UK NARIC launches new On-site Support and Training days

UK NARIC has launched a new training service – On-site Support, delivering tailored training and hands-on support to teams and small groups of staff at their own offices. Our new service was launched in Wales, with the first subscriber member requesting a support day being Swansea University.Singleton Abbey The training was delivered at the beautiful Singleton Abbey (pictured) on Swansea’s campus. 20 staff from Swansea’s undergrad admissions, postgrad admissions and marketing teams took part in a tailored day that included Tier 4 compliance and ensuring best practice in counterfraud measures. Feedback was positive:

“Pleasant, easy going instructors delivering at a level that was easy to understand”

“Examples of actual documents were helpful”

“Tier 4 Compliance – importance of recording and keeping records of evidence of qualifications and any guidance notes relating to them”

“Be vigilant when checking applications”

On-site support days can be completely tailored and customised to suit particular needs. A series of ‘Fast Modules’ on core topics has been developed which serve as building blocks for a day’s programme, but these can be also be flexed and tailored to suit requirements. For information on UK NARIC’s training solutions or updates on our latest schedule of half day workshops and full day seminars, go to our website.

Fraud: a growing problem in education, and how to guard against it

‘I didn’t know fraud was so common, so widespread’ – that’s the comment UK NARIC hears again and again from the university and college staff who attend its fraud workshops and seminars.

UK NARIC has been running its fraud training for over eight years – so we have trained a lot of staff from HE institutions. And in that time, we have had to develop the training year-on-year, because fraud has definitely become more common, and the fraudulent techniques adopted have become more elaborate.

The rise in numbers of international applications has increased the challenge for admissions staff – there are more applications to be sifted and checked, and from a greater variety of places, so staff have to learn and become familiar with an ever-wider array of qualification certificates and ID documents.

UK universities and colleges are in an uncomfortable position at the immigration front line. Due diligence on applications has to be completed, and the evidence and audit trails all have to be there, to justify decisions taken and to demonstrate to the Home Office auditors that robust systems are in place.

Establishing with certainty the identity of an applicant is first base. Fake ID documents are a growing problem, but so too are genuine documents obtained illegally. Check across all documents supplied looking for discrepancies in the name and in age/date of birth. Any changes in name, eg due to marriage, should of course be supported by the necessary further documents – marriage certificates etc.

Be aware that there is a growing trade in fake EU passports – a popular choice as these give entry to any EU country without a visa. You will need to learn passport security features and check that documents have all of these. Some inexpensive equipment will help – most security features can be checked with a magnifying glass and a black light (UV-A lamp).

Social media can be a useful help to you. Check on a person’s ‘web imprint’. Do their Facebook posts match their claimed age and educational history? Do locations match – during their claimed years of study, have they been posting online from the university town you would expect? Facebook and other social media image uploads can also help with checking passport photos.

This certificate was submitted to UK NARIC. Is it real, or a fake? Applying the simple checks given provides the answer. Some fake certificates are easy to detect, others are more difficult.

This certificate was submitted to UK NARIC. Is it real, or a fake? Applying the simple checks given provides the answer. Some fake certificates are easy to detect, others are more difficult.

When it comes to qualifications, the first challenge is to check that the issuing institution is fully recognised. With such high numbers of applications coming from India and China, you may well encounter certificates from an unrecognised institution – there are many of them in these huge countries. Those of you who are subscriber members of UK NARIC will know that you can access full listings of recognised institutions in each country using our online data banks.

The next stage is to check if the certificate is genuine. If you are receiving a good number of international applications, you can and should build a library of certificates over time, to act as a live reference base against which incoming certificates can be compared.

Check certificates for all the obvious things first – all spelling should be correct; check all alignment – are type and graphics all properly centred and is everything straight? Check that dates are rendered correctly and that they make sense in terms of the qualification. A more advanced level of checking would be to examine the signatures on the degree certificate – not only that the signature matches the genuine signature for the person named, but also that the Vice Chancellor or Principal named is correct in terms of the date of issue of the document.

Print quality is not always a good guide to genuineness. Some recognised and well-established institutions in developing countries issue degree certificates that are not especially ‘well printed’. But type and graphical alignment will still be accurate.

UK NARIC would always advise that you do not rely on the degree certificate alone, but that you also obtain a transcript. This gives you further information to check against – module marks can be checked against the final degree classification; award titles should tally; course duration can be checked against the standards and norms for the country. If you cannot obtain a transcript from the applicant then you can request one direct from the institution.
A good general knowledge of countries’ education systems is a useful asset for anyone doing these sorts of checks. UK NARIC offers advice and support to universities and colleges in all these areas – visit to find out more.

Steve Miller, May 2015 This post was originally published on The PIE News Blog.

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.


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