Transnational education and the credential evaluator

Transnational education and the credential evaluator

Much has been written previously in EAIE Forum magazine and on the EAIE Blog concerning the various types of transnational education (TNE) programmes such as study abroad, dual/joint degree and branch campuses. The focus has been on identifying the different policies and methods. TNE programmes have been applauded for increasing student mobility and championing university internationalisation, yet they have also been criticised for lacking clear goals and sound ownership and commitment.

From a practical viewpoint, TNE programmes can pose some challenges for those who must assess students’ academic work in terms of placement and acceptance and in terms of comparability and quality assurance. Beyond the methodology and theoretical applications, the practical assessment of a TNE student and his academic credentials can be uncertain and very questionable.

Important considerations when evaluating a TNE programme/student

From the first day on the job, a professional credential evaluator learns that first and foremost, the recognition status of an educational institution will initiate the assessment process. When there are two institutions involved from two different countries, as in the case of TNE programmes, difficulties in making this initial assessment may hinder the mobilisation of a student who wishes to further their education or seek employment in their home country. A tremendous conundrum arises when two credentials are awarded differently for the same TNE programme for the same student. Country A’s institution awards the actual degree paper. Country B’s institution (the teaching locale) will produce a transcript or some sort of academic record. One or neither of these institutions will make mention of the relationship between the institutions. Now, the admissions officer enters into an unknown territory. Unregulated higher education provisions which reside outside the official national quality assurance establishments can provide no guarantee of quality instruction, no confirmation of faculty expertise or lack thereof, no promise of efficient and qualitative administration, and no answer as to which institution administers the examinations for the programme.

TNE Challenges

Transnational programmes are here to stay. They enhance a student’s educational experience, promote an institution’s global standing, and increase student mobility. It’s a win-win situation when the implementation of the programme is done properly and is transparent. What then, are the general issues confronting those assessing TNE credentials?

  • An absence of global regulation
  • Lack of quality assurance mechanisms
  • Uncertain owners and stakeholders of these programmes
  • General lack of information about specific TNE programmes

Solutions and best practices

Within the realm of international admissions and credential evaluation, there are solutions and best practices for those establishing TNE programmes and issuing TNE academic credentials.

  • TNE institutions should have official recognition in their home countries to ensure educational quality.
  • TNE agreements should adhere to any related national education legislation on higher education in both the host institution’s country as well as the teaching institution’s country.
  • TNE programmes should have standards that are comparable to the host institution as well as the teaching institution.
  • TNE institutions should issue official documentation that is clear, reliable, and uniform.
  • TNE institutions must post transparent information on their websites. Evaluators need to know who administers examinations and who is responsible for the recognition of TNE degrees.
  • Professional credential evaluators and admissions officers need to have answers to the following: What is the programme of study, the length, and the requirements towards programme completion? What is the curriculum? How does the curriculum match with the home institution? Who are the faculty responsible for teaching the students? Who controls the admission process at the teaching institution? Who retains and issues the official academic records of the students?
  • The academic workload of TNE programmes should be comparable to workloads at programmes offered by the host institution.
  • TNE programme staff should be knowledgeable about the programme’s components.

For more information concerning the problems and solutions for credential evaluators assessing TNE documents, at the upcoming EAIE Conference in Prague, a session titled, “Global education complexities: transnational programme credentials” will take place on Thursday 18 September 2014. The session speakers will display authentic transnational programme credentials and discuss the dilemma in their evaluation. Come along if you are interested in finding out more!

By Marybeth Gruenewald, Director of Global Initiatives and Senior Evaluator at Educational Credential Evaluators, Inc. (ECE®)