AACRAO and the Groningen Declaration

July 15, 2014
  • AACRAO Connect

by Michael Reilly, AACRAO Executive Director

AACRAO co-sponsored the third annual meeting of the Groningen Declaration Network April 7-9 on the campus of Georgetown University in Washington, DC.  The meeting brought together representatives from over 30 countries to share their work and vision for creating digital student record depositories and secure digital exchange networks to improve global student and economic mobility. (see summary)

How did AACRAO get involved in this initiative? When representatives from countries around the globe met in Groningen, the Netherlands, in April of 2012 to discuss the electronic exchange of student data and records, ultimately leading to the creation of the Groningen Declaration, it immediately captured the interest of AACRAO.   As one of the oldest higher education associations in the United States, AACRAO had long established its leadership in both international student mobility and the development of electronic student record exchange.  The Groningen Declaration created an intriguing synergy of these two longstanding efforts.

AACRAO and the AACRAO SPEEDE (Standardization of Postsecondary Education Electronic Data Exchange) Committee were at the forefront of the development of electronic student records exchange.  The development of a standard format and server network for the exchange of electronic records was a truly visionary achievement resulting in the first SPEEDE EDI format to be released in 1990.  It helped pave the way for significant changes in the way student records and data are exchanged, and how institutions conduct their business processes. 

In the international arena, AACRAO was the publisher of the World Education Series beginning in the mid-1950’s.  AACRAO also published the Joint Committee on Workshops (JCOW) and the Projects for International Education Research (PIER) Workshop Reports.  These print publications, funded entirely or in part by the US Department of State, served the international admissions community for 60 years in the evaluation of foreign educational systems and provided placement recommendations for how international applicants should best be placed in the US educational system.

In 2004 AACRAO introduced the web-based Electronic Database for Global Education (EDGE) which now contains profiles on over 230 educational systems in the world. AACRAO hosts numerous professional development opportunities and staff regularly present at local, state, national and international conferences on credential evaluation, international admission issues, diploma mills and fraudulent credentials.

Many of the underlying issues associated with electronic exchange of records—i.e. student privacy, comparability of data, acceptance and recognition of digital student data—are all issues that are of concern to AACRAO members where AACRAO has served as the platform for deliberation and discussion. The Groningen Declaration effort provides a global platform to examine these issues.  For the broad acceptance of global electronic records by institutions in the United States it is essential that student privacy, data security, and authentication are insured.  AACRAO and its members have considerable expertise in these areas and can contribute to the ultimate success of this enterprise.

The benefits of the global electronic exchange of student data and records are many.  Institutions who have adopted electronic record exchange can speak to the efficiency and improvements in business processes.  For schools that enroll large numbers of international students the ability to process their documentation electronically has huge potential benefits.  Electronic record exchange is also student centered. The current paper-based process for applying for admission to study abroad often creates a bureaucratic gauntlet that many students fail to navigate.  An efficient, electronic process would surely facilitate greater student mobility.  It would also help reduce fraud which continues to be a challenge for international admissions.  And electronic record exchange is environmentally friendly, leaving forests standing where they are rather than converting them to documents that end up in file cabinets.

AACRAO signed on to the Groningen Declaration at its Annual Meeting in San Francisco this April, 2013.  Our interest is in keeping our members apprised of new developments in the global exchange of student records and to contribute to the development of standards and best practices in electronic exchange.  The underlying goal of improving digital student data portability is one that is widely supported by our members.  Creating approaches that fit the missions of AACRAO member institutions and help them better serve their students will be the focus of our efforts.