Mobility of students from countries in strife

Mobility of students from countries in strife

International admissions officers and credential evaluators are challenged daily with foreign students who are hoping to continue their education beyond their own borders. What common challenges exist for students from countries in strife? What do these challenges mean for you as in international admissions officer or credential evaluator? How can you best deal with these issues and help ensure students from such countries can still enjoy the mobility that other students benefit from?

Most of the time, in the Admissions Office, you are handling inquiries, explaining application instructions, and assessing students’ educational documents from countries where the educational system is easily understood and where there is little difficulty for a student to obtain official credentials and to travel to another country for further studies. The countries are stable, with the usual economic and political challenges, however, nothing is out of the ordinary. Students can be mobile with no extreme obstacles.

Unfortunately, not all countries are ‘of the ordinary’. Whether there are governmental upheavals, civil war, economic hardships, or a bureaucratic system that exists which is almost impossible to navigate, students in these countries not only find it difficult to further their education in their own country, the ability and ease to become mobile, to become a true global student, poses an almost insurmountable challenge.

Challenges for students

A country under strife can and will prohibit the mobility of its students by a host of bureaucratic dilemmas. A student may be refused an exit visa by an internal ministry or might find oneself without financial resources because of a severe economic system collapse. Universities may be suddenly closed down or essential institutional personnel will have left or been expelled, thereby making it impossible for a student to obtain the essential credentials which confirm completed coursework or awarding of a degree. Students who already may be residing in their host country will be told that in order to obtain their educational credentials, they must return to their home institution to obtain these essential records in person. And yet, if they do return, some may be arrested. If family member who resides in country wishes to assist, their own lives may be put at risk.

Know your resources

As an international admissions officer or professional credential evaluator, first and foremost you must be aware of what is happening in a country whose students are hoping to continue their education at your institution. There are many web news resources which give up-to-the minute reports of what is occurring in a country under strife. You can find information about a university closing or any of the other struggles a student faces by a host of on-the-ground education reporting venues. Bookmark educational ministries’ and embassies’ websites. Become familiar with what a country’s educational credentials should look like and how to verify their authenticity. Understand that requesting a student to have educational credentials sent directly from their home university to yours is such a westernised concept that is easily misunderstood and greatly impossible to accomplish. If this student data transferability does exist, it can be an extreme financial hardship for the student. Be flexible. Accept photocopies yet verify them. If a student is admitted, ask to see the originals upon arrival to your university.

Connect with others and share intel

Networking within the international admissions community and the international credential assessment community is essential. Establish contacts at universities or ministries within these countries undergoing strife. Speak to others who may have contacts, such as those based at the European National Information Centres or the National Academic Recognition Information Centres (the ENIC-NARIC Network.) Associate with fellow members of TAICEP: The Association of International Credential Evaluation Professionals. For students experiencing financial obstacles, become aware of what might be offered to them via the Erasmus Mundus programme. Most importantly, connect with your EAIE colleagues. Reach out to others during the EAIE Annual Conference which is currently taking place, especially those within the EAIE Admissions and Credential Evaluation (ACE) Professional Section. Talk to university representatives in the Exhibition Hall. An international student may say to you, “I cannot obtain my educational credentials”. Find out if this is true and how you might offer assistance by connecting with fellow professionals in the field.

EAIE Conference participants can learn more about the mobility of students from countries in strife by attending Session 6.09 on Thursday 12 September from 16.00.

By Marybeth Gruenewald, Educational Credential Evaluators, USA