In September 2013, UK NARIC was given the opportunity to revisit Libya, a country in transition following the fall of the Gaddafi regime in 2011.
UK NARIC first visited Libya in 2012 to find out more about the Libyan education system. A year later, we were invited to the Workshop on the National Qualifications Framework: Towards Strengthening Confidence in Libyan Education and Training System held in Tripoli on 7th September. The conference brought together all key stakeholders and intended beneficiaries of the proposed framework, from government ministries to university deans and school heads with the aim of introducing the concept of a comprehensive framework and the benefits it could bring to the Libyan education system. The concept is not an entirely new one in Libya: having first been proposed in 2009. Whether a reflection of the on-going transition in Libya or more broadly of the increasing understanding and implementation of NQFs internationally, discussions this year have been met with far greater support.
Many of the officials we met with had benefitted from the government’s national scholarship scheme, which funds approximately 95% of the Libyan students enrolled in international universities. Having undertaken PhDs at a wide range of UK universities, they are keen to see what lessons they can incorporate both from UK education, in strengthening the Libyan system, and in developing robust and efficient evaluation procedures for international qualifications.
Outside of the conference, we were fortunate enough to be taken to visit Leptis Magna, a place once interestingly referred to as ‘Rome by the Sea’. The remnants of the Roman Empire are evident and remarkably well-preserved there but having climbed to the top of the Roman theatre, with stunning views of the Mediterranean, we couldn’t help but feel sad that such a beautiful place remains for the most part unseen, with the FCO advising against all but essential travel to Tripoli and coastal towns: happily, we felt welcome and safe at all times.
Perhaps the highlight of our trip was an unscheduled tour of Gaddafi’s compound which our driver took us to en route to the airport. Only by driving around the largely destroyed complex can you get some picture of the power Gaddafi had held for over four decades. It was interesting, though sad, to see that amongst the dozens of burnt out cars, collapsed buildings, abandoned check-points, and the ruins of his former residence, several families have set up home. The ruins that still stand in the heart of the capital serve as a reminder of the past, amid on-going efforts to build a New Libya.
In September UK NARIC visited Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) to deliver a capacity building workshop for the ENICs in the region of the Former Yugoslavia.
Our workshop was hosted by the Centre for Information and Recognition of Qualifications in Higher Education (the CIP). The representatives of Croatian and Serbian Centres also attended the event. This was the last of the series of four capacity building workshops prepared and delivered jointly by UK and Croatian NARICs with support from the European Commission. Over the last two years the centres met in the UK, Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina with the aim of sharing good practices and promoting fair recognition in the region of Former Yugoslavia.
With a population of only around four million people, Bosnia and Herzegovina is highly ethnically diverse, being home to Serbs, Bosniaks and Croats. This diversity accounts for the rich culture with a unique mix of Eastern and Western influences. Crossing the historical Old Bridge of Mostar over the fast-flowing Neretva river is almost like opening the gates from the West to the East with mosques dominating the right bank and churches abundant on the left bank.
Unfortunately, the civil war that broke out in BiH in the early 90s showed that diversity may also lead to destruction. Mostar suffered greatly during the war with many of its historical buildings and bridges destroyed by bombings. Luckily, several large-scale restoration projects have managed to return its pre-war beauty and charm to the historical centre of Mostar, which has recently entered the UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
In turn, the locals quickly revived the century-old tradition of diving into the Neretva River from the newly-restored Old Bridge. The competition takes place in the summer so unfortunately we did not get to witness the event. Watching divers jump into ice-cold waters of Neretva from the 25-meter bridge must be quite an experience, no surprise the competition gathers thousands of viewers!
While the narrow cobble-stoned streets in the Old Bridge area are happily bustling with tourists, venturing a bit further out from the city centre is a slightly sombre experience. We were deeply moved by the cemeteries of war victims and the numerous deserted buildings still covered in marks from bomb shells.
In addition to its rich culture, Bosnia and Herzegovina also guarantees fantastic weather with very warm summers and mild winters. We visited the country in early autumn – apparently one of the best times to visit, as the summer heat might be a bit too much! This time of the year is also perfect for sampling delicious local fruit and vegetables. The supermarkets in BiH definitely do not need an “organic” shelf, as local organic produce can be bought in many street markets scattered all around town. Meat- and cheese-lovers would also not be disappointed…
Locals are also known for their love of coffee – apparently BiH citizens drink the most coffee per capita of all the former Yugoslav republics. But don’t expect a large mug of Americano, instead ask for a traditional coffee. It is very similar to Turkish coffee and might even be served with a bite of the local version of Turkish delight.
Mostar lies in a valley surrounded by magnificent mountains. Unfortunately the tight schedule did not allow us to venture outside the city and explore the beautiful countryside. But we certainly left the country with the hope to return and to continue our work in this region.
Tatsiana Zahorskaya, October 2013
UK NARIC recently travelled to the Namibian capital, Windhoek, to deliver six workshops on different aspects of international education. Our host, the Namibian Qualification Authority (NQA), made our visit very informative and enjoyable.
Over three days of training we had the opportunity not only to meet the NQA team and discuss their questions on international qualifications, but also to learn about the Namibian education system and how it has changed over the last few decades.
Making the most out of our free time, we explored the city of Windhoek and as the centre of the Namibian capital is quite small, we were able to get to all major places of interest on foot.
Our first stop was Christuskirche, a 100 year old Lutheran church prominently situated on the hill overlooking the city. This stunning historical landmark is probably the city’s most recognisable landmark. It was designed by a German architect at the beginning of the 20th century and was proclaimed a national monument on the 29th November 1974.
Just around the corner from the German church there is another interesting tourist attraction, the National Museum of Namibia. The museum, although quite small, has very interesting display galleries that cover rock art, the history of the liberation struggle and the social and cultural history of Namibia. Between the church and the museum is a giant, modern structure which, in time, will become the city’s new National Museum with space for exhibitions and conferences.
Namibia has a wide variety of wildlife and we were able to experience a game drive on a ranch to the north of Windhoek. The game drive was hosted on an eco-resort which provides a safe home for wildlife and is guarded from poachers. We were lucky enough to see many wild animals close up including rhinos, giraffes, warthogs, baboons and even two huge crocodiles!
On the final evening of our visit, thanks to the hospitality of our hosts, we explored Katutura, a township which in the Oshiwambo language means “the place where we don’t want to live” and, as its name suggests, looks nothing like downtown Windhoek. Katutura has a few spots that are definitely worth visiting; one of them is the local open-air market which offers a great selection of grilled and traditionally seasoned meats and local foods such as mopani worms and kaapana. Another must-visit is the craft village where traditional handmade goods, such as jewellery and pots can be purchased.
After a short trip around Katutura we were taken to dinner in a traditional restaurant called “Xvarma”. We spent a very pleasant evening in the company of our colleagues from the NQA who kindly described different types of dishes and shared with us interesting facts about their country and its culture.
During this short trip, we learnt that Namibia is a fascinating country with lots to offer. Its name comes from the Namib Desert which is considered to be the oldest desert in the world. In fact, about 80% of Namibia’s terrain consists of desert; it is no wonder that the first thing that drew our attention upon our arrival was the arid landscape. At the time of our visit, the country had not seen a drop of rain for over eight months!
After a long struggle for independence from German and then South African rule, Namibia has succeeded in rebuilding its economy. Tourism, agriculture, mining and manufacturing are the most prominent economic sectors.
Although Namibia is one of the most sparsely inhabited countries in the world, it has a very culturally and ethnically diverse population. There are more than 14 different native groups speaking 26 languages. English is the official language however Afrikaans, German and Oshiwambo are widely spoken.
The education system, based on the Anglo-American model, is well developed which makes the country a good market for international student recruitment.
Monika Krzebietke, September 2013
Reprinted from an article written by Malik Sarwar Global Head of Wealth Development, HSBC; 14/08/2013
With businesses operating across borders as never before, there are many benefits to studying abroad, with the experience a selling point to potential employers – whether in a student’s home country or elsewhere in the world.
As the flow of students across the globe is increasing, the patterns of who studies where are also changing.
Over the past three decades, a significant number of students have chosen to study in Western countries. The US and the UK are the most popular destinations, welcoming 30 per cent of the world’s international students. More than 100,000 Chinese students currently study in the UK.
Other countries are keen to challenge the US and UK. Australia, for example, estimates that the inflow of international students was worth AUD16 billion to its economy in 2011, supporting some 100,000 jobs. The government is increasing its efforts to attract foreign students – signing cooperation agreements with countries such as India and China, reforming its Student Visa Programme, and encouraging every Australian university to establish an exchange arrangement with Asian partners.
But it is not just developed economies competing to attract students from rising powers. HSBC research suggests that emerging economies will account for the largest share of global growth over the coming decades, and many Western economies now encourage people to make connections at an early age by studying in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.
The British Council, for example, aims to radically increase the number of British students travelling to China from around 3,500 in 2011 to 15,000. Individual institutions, such as the Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands, have established dedicated centres to strengthen relations with China. Philanthropists are also encouraging the flow of students from West to East. The Schwarzman Scholars programme aims to help 160 international students from the US and other countries study in Beijing.
If universities in emerging nations invest and grow, they will increasingly be able to compete for the brightest students from every country. This will challenge the universities of the West, spurring them to innovate and focus on the needs of students.
Would-be international students and their families need to plan financially with tuition fees, living costs, trips home and exchange rates to take into account. But for those who plan ahead, there are more choices and opportunities than ever before.
We keep hearing that there is some confusion about the Europass Diploma Supplement (DS) and the Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR). This blog post might clear up some of the confusion and highlight how they can be used to promote a course, enable employers and education providers to spot the brightest and best and improve a graduates chance of getting the right job.
If you are an employer, a professional body or an education provider you are going to have to consider how you evaluate MOOC qualifications. Will the current recognition processes allow this to happen?
In May, the final meeting of the Capacity Building project for the Caucasus was held, involving representatives of the United Kingdom, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. It was organised by our Georgian colleagues and held in the office of the National Centre for Educational Quality Enhancement (NCEQE) in Tbilisi.
The purpose of this meeting was not only to become familiar with the functions, policies and procedures of the Georgian centre, but also to provide the necessary support and to increase further cooperation between the organisations involved in this project. The director of the NCEQE, Ms Elene Jibladze, emphasised that the objectives of the meeting were to summarise the outcomes of the project between the UK and the countries of the Caucasus region and to expand the cooperation between the centres. She also noted the importance of cooperation with colleagues from the UK for further development of the Georgian centre, as well as the participation of representatives from other centres of the Caucasus region. The project presents an opportunity not only to strengthen communication, but also to develop a unified system of recognition for educational programmes across the region.
During the workshop, participants noted the invaluable benefits of this project and outlined the possibilities for future collaboration. UK NARIC, as organisers, summarised the results of the work for each centre and identified priority areas for further development.
Major changes have occurred in the Georgian education sector since the year 2000.
Institutional accreditation was launched in 2004. Before that time, only private institutions, which began to grow in number from 1991 onwards, had to go through the accreditation procedure. Between 2005 and 2010, institutions had to be licensed followed by accreditation to be fully recognised. The NCEQE was created in 2010, and it is the legal successor of the National Centre for Educational Accreditation. In that same year, mandatory licensing and institutional accreditation were replaced by an authorisation procedure. Standards of authorisation consist of three components: human resources, material resources and educational resources, which are measured every five years by NCEQE.
The Georgian National Qualifications Framework was also introduced in 2010. It consists of eight levels in line with the European Qualifications Framework. Basic education is at the first level, completed general secondary education is at level three, and the last three levels relate to the main higher education qualifications. Compulsory studies are until year 9, but the majority of pupils stay at school up until year 12. Bachelor and Master’s programmes were officially introduced in 2003, totally replacing specialist programmes from Soviet period.
Georgia is one of the states in the Caucasus region that gained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Since then, the country has experienced a series of political and military conflicts. At present, the situation is more or less stabilised, and a slow recovery of the relationship with its key neighbour – Russia, both at the political and economic level, is occurring. During his presidency, the current leader of Georgia; Mikheil Saakashvili, has managed within the space of a few years, to almost completely eliminate corruption in the country where the practice flourished for decades. Now, attempts to bribe a police officer were they to stop your car for instance, would be pointless. Local people have certainly appreciated both this and likewise the simplification and acceleration of various administrative procedures, which used to take months to complete.
However, the economic situation of the local population remains very difficult. On the streets there are many poor people begging. As there is only a small industrial sector, there is a corresponding lack of employment opportunities and people are finding employment where they can. In the centre of the city for example, all parking spaces are supervised by a ‘traffic marshal’, a person who helps you to park and looks after your car. You are expected to remunerate the worker before you leave. It would be seem ideal for Georgia to become a major tourist destination since it has so much to offer: the nature and climate, exceptional cuisine and the wine… However, the Georgians may not yet be willing to accept that.
The capital of Georgia, Tbilisi, was founded in the 5th century and is an important transit point for international energy and trade projects. The city certainly has its own colour and characteristic details. On the peripheral streets, mostly just beyond the centre of the city, lots of small shops offer products to suit every taste from fruits and vegetables to clothes. These shops are located mostly in the apartments of the seller, windows or doors of which face the street. There is also a large number of bakeries and take-away points, where different national pastries and quick meals are being prepared and sold. The famous pie with cheese – hachapuri, the so-called ‘Georgian pizza’, can be enjoyed straight from the oven.
From conversations with locals, it became clear that the infrastructure of the city has dramatically improved in recent times: new roads and new buildings have been constructed; some of the old ones have been renovated. This surge of activity after years of stagnation has been well received, but unfortunately did not last long. Now, for various reasons the development has halted again. Testament to this, there remains a large number of old buildings in the city that need major repair work or complete demolition due to unsuitability for living. For instance, most conspicuous in the centre of city, is not the new presidential palace and the monumental building of the Trinity Cathedral but the fact that it is surrounded by the houses that are almost falling apart.
The local people however, are wonderfully welcoming and friendly. Most Georgians are religious and respectfully adhere to the Orthodox faith and church. Passing the church, many cross themselves, both old and young people.
Georgians are very musical people. Live bands play at many restaurants and the guests themselves quite frequently get involved and sing national songs. To appreciate it fully, it is necessary to listen to the manner in which Georgians sing. The national music is not very familiar to European ears, but it is nonetheless simply fascinating and it can be listened to for hours. It is usually men who sing and do so without any advance preparation, dividing into polyphony.
We also had a chance to visit the old capital of Georgia – Mtskheta, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, located at the confluence of the Aragvi and Kura rivers. The city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In Mtskheta the main interest is Svetitskhoveli Cathedral which had been the focal church in Georgia for a millennium until the new main cathedral was built in Tbilisi. It contains Christian relics from different periods. Opposite the city, across the river and on a mountain, one of the oldest churches in Georgia is located. Founded in the year 545 this remote church is currently a male monastery. From there you can admire the beautiful view of the city as well as the contrast in the colours of the two rivers.
To sum up our project in the Caucasus, whilst the countries remain diverse, there is plenty of potential for further development across the region. It would be nice to witness a more active participation of these countries in the global education market, and likewise to see international higher education providers using the opportunities that the region has to offer. Staff at all three centres strongly advocate the development and promotion of education and academic mobility. All have made substantial legislative changes and are ready to cooperate with global partners. We look forward to engaging more frequently with our counterparts on the global stage, wishing them every success and will continue to support their efforts to collaborate more fully with international partners.
Arseny Kruglov, July 2013