Category Archives: Education

Do you know BTS?

April 12th, 2019

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BTS – Photo courtesy of Big Hit Entertainment

Have you heard of BTS? No, its not another acronym for an educational credential or yet another new international professional organization.  It stands for Beyond the Scene, the acronym for a boy-band from Korea, but not just any boy-band. ACEI-Global.Blog readers might be surprised to see this post about the K-Pop group BTS.  We do, however, have the pleasure of hearing from our guest blogger, world music connoisseur, Tom Schnabel (former Music Director of KCRW) who, through the help of a huge BTS fan, gives us a glimpse of the world of K-Pop, and BTS, a global musical phenomenon.

The reach of BTS and their music is evidenced in this photo of this Algerian student’s sign at a protest.  The words on his sign are lyrics from a BTS song.  – ACEI

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Rhythm Planet readers might be surprised to see this post about the K-Pop group BTS. I don’t normally cover pop music, but over the past months, BTS has become a global musical phenomenon unlike anything I have ever seen. Yet most people I know still remain oblivious to the group. I’m not a BTS expert, so I’ve asked a huge fan I know to introduce us to the group and explain why we should all get to know BTS. — Tom Schnabel

The seven-member K-Pop group BTS—short for either their Korean name Bangtan Sonyeondan (Bulletproof Boy Scouts) or an English name Beyond the Scene—is currently on the tail end of their Love Yourself world tour, which began in Seoul on August 25, 2018. The sold out tour has so far taken the members through 11 cities across North America and Europe plus 5 cities and counting in Asia. They’ve performed 34 concerts to date in major venues like Citi Field in New York, The O2 Arena in London, and the Tokyo Dome. Their most recent stop at Singapore National Stadium—where they were the first pop group from anywhere ever to perform—drew 45,000 passionate fans. What truly amazed me, however, was that fans from all over the world shared in the excitement and joy of the Singapore concert via more than one million tweets that weekend. It’s just one example of the powerful reach of BTS, and excitingly, they are still on the rise.

I joined the BTS ARMY (as the fans are collectively called) only this past August, when I happened to see an NPR music blog post about their candy-colored music video for the song “Idol.” It had broken YouTube’s record for the most number of views (45 million) within the first 24 hours of a video’s release, yet I had never heard of BTS. I was blown away by the dance moves and liked the song’s positive message. As an Asian American, I was also surprised and delighted that members of an Asian boy band appeared to have become worldwide heartthrobs. I wondered who they were and how they managed to connect with fans from Peru to Turkey, all while singing and rapping primarily in Korean. A YouTube search led me to introductory videos and a staggering amount of official and fan-made content. I quickly noticed—after watching just a few videos and reading some of the comments—that the group had forged a deep connection with fans through its music as well as what the members generously share about their lives via social media.

BTS members have a hand in writing and producing much of their music, and their lyrics often draw from their own experiences. They sing/rap candidly about dreams, doubts, and struggles, reflect on what they’ve achieved, and express satisfaction at overcoming haters who derided them as fluffy pop idols. Their most recent suite of three Love Yourself albums addresses themes of self-love and self-acceptance, and refreshingly to me, no glorification of sex, drugs, or violence is anywhere to be found. BTS’s heartfelt and sincere messages have resonated with its youthful ARMY, inspiring them to persevere in their own struggles and believe in their self-worth. I regularly see fan comments on Youtube and Twitter saying how much the group has helped them through hardship and depression. BTS’s positive influence is all the more important considering that Korea has one of the highest suicide rates of industrialized nations, with a troubling increase in teen suicides.

BTS also tries to create a positive impact on the lives of young people through its philanthropic endeavors. Shortly after the first Love Yourself album was released in fall of 2017, BTS partnered with UNICEF on the #ENDviolence initiative and simultaneously launched its own Love Myself campaign—both with the goal of ending violence against children and teens. The members and their management company collectively donated almost half a million U.S. dollars to the campaign and pledged a percentage of the proceeds from their album sales as well. While passing through New York last September on tour, BTS spoke at the United Nations in support of its UNICEF collaboration. Group leader RM acknowledged their sense of responsibility as role models and urged their fans to find their own voices:

BTS debuted in 2013 under Big Hit Entertainment, one of the smaller management companies in Korea. The seven members—RM, Jin, SUGA, J-Hope, Jimin, V, Jungkook—are currently between 21 and 26 years old. As is normal under the K-pop entertainment system, the members live together dormitory-style beginning from their trainee years. BTS started out in cramped quarters and slept in a single room, and some of the earliest members to join have now lived together for almost a decade. They have overcome hard times and celebrated triumphs together as a team. Not surprisingly, the members consider each other as brothers and BTS as a family. They’ve remarked that something feels off if one of them is away from the group, and their lyrics make frequent reference to the Bangtan brotherhood.

The members’s closeness and rapport shine through in hours of behind-the-scenes footage from rehearsals, dance practice, backstage, and music video shoots, as well as in several reality/variety series (Run BTS!, Bon Voyage, Burn the Stage) that they’ve filmed. Their genuine affection and support for each other only further endears them to an adoring ARMY, myself included. It’s simply charming and joyful to watch the members tease each other, have fun, and goof around like the young men that they are, even as they work extremely hard at their craft. Kudos also to Big Hit, for often prompting the members to think and talk openly about their achievements and fears in the many videos (such as this one) produced for fan consumption. The members express amazement that so many of their dreams have come true, but also struggle with the pressures that come with success. They look ahead to the future, knowing that this ascendance—and their youth and energy—won’t last forever. They speak of enjoying the moment and growing old together with ARMY. I find their emotional maturity and groundedness admirable given their youth and rapid rise.

In fact, ever since their debut in 2013, BTS members have shared their thoughts, feelings, and their everyday lives with fans through social media. There are video logs wherein they talk about anything, live chats on their fan cafe, live video broadcasts, and above all, thousands of tweets from a shared Twitter channel, where they currently have over 18 million followers. All the official online content combined with the group’s social media presence have allowed ARMY to connect with the members as real people rather than as idols on a pedestal—regular guys who still do their own laundry and love to eat instant ramen and Panda Express. By reaching out to their fans so openly and frequently, the members have cultivated a loyal fan base that reciprocates with a fierce love and devotion.

BTS understands how much ARMY contributes to their success, and the members take every opportunity to express their gratitude. The group won Billboard’s Top Social Artist of the Year award at the BBMA’s in both 2017 and 2018 thanks to ARMY’s efforts. ARMYs around the world lobbied hard to get them nominated in 2017, even though many people at the awards didn’t even know who BTS was at the time. Hardworking volunteer ARMY translators provide translations and subtitles for Korean lyrics, tweets, and videos almost instantly, so that international fans can understand in English, Spanish, Japanese, Arabic…you name it. Non-Korean ARMYs memorize the Korean lyrics (and many are learning Korean) so that they can sing along at concerts. They are vigorous defenders against real or perceived slights to the group. They are also quick to embrace anyone who gives the group a chance, because as big as BTS has become, it has yet to fully break into the western mainstream as a K-Pop act. K-Pop is not simply American pop sung in Korean. It is a genre unto itself where music, complex choreography, eye-popping videos, and edgy fashion all play an important role. The guys wear makeup and dye their hair rainbow colors. Language aside, these are not familiar aesthetics for male artists to a western pop audience, and it may still come off kitchy like Gangnam Style.

2018 was a very good year for BTS, with two number one albums on the Billboard 200, a Time magazine cover, not to mention the sold out tour. Their accomplishments on and off the world record charts are too lengthy to list—the word “first” currently appears 85 times on their Wikipedia page. But 2019 might be the year that BTS and K-Pop finally break through to a wider audience. The group was invited to present an award at this year’s Grammys, and they’ll be seated in the second and third rows along with the biggest pop stars in the west. The Recording Academy, which has been under attack for a lack of diversity in the Awards, has surely thought shrewdly about the good visuals offered by the group’s prominent seating. However, I do think they’re acknowledging BTS’s global success, even though it has yet to score a number 1 single on the Billboard 100. I’ll take bets that the ratings will be higher. I know I’ll be watching the Grammys for the first time in over a decade just to cheer the guys on.

In Season 3 of BTS’s Bon Voyage travel series, Jin, the eldest member of the group, goes around Malta jokingly asking random people if they know BTS. He probably won’t need to ask that question much longer. Even if their music isn’t your thing, I hope you’ve come to know BTS as not just “the new One Direction,” but an inspirational bunch of hardworking musicians and dancers who happen to be some of the nicest idols around.

Get to know the individual members of BTS:

The poignant music video for Spring Day, which pays tribute to the victims of the South Korean Sewol ferry tragedy (be sure to turn on English captions if they don’t come on):

A huge thank you to all the ARMY translators and in particular the following whose hard work has allowed me to get to know BTS — @JL_Kdiamond, @btstranslation7@doyou_bangtan, and @BTS_Trans. Cheers! — @brightstars88

[Correction: This post was updated to say BTS has not yet had a number 1 single. Their song Fake Love did make the top 10 on the Billboard 100.]

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Tom Schnabel, M.A.

Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Blogs for Rhythm Planet
Author & Music educator, UCLA, SCIARC, currently doing music salons
www.tomschnabel.com

 

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Dispatch from the 105th AACRAO Annual Meeting – Los Angeles CA

April 5th, 2019

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AACRAO’s Annual Meeting held its largest meeting of higher education professionals from around the world this week in Los Angeles California. The Association of International Credentials Evaluators (AICE), of which ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member,  joined more than 2,000 administrators to address the issues that affect our work, collaborate on goals and guidelines for meeting those challenges, and provide a forum for learning and sharing experiences.

The Annual Meeting provided an extensive program of over 200 sessions, roundtables, poster sessions, and workshops.

AICE Endorsed Member, ACEI, FCSA, Scholaro, shared their expertise in these workshops and several sessions regarding credential evaluation, country profile of Cuba and the AACRAO Cuba Project, the Alphabet Soup of International Credential Evaluators, updates on the standards for AACRAO EDGE, and how to conduct armchair recruiting.
The meeting was kicked off with half-day workshop on how to use the AACRAO EDGE, which AICE President, Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert together with Drew Carlisle from AACRAO led.

The meeting then continued with the opening plenary featuring a warm awards ceremony, honoring the years of service of Janie Barnett, AACRAO’s Associate Executive Director. The awards ceremony also honored an AICE Affiliate and an Endorsed Member.

AICE is proud of the latest AICE Endorsed Member, Incred Evaluations, Inc., Leah McCormack, Director, who won the AACRAO award for Emerging Leader in the profession.

AICE Affiliate, Karee Head, International Admissions Specialist of University of Idaho, won the Thomas A. Bilger Award for her dedication to the profession. AACRAO was also the perfect arena to share the collaboration of AACRAO and AICE, as an MOU was signed by both parties to agree to partner on various issues surrounding applied comparative education. It was definitely a moment for AICE Endorsed Members and Affiliates to shine!

The plenary continued with a moving discussion led by Nightline’s Byron Pitts, who overcame many obstacles to reach his life goals. He provided motivation for change and gave us a sense of hope during these trying times in International Education.

The Annual Conference continued with several more sessions, including, “Alphabet Soup for International Credential Evaluation” with AICE Endorsed Members, Aleks Morawski, Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert, and Robert Watkins.

Laura Sippel, AICE Director of Communications, represented AICE Charter Endorsed Member, Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI) through her session: “International Student Recruitment Without Leaving Your Office,” with California State University Northridge.

The International Luncheon brought together dedicated professionals for a inspiring informational presentation by Dr. Keith David Watenpaugh, Director of Article 26 Backpack Project, that assist refugees and displaced persons. He said through the Backpack enrollment, refugees guide their peers and this program also helps digitize their documents and create profiles that put a story to their accomplishments. AICE will be working with AACRAO to foster this initiative.

The evening continued with the lively International Educators reception sponsored by AICE Endorsed Member FCSA’s William Paver and the Paver Family Foundation. We then continued to an intimate gathering to truly honor the years of service of Janie Barnett, with AACRAO Executives and sponsors providing moving speeches, wonderful stories of working with Janie, and wishing her well.

On Wednesday, AACRAO Annual Meeting came to an end with the closing plenary featuring George Takei, Author, Actor, Director, and Activist, who used humor and warmth to address the large crowd. George Takei is of course well known as Sulu, on the USS Enterprise in the long running TV series, Star Trek. He spoke of his early days as a five-year old having lived with his family in the Japanese internment camps in Arkansas and California during WWII.

It was truly a week of collaborating, celebrating new partnerships, and honoring our colleagues and friends.

AACRAO indicates on their website, “Our programming reflects the diverse nature of our members’ roles and responsibilities, and strives to meet the changing demands and needs of the professions we serve. Join us in Los Angeles to gain the knowledge and skills that ensure personal, student, and institutional success.”

As the meeting closed, we felt the positivity of the meeting, as we discussed new initiatives, gave each other encouragement to be a strong advocate for our profession and have the right tools to serve those affected by our work so we can change lives.

As the sun set on the 105th AACRAO Annual Meeting, we very much looked forward to moving on to the AICE Symposium, directly following the productive meeting.


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 www.acei-global.org.

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SYRIA: Education in Exile

March 29th, 2019

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Syria’s brutal civil war that began in 2011 has created the world’s largest displacement crisis, with almost 5.7 million registered refugees, including more than 2.5 million Syrian children now living in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. (In 2016, we posted an extensive piece on the Syrian conflict and its impact on the education system and the millions of its citizens who have been displaced. Click here to read more.)

The civil war has led to the creation of the Syrian Interim Government, an alternative government or a government in exile of the Syrian Opposition, which has been formed by the opposition umbrella group, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. The interim government is seated in exile in Turkey. Its headquarters in Syria are located in the city of Azaz in Turkish-occupied northern Syria.

In effect, at this time, there are 2 governments in operation representing Syria: the Syrian Arab Republic (SAR) led by President Assad and the Syrian Interim Government (SIG). Because of the conflict, the Ministry of Education (MOE) in SAR has placed the entire curriculum of secondary education on-line to allow for students to self-study. In this case, students will not receive a report card or transcript for each year of study. The only document they will receive is the certificate for final exams for the Secondary Baccalaureate which provides them access to tertiary education at the universities in Syria.

In direct opposition to the government of President Assad, the SIG’s MOE has instituted its own secondary curriculum for those in the Turkish refugee camps and Syrian schools in Turkey and offers its own Secondary Baccalaureate examinations. The Interim Government’s MOE is working closely with the MOE in the Turkish government to coordinate efforts between the two ministries to oversee all Syrian schools in Turkey. It is also discussing how Syrian university students living in exile can be admitted into Turkish universities to continue their education and qualify for scholarships.

Until recently, Turkey, and with some limitations, France, had been the only countries recognizing the Secondary Baccalaureate examinations administered by the Syrian Interim Government. But on March 11, 2019, the MOE under the Syrian Interim Government announced that its diplomas are being recognized by several European universities in the United Kingdom, Germany and Sweden. The diplomas are not recognized by the Syrian Arab Government’s MOE and any Syrian returning to Syria will not be granted admission to the universities based on the SIG MOE’s Secondary Diploma.


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 www.acei-global.org.

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The Global Educator Program: Engage with key influencers to leverage your international recruitment

March 15th, 2019

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In this week’s blog, we would like to showcase Branta, an international student recruitment, study abroad organization based in Seattle, WA. We recently learned about Branta’s Global Education Program which aims to build relationships between teachers and school administrators in India with administrators at U.S. institutions of higher education.

According to Syed K. Jamal, Branta’s Founder & CEO, “In India’s collective culture, both resident and the diaspora community, lived-experience and face-to-face meetings have a profound effect. They break boundaries and build bonds. To leverage the cultural aspect, and in order to equip principals/counselors from India and the UAE with international networks, we launched the Global Educator Program in 2018. At its core, it’s a professional development outreach both for international educators as well as for American campuses acting as hosting institutions. We are delighted to launch the 2019 version of the program which provides full funding to international educators.”

As one US educator noted in this video, it’s not about just sitting and having a quick conversation and exchanging brochures with students but building relationships with educators and administrators from the students’ countries.  The desire by the K-12 schools in India and wanting to collaborate directly with U.S. institutions with relation to teaching and partnership, and ways to enhance understanding of what it means to pursue an education in the U.S. is significant. For U.S. educators, the benefits include gaining a better and deeper insight of the Indian education system at a younger level and what it means to start talking about the practicalities of a global education at a higher level. Bringing these two groups together under one roof and sharing ideas, learning from each other, developing partnerships and forging long-term relationships are the takeaways of participation in The Global Educator Program.

Those US institutions who wish to enable this exchange, host the group on their camps and benefit from it are welcome to write to syed@gobranta.com for more details.

And, please share this with those in your networks in India and UAE.


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 www.acei-global.org.

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Diploma to Degree: A Global Progression Pathway Made in Scotland

March 8th, 2019

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  • Introducing the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA)
  • SQA Qualifications
  • Quality Assurance
  • SQA International markets and SQA Diploma to Degree offerings
  • Partnership working with ACEI
  • Working with us

SQA wants to establish progression pathways for its international students who, on completion of an SQA Advanced Qualification in their own country wish to articulate to a related Degree program at an institution in the U.S.

U.S. colleges may wish to work in partnership with SQA and deliver SQA Advanced Qualifications either jointly with their own provision or as an alternative provision. In doing so, U.S. institutions can internationalize their campus by working with SQA, SQA’s existing progression partners and centers around the world. Once a pathway is established, SQA will work in partnership with the receiving institution and promote the progression pathway to its students and centers around the world.

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Who Will Benefit

  • Admissions Officers interested in recruiting international students
  • Staff with an interest in progression pathways from college based learning into higher education
  • Higher education policy makers with an interest in progression routes for lifelong learning and bridging the academic/vocational divide
  • Credential Evaluation Bodies
  • Community College Staff
  • University Staff

Thursday, March 21, 2019

10 AM – 11 AM PST

Free Webinar

Register Now


Your Presenters:

Margaret
Mags Hutchinson
International Articulation Manager
Scottish Qualifications Authority

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Mags has been employed by the Scottish Qualifications Authority for 18 years. Initially she worked in Qualifications Development, developing and maintaining qualifications to service the Engineering sector. In her current role as International Articulation Manager she seeks to build relationships with Community Colleges and Higher Education Institutions in the US.


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Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert
President & CEO
Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute

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Jasmin is a leading expert on international education and credential evaluation methodologies. She has authored several publications on world education systems, and is a regular presenter at regional, national and international conferences. She is currently the Acting President of the Association of International Credential Evaluators, and serves on the International Education Standards Council of AACRAO (American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers).


 

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IRAN: An Update on Primary and Secondary Education System

March 1st, 2019

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Iran’s education system has undergone a number of reforms since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. One sector that has been seen several reforms in the past four decades is the primary and secondary education system.

The most recent changes to the education system, according to the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA), took place in 2013 where primary education has been extended from 5 to 6 years, followed by 3 years of lower secondary and 3 years of upper secondary. In the new system, the 13th year, known as pre-university (pishdaneshgahi) has been absorbed into the upper secondary cycle and is no longer offered.

Students who complete the 12th year from the new system and pass final exams will receive their Certificate/Diploma of High School Completion. They will then be eligible to sit for the national entrance exam for universities.

We have prepared a historic overview of Iran’s primary and secondary cycle for use as a quick reference when reviewing and evaluating academic transcripts of students from Iran.

Pre-1979 Islamic revolution    [5+3+4]

5 years primary (grades 1-5)

3 years middle school/guidance cycle (grades 6, 7, 8)

4 years upper secondary (grades 9, 10, 11, 12)

Post-1979 Islamic Revolution (through 1995)            [5+3+4]

5 years primary (grades 1-5)

3 years middle school/guidance cycle (grades 6, 7, 8)

4 years upper secondary (grades 9, 10, 11, 12)

1996-2013       [5+3+3+1]

5 years primary (grades 1-5)

3 years middle school/guidance cycle (grades 6, 7, 8)

3 years upper secondary (grades 9, 10, 11)

1 year pre-university (year 12)

2013 to present          [6+3+3]

6 years primary (grades 1-6)

3 years lower secondary cycle (grades 7, 8, 9)

3 years upper secondary cycle (grades 10, 11, 12)

Here’s a good link to a page on the UCAS website dedicated to Iran’s pre-university certificate and the recent changes made to the primary and secondary system: https://qips.ucas.com/qip/iran-pre-university-certificate-pishdaneshgahi

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 www.acei-global.org.

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Detecting Fake University Degrees in a Digital World

February 22nd, 2019

digiworld

As we prepare for the 2019 AICE Los Angeles Symposium on digital retention and transmission of academic documents, an issue that is of great concern is how do we maintain credential evaluation standards in a world that is rapidly digitizing? How do we ensure credential integrity? How do we detect fraudulent documents in an age where digital technology is used by hackers and forgers with tech expertise to falsify and issue counterfeit documents, tap into university databases, create degrees and diplomas that appear flawless and authentic?

The topic of the 2019 AICE Los Angeles Symposium is “The future is digital…are you? Effectively using technology while maintaining credential evaluation standards” is timely and will address the many stakeholders involved in the digital document process: the universities, governments, and third-party platforms, while delving into the existing eco-system, security and reliability of the current digital systems and discussing the available tools for digital credential verification. The goal of the symposium is to seek digital solutions that promote data security and protection as we move toward a paper-free environment.

In this week’s blog, we share an informative and insightful piece written by our European colleagues Stig Arne Skjerven, Director of Foreign Education in NOKUT and President of the ENIC Bureau in the European Network of Information Centers, a frequent contributor to ACE-Global.Blog, and Linda J Børresen, Senior Legal Advisor in NOKUT (Norwegian ENIC-NARIC). The authors demonstrate steps being taken in Europe to combat fake diplomas in today’s digital world. This article appeared in the September 2018 issue of University World News and is shared in this blog with permission from Mr. Skjerven and Ms. Børresen.

We invite you to share your thoughts, experience, and questions in the comments section. Thank you.

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Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert is the President and CEO of the Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute (ACEI).

** ** **

Using fake diplomas in order to get ahead is not a new phenomenon. As long as there is competition for jobs and admission to higher education, there will be people who are willing to take such shortcuts.

Articles in University World News often report new cases, the most recent on fake Scottish degrees. Over the summer in the United Kingdom, there was an article published in The Guardian in which the UK’s official service for verifying degrees, the Higher Education Degree Datacheck (HEDD), urged new graduates who take selfies with their new degrees not to share the images on social media to avoid fueling the multimillion-pound trade in fake degrees.

What are fake diplomas?

Generally speaking, there are three categories of fake diplomas. The first category is typically a diploma that seems to be issued by an accredited institution, but the diploma is in fact produced illegally. The person who bought the document has never studied at the institution in question.

The second category comprises diplomas that are issued by accredited institutions, but the holder of the diploma has altered the information in the document, most commonly the grades.

The third and last category includes fake diplomas issued by diploma mills (fake universities). Diploma mills grant ‘degrees’ to people who pay for this service, but do not offer any educational training.

Fake diplomas can finance serious crime

The consequences of using fake diplomas are dire, ranging from wrongful job hires to illicit access to regulated professions. The latter can pose a danger to people and society, most obviously in the health, engineering and financial professions.

Just as worryingly, the income from sales of fake diplomas often finances serious crime. The court case in Norway following the terrorist attack on 22 July 2011 is a clear illustration. During the trial, the defendant admitted that he partly financed his terror operation by selling fake diplomas through the establishment of an internet site called Diplomaservice.com. Its revenue was nearly US$500,000, which was laundered in Antigua and subsequently used to finance his illicit activities.

How can we deal with fake diplomas?

In Norway, NOKUT is the Norwegian ENIC-NARIC center whose task it is to recognize foreign higher education qualifications in accordance with the Lisbon Recognition Convention. In order to combat the problem with fake diplomas, NOKUT has developed several tools, such as rigid documentation requirements and thorough quality assurance.

Verification is crucial and all diplomas are verified from certain countries, either by the issuing higher education institutions or by the ministry of education in that particular country. Equally important, NOKUT’s experienced credential evaluators are fluent in many languages and possess unique knowledge about various educational systems, enabling them to track logical inconsistencies in the applicants’ educational backgrounds.

Since 2003, 120 people have been reported to the police for using fake diplomas. This comes in addition to the number of cases that are reported by Norwegian higher education institutions and other competent authorities. NOKUT, as the ENIC-NARIC center, cooperates well with Norwegian law enforcement. Many of the reported cases have resulted in convictions, normally two to three weeks of unconditional imprisonment.

Most of these convictions are for regular falsified diplomas, but convictions for using documents from diploma mills are increasing.

The Council of Europe’s ETINED Platform

The ETINED Platform is a network of specialists appointed by member states of the Council of Europe and states party to the European Cultural Convention (50 states). The purpose of ETINED is to build a culture of ethics, transparency and integrity in and through education.

One aspect of this is combating fraud and corruption, including fraudulent qualifications. In this part of the project, cooperation between the ENIC and NARIC networks, the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA) and the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education(EQAR) have been established.

Suggestions for changes to the subsidiary text to the Lisbon Recognition Convention are being considered. An example is the establishment of a database with a list of criteria that students should look for when checking qualifications proposed by an institution.

FRAUDOC – An Erasmus+ project

All over Europe, significant efforts have been made to detect fraudulent documents. Recently, an Erasmus+ funded project, FRAUDOC, led by the Italian ENIC-NARIC CIMEA, launched guidelines on diploma mills and documents fraud for credential evaluators. The guidelines give an overview of the phenomenon, but they also provide tools and recommendations on how fraudulent documents can be detected.

The same group has also launched a handbook for credential evaluators with information about verification databases and other suggestions that should help credential evaluators in their daily work.

The future is digital

Routines developed by ENIC-NARIC centers are helpful for combating the use of fake documents. However, even in the world of recognition and credential evaluation it is true that the future is digital – soon, most diplomas will be digitally accessible in secure systems which will guarantee documents’ authenticity.

Norway has digitalized all diplomas that have been issued by Norwegian institutions, with a few exceptions, in an online portal called Vitnemålsportalen. Graduates can provide secure and time-limited access to their data to an employer through an electronic link. This procedure ensures the authenticity of the documents and is a safe and cost-effective way for an employer to verify someone’s credentials.

Other systems, at varying stages of development, are in operation in AustraliaBelgium (Flanders), ChinaEstoniaFranceIndiaMexicothe NetherlandsNew ZealandRomania, the Russian FederationSouth Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The network of EMREX aims to further connect and enhance student data portability and provide student data globally. EMREX empowers individuals to manage their student data and to transfer credentials securely to employers, institutions and more.

Fake diplomas will continue to pose a threat to higher education institutions, employers and recognition authorities in the years to come. However, recent initiatives involving digital diplomas in secure databases may be one of the most promising ways to combat false diplomas in the future.

stig

Stig Arne Skjerven is the Director of Foreign Education in NOKUT and President of the ENIC Bureau in the European Network of Information Centres.

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Linda J Børresen is Senior Legal Advisor in NOKUT (Norwegian ENIC-NARIC). 

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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 www.acei-global.org.

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