Monthly Archives: June 2013

International Credential Evaluation: A Matter of Trust

June 27, 2013

world map 3D

When I first entered the international education profession in 1982 as a junior level credential evaluator, there were less than 10 companies engaged in providing credential evaluation services. Today, there are more than 300 such companies spread across the U.S. Question that I get asked is how does one go about picking the company they can trust?

First and foremost, selecting a credential evaluation company cannot be solely contingent on price and turnaround. If so, the door is open to hucksters and scam artists, looking to make a quick buck at the expense of the student and the academic institution. How carefully a credentialing agency is assessed and vetted is crucial in establishing trust and confidence in the educational equivalency reports an institution receives.

Everyday, I come across websites of yet another newly created company. And some, brazenly and blatantly make uncorroborated claims of professional membership, affiliations and accreditation, and in the case of a bogus company we discovered recently, plagiarize our company’s information directly, word for word from our website! What I find odd about many of these entities is their lack of transparency. In an industry where one’s professional expertise and knowledge base on world education and evaluation of credentials is tantamount to the legitimacy of services provided and equivalencies recommended, the nonexistence of who is running the show is highly questionable. They do not disclose the identities of their leadership team or professional staff (and if they do its either false or a pure case of identity fraud), yet they tout their wares by offering special discounts, and speedy service, as though the process of evaluating academic credentials is no different than a visit to the local dry cleaners. Not so.

I founded ACEI (Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc.) in 1994, following in the footsteps of those giants in the profession who were my teachers and mentors. I received my training from the best of the best. It was under the tutelage of titans like Inez Sepmeyer, Gene Dean, and Ted Sharp that I acquired my basic knowledge of evaluating international credentials. I also benefited from participating in various in-country research projects, boot camps for credential evaluators, where recognized and respected international education experts like Jim Haas, Jim Frey, Rebecca Dixon, Caroline Aldridge, Gloria Nathanson shared their knowledge and expertise. My contribution to the field continues to this day whether through my regular blogs on international education-related topics, presentations at conferences or through webinars and publications on world education systems.

Today, I chair the Credentials Committee of the AACRAO – Special Task Force on International Credentials Evaluation, Recruitment and Research. We’ve been assigned the task to help define standards for the profession and help bring about the recognition and acknowledgement it deserves. In addition, the formation of The Association for International Credential Evaluation Professionals (TAICEP), of which I’m a Charter Member, is to serve as a forum for individuals in the profession to exchange and share their expertise working toward maintaining standards of best practices.

The point being made here is: credential evaluation is not a game. People’s academic and professional careers depend on accurate and trusted evaluations prepared by companies managed by trained and respected professionals. Before you accept a company’s promises for faster and cheaper evaluations for your students, find out who is running the company. What is his/her expertise? For that matter, inquire the expertise of its professional team engaged in credential evaluations. What contributions have they made to the field of international education? Is the company a member of one of the two nationally-recognized professional associations: AICE and/or NACES? How many years have they been in operation? Ask around; ie. inquire about them through colleagues at other institutions of higher education. Find out their methods of verifying academic documents. Do they work directly from copies or official transcripts?

Several years ago I served as Chair of the ADSEC (Admissions Section) Committee at NAFSA: Association of International Educators. We were tasked with the assignment of preparing Guidelines to help NAFSAns with the selection of a credential evaluation service. The suggestions recommended in these guidelines are available for your viewing on the NAFSA website for its members. To view these Guidelines, please click on this link:

In the past 30 years, the proliferation of companies vying for a piece of the international education market, has given rise to the chatter about the absence of standards in the profession. Entrepreneurs backed by investors are looking into dipping their toes into the profession claiming that they can do this better and faster. Standards do exist. Just look at the existence of the AICE and NACES and professional associations such as NAFSA and AACRAO and the myriad of publications and research projects sponsored on world education systems, credential evaluation methodology, placement recommendations, and best practices. The burden of selecting a reputable, trustworthy, experienced and respected credential evaluation agency also rests with those at U.S. institutions who wish to refer their students to a private service for the evaluation of their credentials. A little homework on the part of the U.S. institutions by checking references, just as one would hiring a new staff member or any other company offering its services, goes a long way.

Due diligence is a two way street. Just as much as we at ACEI are committed in doing our part by ensuring the validity of academic documents through verification, recommending accurate educational equivalency reports through evaluation, and maintaining and enhancing our knowledge of world education systems, trends and policy changes through professional development programs, the same level of commitment and collaboration is needed on the part of our colleagues at U.S. institutions. By adhering to the general principles of best practices, together we can help maintain and uphold standards in our profession.

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI


Filed under Credentials, Education

Iran: Elections and Academic Credentials Under Scrutiny

June 20, 2013

Iran Grunge Flag

As you must have heard by now, Iranians had an election last week and cast their votes in favor of Hassan Rouhani (or Rowhani), ending the eight- year term of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. What has caught my attention is not the President-elect’s victory but the news surrounding his academic qualifications, which only a week ago had been brought under scrutiny.

It appears that in a campaign ad promoting Mr. Rouhani’s experience and credentials, the advert reported him as having earned a PhD in Law from the University of Glasgow, Scotland, UK. When news of this said degree reached Scotland, the University checked its archives and found no record of his enrollment or having granted him the Doctorate. A spokesperson for Mr. Rouhani has since said that he had enrolled under a different last name, but the University of Glasgow was unable to verify its accuracy. His representatives submitted another amendment correcting the University’s name to Glasgow Caledonian University (formed after a merger in 1993 between Queen’s College and Glasgow Polytechnic) and also indicating that the newly-elected President had enrolled at the University under the name of Hassan Feridon.

On June 16, 2013, Glasgow Caledonian University confirmed that in 1995 it conferred upon a Hassan Feridon the degree of MPhil and the Doctor of Philosophy in 1999. Mr. Rouhani’s website indicates that he received the Master’s in Law and Ph.D. in Constitutional Law, however, dates of their awards were not listed at the time of investigation by Iran’s Election Watch. But the student Feridon’s dates of attendance appear to coincide with Mr. Rouhani’s tenure as President of the Center for Strategic Research (CSR) in Tehran a position with responsibilities that would have made post-graduate study very difficult. In a recent article in The Telegraph, Meir Javendanfar an analyst with the Inter-Disciplinary Centre in Hezliya in Israel says the following about Mr. Rouhani’s university credentials: “He would need to have herculean multi-tasking skills to write a PhD thesis while heading the national security council.”

On Tuesday, June 18, 2013, The Herald reported that Glasgow Caledonian University confirmed Hassan Feridon aka Hassan Rouhani as a graduate of the institution and holder of the Doctorate in Law (Thesis: The Flexibility of Shariah [Islamic Law]) with reference to the Iranian experience).

Verification of the validity of academic degrees is not unique to Mr. Rouhani. The out-going President, Mr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s academic degrees too were scrutinized in newspaper reports and even on the PBS newsmagazine Frontline. It seems that his attendance and graduation dates of when he received his engineering degree and Doctorate in Traffic Management or Transport Engineering from Iran University of Science and Technology don’t quite corroborate with historic timelines.

Given that I’m an international credential evaluator by profession, scrutinizing a person’s academic credentials is what I do by nature. I can’t help it. I see a diploma on the wall, and my brain quickly assesses the typeface, the name of the institution, the logo, dates, degree title, etc.

I don’t know about you, but an authoritative credential evaluation at the onset of presidential campaigns, or for that matter qualifying for any job, would have settled the confusion and alleviated doubts. But it is not too late; the two gentlemen need only submit their official transcripts for a comprehensive verification and evaluation.

Respectfully submitted,

The Frustrated Evaluator

1 Comment

Filed under Credentials, Education, Politics

10 Facts About the Education System of Brazil

June 13, 2013


This week, we’d like to focus on Brazil, the largest country in both South American and the Latin American region. It is the world’s 5th largest country both by geographical area and by population. Brazil’s population according to a 2011 World Bank report is 196.7 million.


1. Pre-school education (Educação Infantil) is entirely optional. Nursing school is for children up to 3 years old and kindergarten for children from 4 to 6 years old.

2. Primary and lower secondary education (Ensino Fundamental) or Fundamental Education is free and compulsory for children between the ages of 6-14.


3. Upper secondary education (Ensino Medio) is ages 15 to 18. It is also free but not compulsory.

4. Higher education (Ensino Superior) is provided at public or private universities. Higher education is free at public universities.


5. The typical school year runs from February/March through November/December. Summer vacation is from mid-December to early February.

6. Admission to a public university requires students to sit an entrance exam known as vestibular for their specific course of study.


7. Brazil increased public spending on education from 10.5% of total public expenditure in 2000, to 14.5% in 2005, and to 16.8% in 2009. Source: OECD (2012)

8. There are 50,972.61 students enrolled in basic (fundamental) education of whom 43,053,942 are in the public school system and 7,918,677 are in the private school system. Source: Bunge Fundacao 2012

9. Brazil has 357,418 practicing teachers and 6,739,689 students are enrolled in 30,616 undergraduate education programs. Source: INEP 2011 Higher Education Census

10. 187,760 students are enrolled in graduate studies. Source: Bunge Fundacao 2012

Alan Saidi
Senior Vice President & COO

ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL
The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit


Filed under Education, History, Politics, Travel

20 Facts About Turkey

June 07, 2013


In light of the protests that have erupted in Turkey against the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, we wanted to share a few facts about this country situated at the northeast end of the Mediterranean Sea in southeast Europe and southwest Asia. North of Turkey is the Black Sea and on its west is the Aegean Sea. Its neighbors are Greece and Bulgaria to the west, Russia, Ukraine, and Romania to the north and northwest (through the Black Sea), Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Iran to the east, and Syria and Iraq to the south. The Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara, and the Bosporus divide the country.

The history and culture of Turkey is such that coming up with 20 facts out of thousands was an incredibly difficult task. We know that so much has been omitted for the sake of brevity. The list below is a primer to this country’s rich heritage.

1. Turkey is officially known as the ‘Republic of Turkey’.

2. The Republic of Turkey was founded on October 29, 1923, under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

3. Turkey is a democratic, secular, unitary and constitutional republic.

4. Ankara is Turkey’s capital while Istanbul is its largest city.

5. It has a population of 71.1 million.

6. Of the 87% of the population that is literate 95% are male and 80% female.

7. The major religion of Turkey is Islam, while its official language is Turkish. Kurdish, Dimli, Zaza, Arabic, Armenian, Greek and Azeri are also spoken in the country.

8. Istanbul is the only city in the world built on two continents and has been the capital of three great empires, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman for more than 2000 years.

9. The part of Turkey in Europe is called ‘Thrace’ (an area about equal to the state of Massachusetts), while the part in Asia is called ‘Anatolia’ (an area about the size of the state of Texas).

10. Anatolia is the birthplace of historic legends, such as Omar (the poet), King Midas, Herodotus (the father of history) and St. Paul the Apostle.

11. Julius Ceasar proclaimed his celebrated words, “Veni, Vidi, Vici” (I came, I saw, I conquered) in Turkey when he defeated the Pontus, a formidable kingdom in the Black Sea region of Turkey.

12. The oldest known human settlement is in Catalhoyuk, Turkey (7500 BC).

13. Temple of Artemis and the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the two of the seven wonders of the ancient world, are in Turkey.

14. Turks introduced coffee to Europe.

15. Turks gave the Dutch their famous tulips.

16. Turkey has 94 State universities and 45 Foundation (Private) universities

17. Approximately 55,000 Turkish students go abroad annually for educational purposes.

18. Turkey has been sending more than 10,000 students a year to the U.S. since 2000 exceeding other European countries such as Britain and Germany.

19. Istanbul’s Robert College (established in 1863), is the oldest American school outside the United States.

20. Turkey provides 70% of the world’s hazelnuts; the nut in your chocolate bar was most probably grown in Turkey.

Alan Saidi
Senior Vice President & COO

ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL
The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit


Filed under Education, History, Human Interest, Language, Travel