Closed borders, worldwide economic shut-down, social crises, interruption of classroom teaching, cancellation or postponement of exams, transformation of assessment methods, and uncertainties about school calendars are all obstacles to international mobility - whether professional or academic.
In the unparalleled context of COVID-19, the ENIC-NARIC France centre has mobilised alongside 56 other ENIC-NARIC centres to adapt its working methods, develop strategies, and thereby contribute to the fair recognition of foreign qualifications.
A network's strength
During the 27th annual meeting of the ENIC-NARIC network, held online on 15 June 2020, members were able to discover a working document published by the Bureau of the Committee of the Lisbon Recognition Convention - the ENIC Bureau and the NARIC Advisory Committee - devoted to the “Recognition of foreign qualifications during COVID-19”.
This document offers a unique perspective on the short- and medium-term impact of COVID-19 on academic recognition and gives an overview of how the ENIC-NARIC centres work in this context. An action plan has been proposed to help them maintain fair, uninterrupted recognition. Organising online events plays an important part in strengthening dialogue, mutual support, and information sharing within the network.
Solidarity, cooperation, and mutual learning to face the impact of the crisis
Postponed in extremis when it was to be hosted by France Éducation international on 10 March, the 3rd meeting of the "peer support group" aiming to improve application of the Lisbon Convention's principles, eventually took place online on 17 June.
This meeting brought together around fifty participants from 35 countries and 8 member institutions. Co-chaired by Albania, Italy, and France it made it possible to reflect on the effects of the COVID-19 crisis on qualifications recognition at a time when many countries hastily had to adapt their assessment system to distance education. It was also an opportunity to identify good practices - particularly in terms of digitalisation and sharing of updated information - on the changes made.
The next day was devoted to the webinar "Recognition, transparency, and information during COVID-19 - the role of higher education institutions", initially scheduled for FEI (France Éducation international) on 11 March. With over 600 registered participants from 91 countries, this webinar helped lay the foundation for a vade-mecum on the recognition of qualifications in this troubled period. Aimed at higher education establishments, these practical guidelines were intended to help them transmit to their various stakeholders transparent, up-to-date, reliable, and appropriate information on their programmes and the qualifications they issue. They laid stress on digital technologies for the new possibilities they open up.
Digital to meet today's challenges better
In the context of the global health crisis, digital technology does appear to be an essential tool in the process of recognising foreign qualifications. Thinking on this subject had already started - as evidenced by the publication of the white paper Digital Student Data and Recognition by the Dutch NARIC centre EP-NUFFIC on 30 April 30 as part of the Erasmus + Digirec project (2018-2020), which brought together 10 partners including France Éducation international.
This document aims to support the ENIC-NARIC centres both by taking the students' digital data into account in their assessment practices and by dematerialising recognition procedures; at present, only 10 centres, including France, have this type of procedure. It thus highlights various levels of use of student data and the existence of solutions to promote exchanges of this type of data. This is the case for Blockchain technology - which has many advantages in terms of data security, reliability, and shorter processing times for foreign qualifications.
By making student data portability easier, the digital tool makes it possible to cross “virtually” the borders and obstacles that the health crisis has erected in territories forced into lockdown. It appears more than ever necessary to pursue its development in the furtherance of qualifications recognition.
Using digital tools will enable the challenge of automatic qualifications recognition to be met at the European level in 2025 - pursuant to the Recommendation of the European Council.