moldova (12 yrs) 18

19 When we move a little further west, we find that the school leaving credentials of Cyprus and Turkey, both based on a 12-year system, are regarded as comparable to between the AS Levels and the GCSE. Unfortunately, the secondary-level credentials in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Macedonia are not found to be equivalent. Rather, they are considered to be comparable to the Advanced Vocational of (AVCE). In the higher education sector, however, the Bachelor degrees from all the signatory countries are listed as equivalent. In y, according to the Anabin database, the Bachelor s degrees in the signatory countries covered were all regarded as equivalent with the exception of Montenegro. The bachelor degree for this country was indicated as bedingt vergleichbar, formally the same, but no so in substance. It should be noted that in the 1980s, it was determined in Europe that all upper secondary school leaving certificates would be regarded as comparable for the purposes of university admissions (Watkins 2010). From the sample data available from the UK, we find this to be the case generally. However, we also saw a few exceptions. The greatest amount of variation in equivalencies seems to involve qualifications from the eastern European region, whether it is with regard to the secondary-level credential or the first university credential. However, as represented in the respective databases, the s, the and the s regard the Bologna-patterned Bachelor s degrees from most countries as being equivalent. The s remain as the exception. This pattern is likely to be attributed in large part to the fact that the minimum length for the Bachelor s degrees in all other countries is three years. In contrast, the minimum length in the US is four years. In addition, among the four host countries of the databases, the and the s would be more likely to recognize the Bologna-patterned credentials, as participants themselves in the process. CHALLENGES AND LIMITATIONS Some challenges were presented during the course of the data collection and analysis. It is important to note once again the advisory nature of the equivalencies provided in the databases. As such, one cannot assume that the placement recommendations found here reflect all practices among educational institutions, employers and licensing bodies withinin the host country of the database. The criteria may differ, depending on the purpose of the evaluation, such as whether recognition is sought for access for further education versus professional licensure. At times, there were discrepancies in the information presented within a database for a particular credential (e.g., number of years of study for a program). As Teune points out, it can be problematic and dangerous to assume that there is less variance within a country than among 19

20 the countries examined (Teune 1990). However, in this study, conflicting details regarding a credential within a country s database were typically resolved by consulting other references. The inconsistencies across databases were much more difficult to resolve. As an example, the same credentials and countries were not covered by all databases. Often educational systems are in transition and undergoing reforms, and so, the credentials referenced in the database may differ. In such situations, gaps were left in the comparison matrix (see appendices) and was indicated in the cell. Most notable are the differences in the categorizations and equivalencies themselves. As we saw with the comparative study among the Nordic countries, this is largely due to the variations in the native educational structures which served as the bases for comparison. As such, a great deal of observational flexiblity must be used to get into the systems so that comparisons can be made (Teune 1990, 54). For example, judgment calls and simplification were often required on the part of the researcher during the compilation of the comparison matrix. SUMMAR AND CONCLUDING REMARKS Despite the challenges of the study, it encourages an awareness of other approaches used in the field, as represented by the databases of our four countries, respectively. With regard to the university-level qualifications, the approach is reflective of the need to calculate credits and GPAs, the former of which is tied in to the length of formal instruction provided. As a result, the length of a program can be an important contributing factor for a credentials evaluation. For the and approaches, individual student achievement and school ranking may serve an influential role. The approach, on the other hand, makes use of varying levels and degrees of comparability to address the complexity of determining equivalencies. When the credentials from the Bologna signatory countries were explored, the placement recommendations for the secondary-level credentials were more interesting and varied than those for the first university-level degrees. The emergence of the Bologna reforms has caused much reflection on the methodology for credentials evaluation, raising the question of whether one can look at learning outcomes for each qualification rather than input parameters, for example, as they would be defined in a country s national qualifications framework (Rauhvargers 2004a and 2004b). However, the tools for effectively measuring the learning outcomes have yet to surface. In the meanwhile, it is hoped that this research may help continue reflection and discussion in the field. 20

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