Best practice in graduate recruitment


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.


Reflections: Libya


LibyaIn 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’[1]. 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.


[1] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/activityandadventure/8167751/Leptis-Magna-Libya-Rome-by-the-sea.html


Reflections: Bosnia and Herzegovina


Mostar (2)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


Reflections: Namibia


Church NamibiaUK 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


Update on Application Trends


The trends highlighted by UK NARIC last year seem to be continuing.

The latest figures from UK NARIC and UK NCP confirm that the trend for increased mobility of citizens from Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece and that the UK is experiencing an increase in the number of people expressing an interest in coming to the UK to work, practice or study.

UK NARIC Assessments
Country 2009 assmts 2009 rank 2010 assmts 2010 rank 2011 assmts 2011 rank 2012 assmts 2012 rank
Greece 118 46th 148 42nd 146 41st 305 29th
Italy 539 17th 593 18th 647 14th 785 11th
Portugal 210 36th 192 35th 225 34th 361 24th
Spain 541 16th 683 16th 766 12th 1305 6th
UK NCP Enquiries
Country 2009 enqs % of total 2010 enqs % of total 2011 enqs % of total 2012 enqs % of total
Greece  NA  NA 17 3.1% 8 2.9% 36 4.0%
Italy  NA  NA 42 8.6% 46 7.8% 82 10.0%
Portugal  NA  NA 15 3.5% 17 1.4% 33 4.4%
Spain  NA  NA 50 10.2% 81 13.7% 200 24.5%

Figures for 2009 for UK NCP are unavailable.

The data from UK NARIC and UK NCP show that there have been significant increases in assessments and enquiries:

Increases
Country UK NARIC% change2009 – 12 UK NCP% change2010 – 12
Greece + 158% + 112%
Italy + 45% + 95%
Portugal + 72% + 120%
Spain + 141% + 300%

The increases experienced by these countries far outstrips the performance of any other countries in the region.

Based on figures from 2009, 2010 and 2011 we have been able to model the demand for UK NARIC assessments in 2013.  The figures below are based on real application figures for the first quarter of 2013:

UK NARIC Assessments
Country Jan 2013 Feb 2013 Mar 2013 Total 2013 Total Projected 2013 Projected v 2012 Real
Greece 37 21 29 87 320 105%
Italy 102 84 95 281 1033 132%
Portugal 27 55 52 134 493 137%
Spain 157 138 191 486 1787 137%

Conclusions

Data from UK NARIC and UK NCP shows that there has been a considerable increase in the number of assessments and enquiries from Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain.  While this data does not definitely mean that the individuals submitting these requests do actually come to the UK to work, study or practice, there is a definite link between them.

The increases from Spain and Greece have been particularly noticeable and these may well be linked to the economic difficulties that these countries have been experiencing.

Whatever the reason, it does mean that employers, universities, colleges and professional bodies have a wider pool of highly qualified and highly talented individuals available to choose from.

 

Tim Buttress, June 2013


UK NARIC helping with Tier 4 Highly Trusted Sponsor Compliance


Universities and colleges across the country need to comply with strict guidelines to bring students from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) to study in the UK.  There have been high profile suspensions of universities and colleges which have failed to comply with these guidelines resulting in significant damage to the reputation of the institution as well as having a meaningful effect on revenues.

There are no hard and fast rules on how education providers can ensure they can keep their Highly Trusted Sponsor (HTS) status, but it is apparent that demonstrating good practice in the recruitment of international students is an important step in the right direction.

Working with institutions and the Home Office UK NARIC has been able to identify the following areas as being important steps in being able to help institutions keep or achieve HTS and thereby achieve compliance.

Compliance is the Key

In order to bring students to the UK from outside the EEA universities and colleges need to have HTS status.  HTS is something that is “given” to education providers by the Home Office.  Having, and keeping, HTS is the main aim of all education institutions that engage in the recruitment of international students.

The best way to gain and maintain HTS is to be compliant with the Home Office’s sponsor requirements.

There are numerous criteria to which institutions have to comply and we feel that it is useful to highlight four areas:

  • Adopting best practice
  • Ability to follow a course
  • Counter fraud
  • English Language Proficiency

Adopting best practice

Education providers in the UK need to clearly demonstrate that they are using tried and tested processes to identify and evaluate potential students from outside the EEA.  The Home Office are not going to tell higher education institutions or colleges how they should market themselves or whether they are over-estimating the abilities of an individual; but they do want to see that there are policies and procedures and that the institution is following good practice.

Policies and Procedures

When it comes to evaluating applicants from outside the EEA institutions need to show that they are being consistent.  Universities and colleges need to be able to demonstrate that they have a system in place.  Using UK NARIC’s data is one way of doing this.  All UK NARIC’s members are entitled to a “Membership Certificate”.  This does not mean that UK NARIC accredits the institution (if you become aware of any institution claiming to be accredited by UK NARIC please let us know!), it simply confirms that the institutions is a member of UK NARIC and therefore has access to our data and services.  The Membership Certificate clearly shows that the institution is using “an independent authority” to help them evaluate the qualifications of international applicants.  If you are a member of UK NARIC and you would like to order a Membership Certificate please contact your Account Manager.

There are a number of other criteria that can be used to demonstrate good practice and we could fit many blog articles with them.  However, it is worth highlighting a couple more:

Staff development: Make sure that relevant staff are kept up-to-date with the latest developments in education internationally.  This can be done through Newsletters; there are a number of relevant newsletters available (QAA, UUK’s International Unit, AUA, UK NARIC).  Additionally, staff could attend training courses and conferences.  UK NARIC runs a number of professional development courses that have been designed for this purpose; additionally UCAS, UKCISA and many other organisations run courses and conferences throughout the year.  Finally, it is important to keep up-to-date with immigration policy; UK NARIC is now running events that are specifically design to help higher education professionals to do this.

Admissions Policy: An Admissions Policy should set out the way in which an institution evaluates applicants.  It should be readily available and it should provide information on the sources of information staff should use to make decisions.  Which sources of information does your institution use: internal databases? UK NARIC? Any other sources?  These should all be listed.  Additionally, if your institution has particular policies on an institution, country or region this should be detailed in the Policy.  The Policy should cover how you deal with Agents and what relationship you have with Agents.

Ability to follow a course

Under Tier 4 institutions should only issue a CAS once they are satisfied that a student both intends and is able to follow the course of study concerned.

The key point here is being able to assess an individual’s ability.

This can be done through the applicant’s previous qualifications, their performance in an admissions test or through interview.  If an institution is using previous qualifications to assess an applicant’s suitability, then they need to “confirm any qualifications the student already has which make them suitable for the course” on the CAS, i.e. use UK NARIC’s data.

Assessing a student’s suitability is very important.  It is the way in which institutions can be sure they have a committed student; but how can institutions be sure that the qualifications are genuine?

Counter fraud

We have covered education fraud in another article in this blog, and it is important that higher and further education institutions develop systems and processes to combat education fraud (in fact it should be covered in the Admissions Policy!).

The Home Office’s view on fraud is:

“We would encourage Sponsors to take all reasonable steps to verify the authenticity of a document; it is in the Sponsor’s interests to do so

Rooting out the non bona fide applications before issuing a CAS would save them from paying a CAS fee for a student who won’t enter the UK.

If an institution repeatedly sponsors applicants with non bona fide documents it may affect their Sponsor rating and could ultimately lead to their removal from the register.”

Therefore, it is vitally important that institutions wishing to gain or maintain HTS have a way of finding out whether a qualification is bogus.  Members of UK NARIC are able to use the Counter Fraud Service which will provide members with the knowledge needed to be able to make better judgments about whether a qualification is legitimate.  There is also the Degrees of Deception publication and a training course.

English Language Proficiency

There have been examples of when students have used bogus English language qualifications to enter the UK. The Home Office has established criteria for those wishing to study in the UK. There are a number of different ways in which applicants can show that they meet the different levels that have been specified, please refer to the Tier 4 guidance policy.

Tim Buttress, June 2013


Keep up-to-date with combating education fraud


Education fraud is once again a hot topic:

  • In Saudi Arabia the Arab News reported that the Saudi Council of Engineers (SCE) have so far discovered 1,050 engineers who were practicing despite not holding genuine qualifications.  These engineers were nationals of 20 different countries.
  • In India, police recently arrested two immigration agents following a tip off that they were producing fraudulent degrees and travel documents.  The leaders of the gang have supposedly absconded.
  • A political scandal has erupted in Malaysia after five election candidates were accused of having purchased their university qualifications.  Some of the candidates claimed to have been awarded degrees by institutions which have been exposed as diploma mills.
  • In Pakistan 54 MPs were found to have fraudulent qualifications; some were classified as fake while others were considered invalid as, although the MPs had graduated from the programme listed, they did not have the intermediate certificates required to enter the course.

In order to equip university admissions officers and employers with essential knowledge on fraud in education, UK NARIC offers the training session Degrees of Deception: Combating Education Fraud. This practical course covers the varying types of education fraud and the features to look out for on genuine and fraudulent documents. Session are held throughout the year, to book a place on this popular and informative course, please complete the training booking form or contact your Account Manager.


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