UK NARIC’s Visas and Nationality Service launches on 6 April


Arrivals

In early March 2016, the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) section of the Home Office announced that the online Points Based System (PBS) Calculator was being turned off on 5 April 2016.

The online calculator enabled immigration applicants to self-assess their qualifications and English language level, and print out the calculator results, in advance of submitting their application to UKVI.

From 6 April onwards, those wishing to use qualifications to satisfy the immigration attribute requirements and/or English language proficiency requirements will no longer be able to use print-outs from the PBS calculator to support their applications. They will need to apply to UK NARIC VisasAndNationality (www.naric.org.uk/VisasAndNationality).

UK NARIC VisasAndNationality is the new designated service supporting individuals applying for UK visas or for settlement in the UK, provided on behalf of the Home Office.

A new online application system has been specifically developed and will provide official UK NARIC VisasAndNationality statements, custom-designed for immigration purposes. These statements confirm your academic qualification level and/or English language proficiency – as appropriate for your personal circumstances and immigration route. The new security-enhanced statements present clearly all the key information required by Home Office UKVI immigration case workers.

How will the new service work?

The new VisasAndNationality web application process asks you all the relevant questions and keeps you on the right route to help ensure you get the correct paperwork to support your immigration application. Online messaging allows you to contact the dedicated VisasAndNationality help team at any stage in your application.

Which immigration routes will the new service support?

The VisasAndNationality service supports applications made through the following PBS routes: 

  • Tier 1 Entrepreneur
  • Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur
  • Tier 2 General
  • Tier 2 Ministry of Religion
  • Tier 2 Sportsperson
  • Representative of an Overseas Business visa

The service also supports family, settlement and citizenship/nationality applications.

Other visa routes do not require UK NARIC VisasAndNationality documentation as supporting evidence.  Please visit the UK Visa & Immigration website to check the particular requirements for each of the immigration routes.

If you have questions about the Immigration Rules or about your particular circumstances in relation to them, you should contact UKVI direct.

How quick will the service be?

The VisasAndNationality service offers a faster 10 day turnround time – quicker than current UK NARIC statement services which work to 15 day timeframes.

A range of delivery options are available, including next working day and, for international deliveries, fast and secure courier by DHL (delivery is charged extra, according to the option you choose).

How much will it cost?

To streamline the service and to make it as simple and efficient as possible, we offer a simple one price structure – you pay one price for your application and for your use of the service – the price is the same regardless of the number and type of statements produced. You pay per service use, not per statement.

You can submit multiple qualifications at the time of application. Again, you pay per application, not per qualification.

The price for an individual application is £125 + VAT.

For immigration advisers, solicitors and other organisations looking to process multiple applications, we offer a corporate bundle service.

How do I apply and what do I need to send?

You need to register and complete your application online.

You can also apply by post. We will need paper photocopies (not originals) of all your documents (detailed below) and a letter giving your contact details and the purpose of your enquiry.

If you apply online, you can upload scanned files. If you apply by post, send photocopies. Do NOT send original certificates or documents.

We need the following from you:

  • A photocopy or scanned version of your certificate(s) together with final transcript(s) in the original language
  • A photocopy or scanned version of a certified translation in English
  • Evidence of the medium of instruction of your degree (in the form of an official letter from the university or institution) OR a photocopy or scanned version of your English test certificate(s).

Where can I get more information?

UK NARIC is not able to help with questions about migration to the UK; please contact UK Visas & Immigration (part of the Home Office) to find out more about the UK’s immigration system; you can contact UKVI direct.

For more information about UK NARIC’s VisasAndNationality service please visit the website www.naric.org.uk/VisasAndNationality or email visas@naric.org.uk


Benchmarking the Advanced Programme: English


This article was first published on the ECCTIS Blog

The Independent Examinations Board in South Africa has recently added the Advanced Programme: English to their suite of qualifications.  The IEB conducted a pilot study of the AP: English in 2011, with the national roll-out being launched in 2012.  The AP: English is a new qualification offered by the IEB in addition to the National Senior Certificate, intended to provide the opportunity for students to study English in further depth and increase the number of students following programmes including English at tertiary level.  It followed the launch of the then newly developed National Senior Certificate and AP: Mathematics in 2010.

Following the benchmarking study undertaken in 2010, which examined the NSC and AP: Mathematics, this study sought to benchmark the AP: English against UK qualifications.  It confirmed that the AP: English can be considered comparable to GCE Advanced level standard.

Exemplar GCE A level programmes were used to assist with the benchmarking study.  The majority of the core components of the GCE A level programmes were also covered by the AP: English, although some differences were observed in the entry requirements and the content of the programmes.  However, these differences were deemed to be due to cultural differences between the two systems rather than an indication of disparities in academic level.  There were clear links between assessment standards and objectives, as well as the depth and breadth of the programmes in providing the skills required for tertiary study. This resulted in the following comparable level:

Independent Examinations Board Programme Comparability
Advanced Programme English Is considered comparable to GCE A level standard

Further information on the IEB AP: English can be found on the IEB website.  For information on the project work undertaken, please contact mailto:projects@naric.org.uk.

 


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.


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


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 www.naric.org.uk to find out more.

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


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.


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