Aligning Priorities: Global Convention Session on the Recognition of Qualifications

March 18, 2024
  • Displaced & Vulnerable Students
  • International
  • International Admissions and Credential Evaluation
  • International Education
  • global education
  • global recognition
Illustration of a globe atop a keyboard.

The American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO), which was invited as an observer to the First Extraordinary Session, is closely tracking the development of UNESCO's Global Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education, as it aligns with the association's goals and those of its member institutions. The March 7th extraordinary session meeting in Paris marked a major milestone in operationalizing this groundbreaking global treaty, unanimously agreeing on an ambitious 2024 interim work program focused on developing implementation guidelines, standards for quality assurance (including transnational education), and principles for recognizing refugee qualifications.

Where We Are

AACRAO's efforts and resources align well with the principles and articles laid out in the Convention text. Like the Convention, AACRAO advocates for ethical, consistent standards and flexible procedures in evaluating domestic and international academic qualifications for admission and transfer credit purposes. The association's Professional Development Guidelines for International Admissions highlight the importance of rigorous yet equitable credential evaluation policies to promote student mobility.

With 28 countries having ratified it so far, representing about 25% of internationally mobile students, the Global Recognition Convention aims to establish fair, transparent, and non-discriminatory practices for recognizing academic credentials across borders worldwide. Key goals include removing barriers to student mobility, facilitating "brain circulation" between countries, and supporting the UN's Sustainable Development Goal 4 on inclusive, equitable quality education for all.

AACRAO has taken a leadership role in supporting qualification recognition for refugees, displaced populations, and other vulnerable groups affected by crisis or conflict situations, and its tools provide guidance for interpreting transcripts, qualifications and documentation for those without standard academic records. These resources directly complement the Convention's prioritization of removing obstacles for refugees to have their academic credentials recognized.

As an association representing nearly 14,000 higher education professionals representing approximately 2,300 institutions in more than 40 countries, AACRAO believes the majority of its members' current policies and practices are already well-aligned with the student-centric principles outlined in the Global Recognition Convention. However, the Convention provides an important opportunity for campuses to review their credential evaluation protocols through an explicit global lens of transparency, fairness and widening accessible pathways.

Growth Opportunities

AACRAO will continue its efforts to prepare institutions for effective alignment with the Convention's principles. This includes developing professional development offerings, institutional resources, and community discussion forums that explicate the intersection of the global treaty with existing U.S. admissions operations and standards. The association believes the Global Recognition Convention has the potential to be a true "game changer" by breaking down unnecessary obstructions to the internationalization of higher education.

With its focus on mutual recognition, quality assurance, and safeguarding against discrimination, the Convention can open doors for students everywhere - including those who have been displaced or lack standard documentation. As U.S. higher education becomes increasingly global, AACRAO is committed to supporting its members in adopting the Convention's best practices for mobility and inclusive credential assessment. The world is exponentially interconnected, and qualification recognition processes must keep pace. 


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