Top tips for evaluating Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian student credentials

Top tips for evaluating Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian student credentials

Did you know that over 40 000 students from the Russian Federation, Ukraine and Belarus have headed westward to study abroad within Europe in recent years? If you work in credential evaluation or admissions, then you may have experienced first-hand this huge increase in mobility, highlighted here in these UNESCO international student mobility statistics. Chances are, you have even reviewed the academic credentials of some these students.

Another statistic to be aware of is the high rate of corruption and fraud in these countries as presented by Transparency International in its annual Corruption Perceptions Index. In the 2012 results, 174 countries were rated, with position 1 being considered the “cleanest”. Belarus held position 123 of the 174, Russia was ranked number 133, and Ukraine came in at 144. Just type into Google “Russian diplomas for sale” or “buy Russian degrees”, and you’ll find not only numerous articles about various aspects of educational credential fraud in Russia, but a virtual shopping mall of diploma purchasing options as well! At last count there were over 100 agencies selling Russian qualifications online. Translate your Google search words into any modern language and you will be linked to advice from a myriad of sources about where and how to buy papers that will appear to bestow upon you any “qualification” or “degree” you may desire. In this region there is also the problem of real diplomas and academic documents issued to actual students by accredited tertiary institutions on the basis of little or no academic work. Corruption in the legitimate, official academic environment is part of the academic credential fraud landscape, too.

A balancing act for credential evaluators

As foreign credential evaluators and degree recognition administrators, our goal is to provide good service to applicants by analysing their documents with knowledge and accuracy, while protecting the integrity of the academic institutions and employment sectors to which they wish to gain access. But in the context of large and increasing numbers coupled with a high rate of credential fraud, how can you be confident that you are evaluating Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian credentials correctly, while still taking care to check the authenticity of documents and follow through when irregular documentation is presented?

The key to confidence in working with documents from any country is to become familiar with resources that contain the information that you need to analyse the documentation accurately – the basic philosophy of education in the country, the structure of the educational system, types of education and institutions, quality assurance, curricula, credentials and documentation issuing practices, grading systems, in short, the “nuts and bolts”. Nobody can know all the information there is to know about a particular subject; the important thing is to learn where to find the information you need!

Importance of accurate translation

You also need to work from original language documentation with accurate translations. Language resources are as important as credential information resources in our work. In the case of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, the languages are very similar. The Cyrillic alphabet may seem intimidating at first, but reading original documents becomes ever easier with practice and the use of language tools that you can find online. Once you feel comfortable reading documents in the original languages, you will find yourself being able to understand key terminology on websites written in Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian, such as official ministry of education resources and institutional webpages. Viewing an institutional website in the original language can help you to locate the best contact information should you have questions or suspicions about documents that you would like to request the institution to verify.

Expand your knowledge

The course ‘International Credential Evaluation: Russia, Ukraine and Belarus’ offered on Thursday 21 November and Friday 22 November during the 2013 Autumn EAIE Academy in Tallinn will give you the opportunity to work intensively with two experts in foreign credential evaluation for this region, learning about resources, working with documents, and strategising about credential verification. This programme is a great follow-up to the course ‘How to Overcome the Challenges of Foreign Credential Evaluation’ offered on Monday 18 November through to Wednesday 20 November of the Autumn Academy. Attend both sessions and spend an entire week increasing your knowledge-base and skills in foreign credential evaluation! Here’s a sneak peek into the second session: