The factors and criteria involved in graduate recruitment: A Russian case study


This article first appeared on the ECCTIS blog

How important are higher education degree marks in Russian graduate job searches? Do employers look at and consider GPAs? The question is quite complicated and has no clear answer.

Of course, there is no unique methodology or official guidance on how to recruit, or which criteria should be considered. Therefore, every employer has the right to set their own criteria and rules for the review of applications for vacancies. After all, is something like this not happening in many countries around the world?

So why is the situation in Russia more complicated than in other countries?

The first complication is the lack of a GPA on the final diploma. Individual subjects are listed, but if employer wishes to identify the average score, they need to calculate it themselves. This is more common with foreign recruiters who are used to operating with this indicator during the initial stage of selection process.

However, Russian employers are unlikely to bother with this calculation, deeming it unnecessary. Traditionally, simply having a diploma is a sufficient factor for initial screening. Until recently, it was fashionable for employers to ask for a degree for any job, even for the post of a cleaner. But when competitiveness started to increase and Russian enterprises and companies with foreign capital became more careful with recruiting processes, HR departments began to pay more attention to other factors: degree specialisation, the list of subjects the student passed during the course and, finally, marks in individual subject areas, as well as the topics of the completed thesis and coursework. This information can be found on the transcript.

In Russia, there are two types of diplomas at each level of higher education, so-called “blue” and “red”. They are called so because of the colour of the documents. “Red” diplomas refer to honours degrees (there will be specific reference to ‘honours’ on the document). Unlike in the UK, this does not mean that a person studied more advanced course, rather that the student has obtained a very high average grade. In order to obtain a “red” diploma, a student must not get any “satisfactory” marks during the entire study period, and the total percentage of “excellent” marks must not be less than 75% within the designated timeframe. Also marks for the thesis and the state exam must be “excellent”.

“Blue” diplomas are issued for all other students who have successfully completed the course. Several factors should be taken into account. Firstly, there is no further distinction. So it is not known (without a thorough study of the transcript), what percentage of “excellent” marks a person with a “red” diploma has obtained, or how successfully a “blue” diploma holder completed the course (after all, if they obtain only satisfactory grades, they will still receive the document). Secondly, it is important to note that during the period of study a substantial number of students drop out. For instance, completion figures of students who entered bachelor level in 2007 demonstrate a rate of attrition of about 30% (data based on the responses received from Russian HEIs in December 2012). Traditionally, technical and medical courses are most demanding, so tend to incur the highest drop-out rates.

The difference in the status and prestige of the university is another aspect. In Russia there is an implicit ranking of universities, and many employers take into consideration the type of institution from which an applicant graduated. Undoubtedly, a graduate from Moscow State University or from Moscow State Institute of International Relations will be prioritised over a graduate from a regional institute. There are rankings, compiled by various organisations, which can also be used in this case. Late last year, the Russian Ministry of Education conducted an audit of both public and private institutions. As a result, some educational establishments are being either reorganised or simply closed. This factor can also be considered when screening job applications.

It should also be remembered that the majority of graduates from higher education institutions are not working in the specialism in which they trained. In this case, a diploma simply confirms that a person is able to think and work independently. Recently, some prestigious companies started to require graduates to be qualified in relevant disciplines, especially when it comes to specialised industries.

Responsible students have always tried to gain work experience while studying at the university. Employers frequently request work experience, so the placements are an important differentiator. However, whilst students used to take on placements during the last two years of education, the trend now is that many try to find something suitable as early as the second year.

The twin problems of corruption and diploma mills, against which there has been a long fight, do not always make it possible to blindly trust the marks on the diploma. No-one can say with absolute certainty whether a student has earned themselves the mark. In this regard, it makes sense to test an applicant, or check their knowledge and skills through interview.

For these reasons, Russian employers must consider a whole set of factors. Evaluation of graduates is often a subjective process, rather than one involving a set of easily applicable thresholds.

April 2013

UK NARIC compare marks achieved across the world to A-level and Bachelor degree grades obtained in England. For more information, please see International Grade Comparisons.


Technical and Vocational Education and Training in Turkey – Part 1


This article was first published on the ECCTIS blog

Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) is a hot topic in Turkey. As the local and global economies increase in competitiveness, the need for a labour force equipped with appropriate, quality-assured qualifications to meet the demands of the business environment also increases. The Turkish Ministry of National Education and Council of Higher Education (the bodies responsible for TVET in Turkey) are only too aware of this, and between 2003 and 2012 have invested over €9billion in developing the sector. This year alone, the Ministry of National Education is anticipated to allocate 37% of its total investment budget directly into the TVET sector. Resulting from this continual and substantial investment has been the development of an established and wide-reaching TVET system which delivers education and training in more than 130 occupations.

Much of the development of the TVET sector in Turkey has been attributed to the successful cooperation between educational institutions, schools and the social partners, which has ultimately eased the transition of TVET students from the institution to the work place. No wonder, then, that as part of their continuing work to enhance mobility through improved recognition and understanding of qualifications, the ECCTIS Ltd Research & Consultancy Team want to learn more.

Consequently, they are participating in a Study Visit to the Turkish province of Mersin at the end of May (funding provided under the Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Commission). The premise of the visit is to explore themes around the valuable contribution of partnerships to education, and will be attended by a range of stakeholders from across Europe including the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Romania and the UK. During the week-long visit, participants will learn about the Turkish TVET system, initiatives of the local authority to promote and help improve TVET in the province, and examples of good practice in cooperation between institutions and social partners. Of particular relevance to the work of Research & Consultancy will be learning about the ways in which partnerships between government, private institutions and social partners have aided the recognition of TVET qualifications in Turkey, and how this has this helped increase the uptake of qualifications by students and the appreciation of qualifications by employers and industry.

With so many stakeholders attending from across Europe, the study visit is bound to be both interesting and insightful. Watch this space for reflections on the visit!

May 2013

*Disclaimer: The content of this publication is the sole responsibility for the publisher and the European Commission is not liable for any use that may be made of the information.


The Diploma Supplement and the Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR)


This article was first published on the ECCTIS Blog

At the Berlin Ministerial meeting in 2003, the UK and the other Bologna signatory countries committed themselves to the introduction of the Diploma Supplement. The agreed objective was that the Diploma Supplement should be issued automatically and free of charge to every student graduating from 2005.

In the UK, in 2013, this target has yet to be achieved, but what is the current situation with Diploma Supplement implementation and why has it proven so difficult to achieve?

The UK National Europass Centre (UK NEC) has a particular interest in the Diploma Supplement, because it is responsible for promoting the Diploma Supplement in the UK as one of the five documents that comprise the Europass Portfolio.

The Diploma Supplement: Background and status of implementation

The Diploma Supplement was designed jointly by the European Commission, the Council of Europe, and UNESO/CEPES and derives from a pilot programme that ran from 1996-1998. It is issued to students by Higher Education Institutions on the successful completion of a qualification. It provides information about the qualification, institution and qualification framework to aid recognition by credential evaluators, admissions officers, employers, individuals, etc.

The results of the 2011 UK Higher Education International Unit European Activity Survey of UK HEIs indicates that, of the 70 institutions that responded to the survey, 79% currently issue the Diploma Supplement. Of these, 82% use the standard European format; 73% issue them automatically.

One reason why the Diploma Supplement has not been ubiquitously implemented across the UK Higher Education Sector is because of the existence of the Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR).

The HEAR

The HEAR is specific to the UK and is the product of the Burgess Implementation Steering Group. It derives from a 2007 report Beyond the Honours Degree Classification. The HEAR is a concise, electronic document produced by a higher education institutions (HEIs), which provides a record of a student’s achievement during their time in higher education.

The HEAR conforms to the data fields for the European Diploma Supplement template, but it differs from the Diploma Supplement in a number of ways, including:

  • It is an electronic rather than paper document.
  • The title of the document (HEAR Diploma Supplement).
  • It is an on-going record that is updated throughout the student’s career with the institution (although the HEAR Diploma Supplement is the exit document issued on completion of the qualification). It can be accessed by the student at any time.
  • It contains information about the student’s non-academic achievement that can be verified and validated by the institution.

The relationship between the Diploma Supplement and the HEAR

The Diploma Supplement template and the guidelines governing its completion are inflexible. This is because the document is jointly owned by the European Commission, Council of Europe and UNESCO-CEPES.

Higher education institutions have the option to apply for the Diploma Supplement Label – a quality label which requires applicants to follow stringent guidelines to ensure consistency in the content and format of the document.

Because of the differences between the Diploma Supplement and HEAR, there has historically been uncertainty as to whether the HEAR complies with the Diploma Supplement template, and whether it meets the Diploma Supplement Label requirements. Some HEIs have, understandably, been reluctant to introduce either document until the issue is resolved.

In October 2012, the Burgess Implementation Steering Group published their final report entitled Bringing It All Together: Introducing the HEAR. The report proposed that higher education representative bodies commend the HEAR to be adopted sector-wide for students entering education in the academic year 2012-2013 (Universities UK and GuildHE have subsequently commended the HEAR to the sector).

Concurrently, clarification was sought from the European Commission as to whether the HEAR DS could meet the Diploma Supplement label requirements. The European Commission’s response was that they had no issue with the title of the document, or its electronic nature, and raised no objection to the inclusion of additional information so long as “it can provide genuine added value in a national context”.

Conclusions

The European Commission’s indication that the HEAR Diploma Supplement can meet the requirement for the Diploma Supplement Label has opened the door to a common UK position for the implementation of the Diploma Supplement.

These developments are a significant step towards widespread adoption of the HEAR Diploma Supplement across the sector. Indications from the Burgess Implementation Steering Group are that over 100 HEIs have already signed up to issue it.

The UK NEC will be paying close attention to future developments in this area, and is particularly interested in whether any of those institutions issuing the HEAR will apply for the Diploma Supplement label and test the question of what non-academic additional information the European Commission considers provides genuine added value to the document?


Technical and Vocational Education and Training in Turkey – Part 2


This article was first publish on the ECCTIS blog

Like many other countries in the world, aspects of public perception towards technical and vocational education and training (TVET) in Turkey need to be addressed. In Turkey, public perception of a quality education still favours the academic route and an understanding persists that students who opt for vocational education are less able. The approach to resolving this perceived disparity between the two educational routes has been to focus on promoting TVET through real-life examples of best practice and has resulted in the prejudice against vocational education slowly being broken down, and its reputation as a viable, valuable option for young learners gaining strength.

At the end of May the Research & Consultancy team participated in an EU-funded study visit* to the Turkish province of Mersin, where the impact of this approach was really experienced first-hand. The programme consisted of discussions and meetings with key stakeholders in the TVET sector, providing an opportunity to share experiences and perspectives on best practice in Turkey and more widely in Europe. In theory the purpose of the visit was to explore issues around the valuable contribution that partnerships can make to TVET, but in practice it explored the broader issues of competency-based and modular TVET curricula, teacher training for TVET teachers, Lifelong Learning, the importance of the Vocational Qualifications Authority, developing TVET in compliance with the European Qualifications Framework (EQF), working towards a system of credit transfer (ECVET), and raising awareness and ownership of TVET. Specific to Turkey, three interesting aspects emerged as a result of the study visit:

  1. The sheer amount of investment in education in Mersin

The education system in Mersin benefits from investment from all directions, both public and private, and government departments and educational institutions use this in order to deal with lack of funding and financial reserves. The private sector takes its social responsibility towards the future population and education very seriously, and companies and businessmen invest in schools and school buildings. The government stimulates these investments by giving tax reductions. In turn, schools are experienced in representing themselves to the community in order to secure and maintain funds.

  1. The centralised nature of investment in education

Interestingly much of the government investment in education seems to be controlled by central rather than regional government. This means that the regional education directorates have little autonomy in the allocation of funds to specific areas of education, and as such development in the sector follows the national agenda.

  1. The selectivity of students within the TVET sector

An aspect of the TVET sector in Mersin that varied significantly from the UK system was that the schools visited as part of the programme remained highly selective in nature. The TVET sector in the UK has been designed to widen participation in education to those less able or interested in an academic education. However the study visit revealed that TVET schools and colleges in Turkey remain highly selective in their recruitment practices and thereby ensure that they select only the brightest and most capable students. Although this is beneficial for the schools, it may be that students who might have once needed this route into education are now being denied it due to competition for places.

More commonly across all the participant countries (including Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Romania and the UK) it was recognised that the employability of students when they exit the education system is an area that requires attention in order to ensure they have the relevant skills and competencies to enter the workforce. Key observations were:

  • Lithuania has a well-developed approach to enabling university students to be work ready. There is open dialogue between students and local employers, facilitated by universities and enabling students to know what is required of them to increase their chances of employability. This helps students in several ways, including the ability to tailor their specific courses according to local business needs, the ability to build relationships with businesses, and developing thesis topics which are relevant and contribute to real business situations.
  • Poland has identified that there are two streams of work-enabling education – vocational and higher. In vocational education there is a lack of skilled trainers to develop young people’s employability skills and in higher education students are not work ready. They are currently pursuing a two strand strategy to improve higher education student work-readiness by firstly focusing on skills required by the market and secondly focusing on universities developing research knowledge.
  • Finland has noted an increase in the number of unemployed graduates, attributed to a lack of employment skills. Although Finnish education policy is reducing budget allocation to Polytechnics (seen as a continuation of vocational training) the universities are not capturing the students unable to obtain places at Polytechnics. Competence based training, or learning in the workplace are both popular for vocational training in Finland.
  • In the UK it is recognised by businesses that most graduates are not work ready and lack basic employment skills. To overcome this, a number of universities are developing programmes to enhance their students’ employability through enhancing professionalism, reflection and critical learning, lifelong learning, communication, and teamwork skills. In such programmes students engage with employers throughout their awards, either through a range of work related opportunities such as projects, assessments, visiting speakers or work opportunities. Academics are encouraged to build networks with employers and to undertake research or consultancy work where appropriate.

These observations indicated similar approaches adopted by the participating countries in cooperation between education institutions and key stakeholders and an appreciation of the importance of close cooperation as the best way to maximise resources and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the education system.

Participation in the study visit was an enlightening experience and highlighted current issues in education systems across Europe. Having explored the theory of partnerships in education, the Research & Consultancy Team is now hoping to continue putting this into practice by realising future partnerships in education. In line with UK NARIC, ECCTIS Ltd’s purpose to facilitate mobility, such partnerships will centre on easing transitions for students both across and within education systems.

June 2013