On the Cutting
 EDGE
 shares with you our experts' answers to user submitted questions on all things international education

Updated periodically with responses from the International Education Standards Council, On the Cutting EDGE is your glimpse at the work of AACRAO EDGE and our commitment to advancing international education





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What do you mean when you say "first professional degree"? Is that comparable to a U.S. bachelor's?

Question: 

I have a student from India that has studied for four years and received a BDS. Is the 4 years they studied equal to a Bachelor Degree in the US?


Answer:

Thank you for your question to EDGE regarding the Bachelor of Dental Surgery from India. The answer is the International Education Standards Council (IESC) of AACRAO (which provides the Credential Advice in all of the entries) wrestled with this issue a great deal. It also extends well beyond dentistry to include medicine, law, pharmacy, etc. It boils down to this: these are first degrees in the profession under review that allow for professional practice in that profession in-country, often without any additional local or national exams. This differs markedly from the situation in the USA where these are either higher degrees (requiring a bachelor's for entry) OR they are long entry-level degrees (in the case of pharmacy which results in a Doctor of Pharmacy not a bachelor's). So the Bachelor of Dental Surgery in India is FUNCTIONALLY comparable to a US degree of DDS. But clearly the two are not truly comparable in the sense of entry qualification, duration, or nomenclature (title). So the IESC came up with the advice of 'first professional degree in ______(subject)' in hopes that those attempting to get licensed as dentists or pharmacists, etc. in the USA would be recognized as having the credential that enables the holder to practice just like the MD or Dentist or Pharmacist in the USA who has a 'doctor' title (even though the overseas degree is called 'bachelor').  


And traditionally this has worked pretty well except when encountered by university Admissions Officers who need to determine if the degree they are reviewing meets the fairly universal Graduate School requirement of 'comparable to a US bachelor's degree.' Does first professional degree in dentistry mean comparable to a US bachelor's for graduate admission purposes? The best answer would be YES, it is AT LEAST comparable to a US bachelor's but for wider purposes it is really more like an MD or DDS or PharmD, etc.

So it is both! Given the 230-odd entries in EDGE putting an author note explaining that the degree is at least a US bachelor's degree as well as a great deal more in every entry for medicine, law, pharmacy, dentistry, veterinary medicine, etc. would be a pretty daunting task! We will no doubt continue to wrestle with the best way to handle this but we really like the 'first professional degree in the field' advice found on the template we use for choosing credential advice.

Thank you again for your question to EDGE!

 

August 25, 2017

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Can I just make 2 + 2 = 4?

Question: 

Greetings, Edge Team!

A quick question about the National Diploma and the Higher National Diploma in Nigeria. 
EDGE states that the National Diploma "represents attainment of a level of education comparable to up to 2 years of university study in the United States" and the Higher National Diploma "represents attainment of a level of education comparable to 2 years of university study in the United States."

With both degrees, a student would have the equivalent of up to four years of study in the US. However, it mentions that the Higher National Diploma is not equivalent to a US bachelor's degree. Wouldn't a student with a Nigerian Higher National Diploma be eligible for a master's degree in the US based on the duration of study equaling four years?

Answer:
Thank you for your question to EDGE regarding the HND in Nigeria. While it is always an institutional call whatever the Credential Advice in EDGE might indicate, we feel strongly that the HND is NOT comparable to a US bachelor’s degree. First of all, because it is a two year credential AFTER a first National Diploma that itself as an outcome of two years, we only suggest two years of undergraduate credit for the HND alone, assuming that the reader who also has an ND for their applicant will assign that a value of two years of credit as well, four years altogether. So, a bachelor’s? NO. The reason is that there IS a degree in Nigeria comparable to the US bachelor’s degree and it is the Nigerian bachelor’s and, of course the HND holder DID NOT DO THAT (get a Nigerian bachelor’s). The applicant chose a different path. They chose a more technical, applied path that MAY access graduate university education under certain circumstances (usually an overall average of upper credit). Whereas the Nigerian bachelor’s has unfettered access to graduate degrees.

Before the GCE A Levels went away in Nigerian in 1988, the HND required only the WASC (West African School Certificate) after 11th Grade. The (then) Ordinary National Diploma or OND (now called simply the ND) came two years after that representing a 12th and 13th year and Admissions Officers gave one year of credit. That might be followed by the HND of two years’ duration and another two years of credit, three years altogether post-WASC. No one questioned whether the HND was a bachelor’s or not. Once Nigeria changed to a 12 year system ending with the Senior School Certificate Examination and the ND + HND represented 4 years post-HS the question began to surface. But many agree with EDGE and say a degree in Nigeria is a degree in the USA but a diploma Is not.

August 25, 2017

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What's an Indian 'Plus Two'?

Question: 

Hello, I have a question that I received from an applicant today, since I don't see reference to it in the Edge. An applicant from India submitted a "Senior Secondary (Plus Two) Examination Certificate Cum Detail of Marks. I have not heard of the Plus Two and he seemed insulted when I requested ISCE or AISC. Could you give me any information on the Plus Two Examination Certificate?

Answer:
Thank you for your question to EDGE regarding ‘Plus Two’ examinations. In point of fact this is simply vernacular shorthand for the final two years of senior secondary education in India. Whenever Indian students and instructors describe the Indian educational system they invariably refer to it as a ‘10+2 scheme’ meaning primary/secondary leading up to the Secondary School Exam at the end of 10th Grade and then that is followed by the ‘plus two’ portion which is Standard XI and Standard XII concluding with the Higher Secondary School Certificate (or All India Senior School Certificate Exam). Now what you may have received are the results from a source OTHER than the State Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education of the State of ______(Maharashtra, Pune, Gujarat, etc.). Or it did not come from the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) which is the national one.

Thank you again for your question to AACRAO EDGE. 


August 3, 2017

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Admissions Practices in Kenya

Question: 

I would like to request some guidance on transcript equivalencies for Kenya. We currently have an applicant that first attended Narok University College, earned a 2 year diploma and then got admitted into the 2nd year of a Bachelor's of Arts in Social Work at Maasai Mara University. During my research, I found out that normally Kenyan students must have earned a C+ in the KCSE to be admitted into undergraduate programs, however our applicant earned a D+. 

I also found an article published on February 2017 mandating for some Bachelor's degrees to be recalled, due to the fact that some universities were admitting students into undergraduate programs without proper documentation. With that being said, students who were admitted into Universities under bridge programs or with previously earned diplomas and earned a Bachelor’s Degree might not be recognized by law. However, the Kenya Commission for University Education states that students can earn a Bachelor's if they previously had a diploma. 

My questions would be, have you heard anything about this issue? It is typical for Kenyan students to earn diplomas and be admitted into the 2nd year of Bachelor's degree and that would be equivalent to a Bachelor's degree in the U.S.?

Would you request students who earned diplomas and then Bachelor's to have their degrees verified and recognized by the Kenya Commission for University Education? 

Answer:
Thank you for your question to EDGE regarding the admission practices of Kenyan universities. In EDGE Kenya we do provide a link to the Kenyan Commission for University Education but your link to an article on controversies in Kenyan university practices points out the fact that universities (even when not supposed to) tend to do whatever they want with respect to admission practices. That is certainly true in the USA as well. We have not heard about this issue and it appears to still be roiling the waters of Kenyan higher education. Most Anglophone countries have some sort of articulation practice for diploma holders admitted into degree programs (India is the prime example) but do they ALL admit into second year? Who can say unless one visits each university web site (assuming it has this information) and ascertain individual school policies. There is no question, however, that a Kenyan bachelor’s is fully comparable to a bachelor’s in the USA regardless of how one got there. Here is a home-grown example: Big State University decides to admit folks in transfer to a degree program and grants credit for life experience, or study at an unaccredited institution, etc. Other schools would never do that BUT the value of the ultimate degree awarded is still the same.

Thank you again for your question to AACRAO EDGE. 


August 3, 2017

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Upper Secondary Credentials/Grading in Laos and Cambodia

Question: 

We have some examples of the Upper Secondary School Diploma from Laos and the final exam/mark record from secondary school and they are just not quite matching what’s on the EDGE profile so we wanted to check with you regarding those. EDGE lists the Secondary credential as the Baccalaureate and the grading system for secondary school on a 20 pt scale, much like the French system. However, we have some examples and are getting feedback that the credential is the Upper Secondary School Diploma and the grading scale is 10 pts with a min pass of 5.

Is the Upper Secondary School Diploma equivalent to the Baccalaureate (and US high school completion) or is this something different altogether?

The baccalaureate issue seems to be the same with Cambodia. The credential examples we are seeing are the Provisional Certificate of Upper Secondary Education and do not have Baccalaureate anywhere on them. Same equivalency as the Bacc and US high school completion as well?

Answer:
Thank you for your questions to EDGE regarding upper secondary credentials and grading in Laos and Cambodia. There is very little information available on either country at this point but the little available on the web makes it clear that Laos added a 12th year in 2010 changing their educational system from 5-3-3 leading to upper secondary graduation and university entrance exam to 5-4-3. Furthermore, the official title of the upper secondary leaving credential does indeed appear to be Upper Secondary School Diploma that is awarded at the end of new Grade 12. A 10 point scale is used that is (from an ECE presentation in Madrid at EAIE) :

    8-10=A     80-100%    High Distinction

    7      =B     70-79%      Distinction

    6      =C      60-69%     Good

    5      =D      50-59%     Pass

The numbers equate nicely to a halving of the 20 point scale in EDGE Laos but the descriptors do not match. A 60-69% C range should not be called ‘Good’ but otherwise the scales more or less conform. The information we have from the World Higher Education Database (WHED) is that the Laotian Upper Secondary School Diploma alone does NOT grant access to university programs. An exam is required. We are not able to confirm that it is the exam currently or formerly called the Baccalaureate. Laos does not seem to be using French nomenclature (at least since 2010) but we still need to verify the name of the exam and its description. It would appear that EducationUSA in Vientiane would be our best bet for gaining additional information.

As for Cambodia, that same EAIE presentation did have an example of an upper secondary level leaving credential called officially “Provisional Certificate of Upper Secondary Education.” However, according to Asia Euro University and Phomh Penh International University websites, the Bacc II is still required for bachelor’s admission. So it appears that Cambodian universities are looking for that exam as well as the upper secondary certificate. All appear to offer a Foundation program (or Associates program) that do not require a Bacc II but all bachelor’s program do have that requirement. We will attempt to clarify the situation with respect to Laos grading and a university entrance exam.

Thank you again for your question. 


August 3, 2017

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Zimbabwe Grading Scale

Question: 

I have received a transcript and conferral of degree from the Women's University in Africa located in Zimbabwe. It is a Bachelor of Science degree in Information Systems.I require some help for the grading scale. The one located on the back of the transcript is applicable from 2013 and onward. The student unfortunately was enrolled in the school from 2003-2005.

On the transcript it shows a Symbol (2.1, 3, etc) column across from each course taken and in the next row is a Remark column (Pass, or 1st class).

I am unsure if you would know, but I also have a stamp on the bottom with a date of October 27, 2006. This document arrived directly from the institution in a sealed and stamped envelope. It does not appear to be a photocopy either.

Would the grading scale still be valid?

Answer:
Thank you for your question to EDGE regarding the grading scale at universities in Zimbabwe. Basically, there is no reason to question the scale found in EDGE Zimbabwe which has been current and applicable for the last several decades. Naturally, if the scale you are seeing on the transcript does NOT agree with EDGE Zimbabwe, please let us know; we would quickly address any changes brought to our attention.

​July 5, 2017

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Australian Matriculation

Question: 
I was recently contacted by a student asking if we accept the AUSMAT (Australian Matriculation). I've never received this question before nor have I heard of the AUSMAT. Do you know if AUSMAT is generally accepted by US universities, or if it a university by university decision? I can see that it is a pre-university program but I'm just not familiar enough with it to know if US schools accept it. Thanks.

Answer:
Thank you for your question to EDGE regarding Australian Matriculation (AUSMAT). This is a program in Malaysia for students there wishing to go to an Australian university but whose SPM (EDGE Malaysia Credential#3) is not sufficient for direct admission. Many US schools use the SPM for admission and award credit for the STPM (EDGE Malaysia Credential#7). But other universities abroad probably would not accept the SPM and so something extra is needed. Some might do GCE A Levels as a private candidate if offered where they are. But many choose either the Foundation program route or a more recent creation, the AUSMAT: It is designed purely to enhance a HS credential not deemed by itself to be sufficient for Australian university admission. So, it is a prep school credential that is ‘more 12th Grade’ from our perspective. Certainly one would NOT grant advanced college credit for this. Also, frankly, US Admissions Officers would be leery of it in place of the normal indigenous leaving certificate like an SPM or an STPM. So we would suggest you ignore the AUSMAT and ask for normal Malaysian upper secondary completion certificates.

​July 5, 2017

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South African Honours

Question: 
I was doing a bit of research into South Africa and noticed that the Bachelor of Commerce is only a 3 year degree. But as far as I can tell, they also have an Honours Bachelor of Commerce (and other degrees) but those don’t seem to be listed in the Credential section on Edge to show that they are equivalent to a 4-year degree in the US. The Honours degree is listed on the Educational Ladder, which is what first tipped me off! Do you know if there are plans to add the Honour’s degrees to the Credential section? Or…maybe they’re there and I’m just missing them! Entirely possible.

Answer:
Thank you for your question to EDGE regarding the Honours Bachelor’s from South Africa. In fact we do list the Honours Bachelor’s from South Africa (though we do not specifically list the Honours Bachelor of Commerce, only the Arts and Sciences degrees) in Credential #25. The other slight difference is that we call it Bachelor of Arts (or Science) Honours rather than putting the word Honours first as the South Africans more frequently do. Finally we say that it comes one year after the first three year Ordinary degree which is true enough but a lot of South African students enter from Senior Matriculation and then go all four years and they may or may not get the actual award of the three year degree. But it was our intent to have the EDGE users see #25 as a listing for all honours degrees.

​July 5, 2017

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Is 'Higher' Always Better?

Question: 

I have a question regarding the grading scales provided for Ireland.  We have a prospective student who took the 2016 Leaving Certificate Examination and all subjects taken were "Higher" level subjects. The grading scales available in EDGE do not currently reflect the differences for “Higher” marks. In the description of the Leaving Certificate, you mention that “’Higher” level subjects are more academically-rigorous than ‘ordinary’ level subjects”.  Because of that, and because of information we are receiving from the student and recent changes to the Leaving Certificate scales in Ireland, do you have any suggestions for how to evaluate her 2016 Leaving Certificate to account for the “Higher” marks she received?

Answer: 
This question comes up every now and again: “Why don’t you give more points to grades at the Higher Level on the Irish Leaving Certificate compared to the Ordinary Level exams?”  The problem is that the answer to this question is the same that you or I would give to the student or parent asking a university to give more grade points to an A earned in an AP course compared to a regular non-AP course in a US high school.  While it is true some schools give a 4.5 instead of a 4.0,  the issue here is NOT grading.  The grading is the same.  The difference is in the syllabus.  So what YOU do is to give more reflective weight in your deliberations to the A earned in a Higher Level exam than for an Ordinary Level exam.  

Let me use another analogy.  The grading on the IB exams (7-point scale) is the same whether the subject is at Higher Level or at Subsidiary Level. The receiving institution, however, makes a VALUE judgement based on the TYPE of exam but we don’t skew the grading scale to favor the Higher versus the Ordinary Level exams any more than we would consider a B at MIT to be a C anywhere else.

It should be noted that the Irish Leaving Certificate will have a new grading scheme beginning this year (2017) and it will drop from the 14 point scale you see in EDGE (count the No Grade which is not on the chart as the 14thGrade) to an 8 point scale.   The reason is to bring it more in line with other European grading schemes.   It will look like this and probably illustrates better even than my explanation above that the scales are the same:

H1/O1  90-100%
H2/O2  80-<90
H3/O3  70-<80
H4/O4  60-<70
H5/O5  50-<60
H6/O6  40-<50
H7/O7  30-<40
H8/O8  0  -<30

Notice that the grades are the same for BOTH types of exams.  The difference is in the value YOU place on Highers vs. Ordinary exams.  Clearly, more selective institutions will want some or all exams to be Highers for freshman admission.  But is an H1 and A while an O1 an A- or B+?  NO!

Thank you again for your question to EDGE!

May 10, 2017


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Grading Scales Included

Question: 

Looking to get some help with the University of Amsterdam. I received a transcript and with it did not come a grading scale. I am unsure how to assess the document and what equivalency it has to Canada/US. I was also hoping to find out what the credential equivalency it would be comparable to. The credential reads "Master in Business Administration."

Answer: 
Thank you for your question to EDGE regarding the Masters credential and the grading scale used in Dutch higher education. Perhaps we are misunderstanding your question but it appears that both the credential (EDGE Netherlands Credential# 16) and the grading scale (10 point numeric scale) for the Netherlands are found in EDGE Netherlands. If there was a different aspect to the question, please let us know.

May 25, 2017

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Ethiopian Degree Adjustments in the mid-2000's

Question: 

A student from Ethiopia presented a diploma today from Arba Minch University that was issued in Jan 2010 (last year of enrollment was 2008-2009) - BS in Civil Engineering. The transcript shows 4 years of study time. I know that there were a lot of adjustments in the Ethiopian degrees at this time, and I know we have to look at these very carefully. AACRAO Edge indicates that the Engineering degrees should be 5 years in length, but I don't see that it addresses 4 year BS in Engineering degrees. I asked a colleague with access to NARIC, and she told me that these degrees are listed as equivalent to the DipHE in the UK. I clarified with her that this was specifically with the 4 year BS in Engineering, and she said yes. This degree has me a bit muddled, and I wondered if you have any advice for me.

Answer: 
Basically, the NOKUT report indicates that the engineering degrees, which had always been five years, were shortened to four years with the 2003 university intakes (not just at Arba Minch by the way). So your person entered right at the time the five year degrees were shortened to four years. By the time they finished, however, pushback had grown to large proportions and in the 2006-07 year reduced degrees began to return to their original length. From our vantage point, the outcome in terms of credential advice doesn’t change: it is a US bachelor’s degree whether 4 or 5 years in length. Your concern, I realize, is the validity of a four year degree. If these were always five years do I have a forged document? I would suggest that the fact that it is four years is understandable and accurate given the time frame in which this person was studying. 

​May 25, 2017

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Tanzanian Transcripts?

Question:
I am hoping you can help me to verify whether students from Tanzania are having difficulties in getting transcripts from their schools. I have a student who attended university just a few years ago and sent a transcript she had printed from the university website. We require an official transcript issued by the school, but when we asked her for that she said that she is unable to obtain an official transcript and that due to conflict in the country, it would take a long time to have the transcript sent. We wanted to verify that this is the case before we decide how to proceed. 

Answer: 
This is not a question concerning content found in EDGE but rather a ‘how-to’ evaluate question covered in several other venues: it is a common question.  Therefore we always make sure it is high on the agenda of our AACRAO Summer and Winter Institutes where we do teach best practices in international credential evaluation.  The answer is pretty simple and that is: “Of course you can get an official transcript and if you are serious about coming to (Name Your School) University, then you need to procure an official transcript.”   This is the most common opening bid of international students not wanting to spend the money or take the time to get an official transcript.  Because they are not at a US school where transcripts are issued on the spot and cost very little, they assume that we can be fooled into thinking that transcripts from abroad are impossible due to byzantine bureaucratic procedures when that is NOT the case.   There is nothing relative to Tanzania that would keep the student from getting a transcript.  What is always amazing in this situation is that the requested transcript (after you tell them ‘no exceptions’) turns up in fairly short order. 

May 10, 2017

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Argentinian recognition status

Question: 
Can you tell me if the Instituto Superior Colegio Modelo Lomas, Argentina,  is recognized by the Ministry of Education?

Answer: 
​This is one of the institution in Argentina known as a terciario no universitario (tertiary non-university schools) or terciarios for short as Liz Reisberg explains in the scanned Argentina publication (page 65) in EDGE Argentina. At the bottom of the  institutions page of EDGE Argentina there is section that the EDGE author (Sandra Rodriguez) devotes to terciarios and in there states that these have to be recognized by the MOE. In fact on the document ​provided, you have there is clear indication that the Provincial Ministry of Education and Culture, Office of Private Institutions, has approved this school.​

May 10, 2017


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Nigerian Credit

Question:
I have a student that has a National Diploma, a Higher National Diploma and a Postgraduate Diploma in Management from Nigeria. I don't see anywhere on this site that will tell me if all together it is equal to a Bachelor Degree in the US? 

 

Answer:
Thank you for your question to EDGE regarding the National Diploma, Higher National Diploma, and Postgraduate Diploma from Nigeria.  This is a tough question.  All three appear in EDGE of course and we indicate how much credit to give for each but we do NOT make a statement about bachelor’s comparability.  First of all, the International Education Standards Council (IESC) feels strongly that the HND is NOT a US bachelor’s. Where it gets tricky is whether or not a PG Diploma on top of that (5 years total post-secondary education) would be comparable to a US bachelors when there is a comparable degree ​(the Nigerian bachelor’s​)​. Some would suggest, however, that at SOME LEVEL, the diploma holders  have to attain something that is comparable to a US bachelor’s.  In terms of graduate school eligibility, certainly these folks should be given consideration.  Do they have a US bachelor’s?  In my opinion, no.

May 10, 2017
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International Conversions 

Question:
I have a question regarding a transcript I received from I-Shou International School in Taiwan. I am unable to convert the grades based on the conversions in AACRAO EDGE. I was hoping you could give me some insight into how to convert the grades. 

Answer:

The reason that you do not find this grading scale in EDGE Taiwan (or any other EDGE entry) is because it is an International Baccalaureate program so common to many US high schools (and other US style high schools abroad).   Even though the IB is a Swiss product, it is really pretty much a US phenomenon and we decided not to include it in EDGE.   It would not belong in EDGE Switzerland because it is NOT part of the Swiss educational system but an export product (again, usually found in the USA and US style schools).

 While I am sure there are grade conversions for the IB 7 point grading scale out there, the one with which I am most familiar is the one put out by the NCAA in its GUIDE TO INTERNATIONAL ACADEMIC STANDARDS FOR ATHLETICS ELIGIBILITY.   The scale NCAA uses appears below:

 

IB Grade                                                      US Grade

Excellent      7                                                    A
Very Good    6                                                    A
Good            5                                                    B
Satisfactory  4                                                    C
Mediocre      3                                                    D
Poor             2                                                    F
Very Poor     1                                                    F

Schools vary in their practices as to where to cut off the granting of advanced placement credit for exams passed on the IB Diploma but usually are 5-7.

May 10, 2017