24 Apr 2017

European Qualifications Passport for Refugees: from vision to reality

European Qualification Passport for RefugeesIn a time of unprecedented pressure to tackle the migration challenge, the demand for an effective and sustainable approach to screening, evaluating and recognising refugees’ qualifications is at the forefront of political agendas in many countries. Also in this blog post, check out the very first passport to be issued via the programme, and learn more about the woman who received it. 
 
 
 
To support refugee education and increase the effectiveness of integration into the society of the host country, governments and international organisations have undertaken a number of initiatives. These initiatives include the European Qualifications Passport for Refugees and the European University Association (EUA) Refugees Welcome Map. The EAIE has had a particular focus on these issues since 2016, with blogposts, special featured sessions during the EAIE conference in 2016 and the organization of a Spotlight seminar the same year. In addition, we have seen an emphasis on developing government and university scholarships targeting refugees (eg the European Union’s Science4refugee programme).

Creating accessible, professional solutions

The European Qualifications Passport for Refugees is a project with a particular outreach. The idea of accessible, professional and not least transferrable evaluation solutions for refugees was launched by the Norwegian and the United Kingdom ENIC-NARIC recognition offices in September 2015. The methodology was then successfully tested in Norway in 2016.
 
The European Qualifications Passport for Refugees is currently being tested in Greece in a pilot project run by the Council of Europe, Greek authorities, and in cooperation with UNHCR and ENIC-NARIC recognition offices from Greece, Italy, Norway and the United Kingdom. The first documents were issued in Athens in March 2017. The methodology is a combination of document analysis and a structured interview between refugees and qualified credential evaluators. The goal of the assessment is to map, summarise and present available information about the refugee’s educational level. The refugee then has credible documentation to aid in applying for employment, internships, qualification courses and educational studies.

A standardised approach

The resulting document – the European Qualifications Passport for Refugees – is a standardised statement which contains information that describes the highest achieved qualification(s), subject field and other relevant qualifications. In addition, job experience and language proficiency are described when substantiated and relevant. The idea, as previously shared by the author, is that this information should be accepted and easily interpreted both inside and outside the country in which the assessment has taken place and the document has been issued. In the long term, this methodology can save costs for host countries by facilitating and accelerating the recognition of undocumented or non-verifiable foreign qualifications in Europe and possibly beyond.
 
Recognition of foreign qualifications, including those without sufficient documentation, will continue to be an important component of the daily activities of recognition authorities throughout the world. The demand for a long-term, coordinated approach to refugee qualifications screenings means the establishment of a European Qualifications Passport for Refugees is more important than ever for refugees, universities, the labour market and society as a whole.

The first recipient

The first European Qualifications Passport for Refugees passport was issued in Athens in March 2017. The passport was issued to a 29 year old woman born in Homs, Syria, who left Syria with her husband and two young children. She is currently in a refugee camp in Athens as part of the EU resettlement programme, but she hopes to relocate to Norway where she has family members.
 
She has a Bachelor’s degree in physiotherapy from Al-Baath University,  Syria’s fourth largest university located in Homs, 180 km north of Damascus. The only documentation she had with her when resettling in Athens was a copy of a degree certificate from the university issued in the Arabic language. Based on the analysis of the available documentation as well as an interview, a team of credential evaluators was able to substantiate her educational background and provide her with qualified advice regarding the requirements needed to work as a physiotherapist in Norway. Her professional goal is to make a meaningful contribution to her new society by working with the elderly. The interview with credential evaluators was conducted in English, as she, in addition to Arabic, could speak English well. Information about her language proficiency is also included in the passport.

 

Stig Arne Skjerven is Director of Foreign Education at NOKUT/Norwegian ENIC-NARIC, Norway. Marina Malgina is Head of Refugee Section at NOKUT. This post is part of the EAIE blog series ‘Refugees in focus’, which covers refugee integration from different angles.