UK NARIC and English language for immigration purposes


English LanguageUnder the immigration rules, there are five ways to prove that you meet the English language proficiency requirements:

  • being a citizen of a majority English language speaking country
  • having passed a Secure English Language Test (SELT) at the appropriate level
  • having an academic qualification that was taught in English and is recognised by UK NARIC as being equivalent to a UK Bachelor’s degree, Masters degree or PhD
  • having met the requirement in a previous grant of leave
  • or special arrangements during a transition period.

In order to satisfy the third of these requirements there are two aspects that UK NARIC has to look at:

  • is the qualification at least Bachelor level?
  • was it taught in English?

For immigration purposes the first part is relatively easy for UK NARIC to determine; all you need to send are copies of your degree certificate, transcript and diploma supplement (and translations of these documents, if they are not in English). This will enable us to do a comparison of your qualification.

The second aspect is slightly more complex. If the qualification was studied in a majority English language speaking country, then all that is required is confirmation of the level of the qualification. A normal UK NARIC qualification comparison, based on the documents above, will be fine.

If the qualification was studied elsewhere then a Medium of Instruction letter from the awarding institution needs to be sent. This confirms that the qualification was taught (or researched) in English.

 

What do I need to send?

When you apply to UK NARIC through the Visas and Nationality application portal you will be told what documents you need to send to us so that we are able to assess and evaluate your qualification.

Here is a list of what you need to send:

  • a photocopy or scanned version of your final certificate(s)
  • a photocopy or scanned version of your final transcript(s)
  • a photocopy or scanned version of a certified translation in English if necessary
  • payment for the service

If you are using our services to provide evidence of your English language proficiency, then we will ALSO need:

  • evidence of the medium of instruction to confirm that the qualification was taught or researched in English. In other words, a Medium of Instruction letter (an MOI letter).

We have an example on our website (PDF) for your reference.

 

Do I always need to send a medium of instruction letter?

The approach we have taken with our new UK NARIC Visas and Nationality service is to have an intelligent immigration-specific application portal which takes into account your circumstances and your immigration application route and then makes clear the documents you need to send us, to enable us to then issue qualification statements or English language statements as appropriate.

If the Medium of Instruction is a relevant issue, then we always ask for an MoI letter.

This ensures consistency within the process, and helps ensure its integrity, and treats all applicants in the same manner, thus it is fair.

If the logic behind the application portal detects that MoI is not relevant to an application, then it is not asked for. The application portal lists the documents that you need to upload, during the application process. MoI will be listed if it is required. MoI is not listed if it is not required.

So the position on MoI should be clear, when you apply.

 

 

If you want to check the official immigration rules, then the Home Office website is the place to go.

 

 

 


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.


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


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

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


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