NOKUT voyage from Norway for fact-finding visit to UK


UK NARIC hosts many visitors from around the UK and from around the world in its offices in Cheltenham. But last week we wished that our new training room, recently enlarged in our office refurb, had been made even bigger as we welcomed an unusually large delegation of 18 from our counterpart national recognition agency in Norway, NOKUT.

The photo shows some of the delegation enjoying the floral gardens and period buildings of Regency Cheltenham! Some of the NOKUT fact-finding delegation from Norway in the floral gardens of Cheltenham

NOKUT is conducting a major fact-finding review to inform the next stages in its development. NOKUT’s remit is not only qualification recognition; it also performs the lead quality assurance role for vocational education and for higher education in Norway.

This accounts for the size of the delegation – there were representatives from the different departments and functions of the organisation, and also Board members. The NOKUT Board includes representatives from the education sector and student union representation as well, so all in all the approach is notably collaborative and multi-stakeholder.

The day after meeting us in Cheltenham, the NOKUT delegation travelled to nearby Gloucester to hold conversations with the UK quality assurance agency, the QAA, with a focus on that aspect of NOKUT’s work.

The exchange of ideas was extremely interesting. There are some similarities between NOKUT and UK NARIC – they are both independent, but officially authorised, agencies – but at the same time there are differences of approach. Of course, in our recognition work, the focus is the same, and there was much discussion in this area.

Our meeting in Cheltenham was very fruitful indeed and we look forward to interesting collaborations and joint projects with our Norwegian colleagues at NOKUT!


Reflections: Cuba


2015-03-28 03.12.17 croppedAt the famous Buena Vista Social Club in Havana, where audience participation in the evening’s entertainment is obligatory, the compere asked members of the audience their country of origin. When several US tourists identified themselves, they were mock-jeered, before the compere said “we like everyone here”. This friendly and welcoming attitude towards their traditional adversary was one I encountered on several occasions during my recent visit to Cuba – it certainly didn’t feel like US tourists need hide their nationality for fear of hostile reception.

The improving diplomatic relationship between Cuba and the USA has recently been in the news. In a moment of deep significance, Barack Obama and Raul Castro shook hands at the Summit of the Americas conference and, shortly afterwards, the USA announced it would be removing Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

In this respect, 2015 feels like a watershed moment for Cuba. Are we soon to see free movement between the two countries and a steady flow of American investment and tourists into Cuba? The general impression has been that, once American tourists are free to travel to Cuba, the unique dynamic in the country will be irrevocably altered. So, is 2015 the last chance to visit the ‘old’ Cuba?

My preconception that US citizens weren’t already travelling to Cuba was rapidly dispelled. One night at the Hotel Nacional indicated to me that American tourists are already present in large numbers and accepted.

In terms of travel options, my departure flight to Nassau nestled neatly alongside 5 flights to Miami (3 different airlines) that afternoon. So the transport links are already established and, if the current rapprochement continues, will doubtless proliferate.

In reality, the watershed moment appears to have passed. Raul Castro’s assumption of power in 2006 has led to a sustained series of cautious economic reforms, aimed at decentralisation of decision-making, de-collectivisation, wider use of market prices and expansion of self-employment.

Raul Castro has repeatedly indicated that the current reforms take place within the scope of socialism, but the revolutionary slogans in public areas and on government buildings (e.g. ‘Hasta la victoria siempre’) now feel like vestiges of a fading era. The iconic 50s-era cars prevalent across Havana are now, as often as not, in prime condition and catering for tourists. There were a few examples of battered old cars, clinging onto survival, but these were as likely to be Ladas as they were Chevrolets. The picture changed outside of Havana; however, in general, cars were noticeably healthier than I’d been led to expect.

Cubans can now buy and sell houses and cars, and travel abroad. They can surf the internet, albeit not cheaply. According to the Economist in 2013, farmers can sell almost half their output to the highest bidder, rather than 100% to the state. In the Vinales tobacco growing region, my experience was that cigar making farmers were allowed to retain 10% of their produce for sales to other locals or to tourists. In either case, this has made a substantial difference and the flow of CUC (‘convertible’ pesos, the tourist currency established on a par with the US dollar) into local economies is making a discernible impact upon general living standards. Homestays, for instance, boasted impressive TVs and furniture, although facades continued to crumble, perhaps deliberately to avoid drawing attention to new money.

CUCs are the easiest method for Cubans to supplement their set salaries. The reforms are therefore leading toward the slow and gradual rebirth of the middle class, with restaurants, guesthouses, shops and farmers all becoming small businesses and earning good money from tourism. Income inequality may well become an issue, but unlikely to the extent that made Cuba ripe for revolution in the 1950s.

2015-03-22 02.00.42 croppedThe transitional nature of current Cuban society is perhaps possible to illustrate with reference to clothing. Uniforms – both at schools and for government workers – remain standard issue, and school children still wear the red neckerchiefs characteristic of a communist state. But people are finding ways to express their individualism. For instance, women in governmental jobs (e.g. airport security) seem to compete with each other to see who can wear the most outrageous pairs of tights.

And as you walk around Havana, a noticeable number of locals wear T-Shirts featuring the Union Jack or images of London. “Why?” I asked the tour guide. “It’s a metaphor”, came the reply. “They are expressing a preference for a different way of life, without being overtly subversive by wearing an American-themed shirt. Or maybe it’s a nice design and uses the same colours as the Cuban flag – you decide.”

It is possible to see ‘old’ Cuba, but it’s already disappearing. Time will tell whether the current reform process proceeds after Raul Castro steps down but, for now, it looks as though the pace of change will quicken by the year.

Paul Norris, April 2015


New gateway page to our information bases and new features for our subscriber members go live 18 March


The new International Qualifications Hub page, the new gateway page to the UK NARIC International Qualifications information bases for subscriber members, goes live on 18 March.

Subscriber members will see the new Hub when they log in to access the IQ information bases. The IQ Hub gives a clearer navigation structure and makes it easier to find the different information bases, and switch between them.

A new feature for subscriber members is the Preferences button at the top right of the Hub page. This allows you to toggle on/off the photographs on the country file pages, and the world map on the country/region selector list. This is a useful feature for users who want less scrolling to access the textual information or the selector lists.

You can save your image preferences so that they are maintained from session to session.  You can change your image preferences at any time.

The Hub also offers the new feature of UK NARIC News Alerts – on the right hand side of the Hub page. This gives you the very latest updates and revisions to the information bases. Clicking through to the Latest Updates will give you all recent updates and revisions in full.

Our third new feature on the Hub is the World News Feed – below the UK NARIC News Alerts. This is your early warning service, featuring media reports and announcements of changes – new, very recent or pending – in education systems or qualifications around the world. Clicking through the links takes you to the reports in full – useful early information and awareness on changes coming through. Clicking on News Feed Updates will give you all the World News Feed stories.


ENIC/NARIC network information


Originally posted on CHARONA II:

While examining the responses received from the survey, the CHARONA II project team noticed that many of our stakeholders were interested to learn more about ENIC/NARICs. As a response, here is some useful information regarding the ENIC/NARIC network:

Many (but not all) countries have a recognition centre that is known as an ENIC (European Network of Information Centres) or NARIC (National Academic Recognition Information Centre). The ENIC/NARIC centres provide a wide range of services including (but not limited to) the recognition of academic and professional qualifications.

The ENIC Network was established in order to implement the Lisbon Recognition Convention and develop policy and practice for the recognition of qualifications. The exact services provided by each recognition centre vary, but they all generally participate in the recognition of foreign diplomas, degrees, and other qualifications. They also provide information on their national education and international education systems.

The NARIC network was created…

View original 71 more words


Oil price drop fallout could hit UK universities


crane-494257_1280In recent years, UK universities have been able to rely upon a generously funded recruitment well – students backed by government-funded scholarships in oil producing countries, underwritten by 100 dollar a barrel revenues. But the oil price collapse to 60 dollars a barrel may mean this is a stream that is set to run dry. HEFCE data published this week shows that in 2013, Iraq rose to become the third largest contributing country for postgraduate research students in the UK, with 610 entrants, almost double the 2012 intake. Libya rose by 37 per cent to 245 entrants. Increases in government sponsorships account for most of the growth. Deutsche Bank and IMF figures quoted by the BBC show Libya requiring an oil price of 184 dollars a barrel to balance their national budget. Iraq requires 101 dollars a barrel. An oil price recovery to 100 dollar a barrel levels is unlikely inside 5 years, say analysts, with US shale oil producers pumping 4 million barrels a day into the market, and Saudi Arabia unwilling to support cuts in Middle East production. Many consequences are emerging from the oil price drop. It is possible that some of the effects could extend to UK HE. — UK NARIC will be presenting data and analysis on new and alternative prospective markets for student recruitment at our Emerging International Markets seminar event in London on March 13.


UK NARIC Statements of Comparability and English Language Assessment can help with UK Visa and British citizenship applications


UK NARIC has been receiving a lot of enquiries recently about UK Visas and British citizenship.

We cannot advise on exact requirements for visa and citizenship applications – and you cannot apply for a Visa through UK NARIC – but our services can help you with your application.

Our Statement of Comparability can help you evidence the level of your international qualifications.

Our English Language Assessment can help you evidence your level of English.

If you have a qualification comparable to British Bachelor level that has been taught in English then UK NARIC can check and verify that you have level C1 English in the Common European Framework.

We may also be able to check and verify for lower levels of English if you do not need level C1.

Check the UK Home office web pages on visas and immigration for full information on UK Visas and citizenship.


Graduate recruitment best practice


The Graduate Market in 2014, a study of graduate vacancies at the country’s leading employers, has highlighted that employers are increasing their graduate intake by nearly 10% in 2014. Despite a dip in recent years, firms such as investment banks, law firms and the public sector are likely to see a sharp increment in applicant’s this year; holding both domestic and international qualifications.

Each recruiter has their own requirements, with a 2:1 and ABB frequently being required at bachelor and A levels respectively. This is obviously simple to regulate when an applicant has qualifications awarded within the UK, but how do employers ensure that these benchmarks are consistent across all applicants – how do they guarantee that applicants educated in countries such as Nigeria, India and China are held to a comparable standard?

UK NARIC has seen a sharp increase in communication with graduate employers over the last 12 months. The majority of our conversations have been with HR Managers hoping to ensure that they are providing a consistent message to all applicants; aiming to stand behind UK NARIC information when decisions are questioned by the applicant.

As a result of this the International Grade Comparisons database was developed in 2013. Recruiters have been able to ensure consistency in grade equivalences from over 40 key feeder countries to the UK, with further consultation ensuring that an additional 20 countries will be added to the database in 2014.

The next step has been for recruiters to ask UK NARIC for help in streamlining their application systems; by providing data to support the application procedure recruiters have been able to ensure that applicants were signposted to appropriate jobs and the selection process has been made more efficient in terms of reduced unsuitable applicants.

We’d be interested to hear from any graduate recruiters in the hope of further discussing challenges, such as what has been mentioned above, as we continue to work towards providing information which is relevant and useful to all sectors. Please do get in contact (communications@naric.org.uk) should you have any thoughts, suggestions or questions about the above information or UK NARIC as a whole.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,846 other followers