Global Recognition Convention - Global Perspectives

August 12, 2019
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The Global Perspective 


Since 1984, CIMEA - Information Centre on Academic Mobility and Equivalence has been engaged in the field of information and consulting services relating to the procedures for the recognition of academic qualifications and to issues relating to Italian and international higher education and training. CIMEA is the official Italian centre within the NARIC - National Academic Recognition Information Centres – network of the European Union and the ENIC - European National Information Centres – network of the European Council and of UNESCO. 

CIMEA supports academic mobility in all its forms and facilitates the understanding of the components of the Italian and foreign higher education and training systems and promotes the principles of the Lisbon Convention in the field of academic qualification recognition. The GCR is the next step in building the policy framework that enables global mobility for learners. 

The UNESCO Global Recognition Convention recognizes the global nature of the higher education marketplace and secures the personal right for students to obtain a fair evaluation of one's qualifications. For Italy, and all of Europe, mobile students must be attracted from all over the world. The GCRlevels the playing field for countries, providing Higher education a clear, accessible, transparent framework upon which to apply individual recognition policies and practices. 

If recognition of credentials becomes a right, evaluation of a course implies that there is an objective methodology that can be explained. This is true, but at the same time, credential evaluation is an art more than a science, and requires a level of professional judgment that makes not every answer simply explained. That's why the motto of CIMEA is "the art of connecting academia." CIMEA has posted the evaluation principles it uses on its website in English. 

CIMEA evaluates qualifications on a case-by-case basis. It evaluates the qualifications according to the purpose. CIMEA looks at three elements: 

  1. The elements of the qualifications. If a student has a professionally oriented [applied] qualification and wants to enter a research program, it is probably not a good match. Documents are important to understand the elements of the qualification. 
  2. The elements of the other country's system. Italy, for instance, doesn't accept distance learning. That would be a substantial difference with the Italian system. 
  3. The typology of the institutions. Italy doesn't have associate degrees, for example. However, it can recognize partial credit. Not all qualifications that are considered official in a foreign country can be accepted. For American applicants, Italy only recognizes official qualifications from U.S. accredited institutions. Italy also takes the modalities into consideration. How an individual obtains the qualification is important. Italy wants to know the quality of the teaching institution. 

As a means to increase accessibility and combat fraud, CIMEA has also created an ecosystem based on blockchain for evaluation statements and for institutions that want to publish qualifications on blockchain. It is an open system that is free of charge. CIMEA is also working on a database with artificial intelligence to detect fraudulent qualification using zero-knowledge proof systems. 


Education is handled by the provincial ministers of education. The Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC) is a forum where ministers of education can discuss issues, but it is not a legislative body or national authority. The Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials (CICIC) is a division of CMEC.

CICIC facilitates cooperation among all the assessment agencies, regulatory bodies, and educators. It serves as Canada's information center where newcomers can get their credentials assessed. CICIC's website is the first stop for anyone who wants to have their credentials recognized in Canada. CICIC isn't an authority or legislator. It is, rather, a facilitator or coordinating body that helps organize meetings among assessment agencies. 

Canada and the Lisbon Recognition Convention (LRC) 

Like the US, Canada has no national educational authority or federal Ministry of Education. . Canada's Education-Related Organizations engage with the regional convention, the Lisbon Recognition Convention (LRC) and the Global Convention on Recognition (GCR).

Canada signed the LRC, which was a precursor to the Global Recognition Convention (Global Recognition Convention). A strong motivation for signing the LRC was a desire to participate in the international community and to ensure reciprocity. 

Canada has found that the LRC has clarified obligations and responsibilities. It has been useful for Canada to approach the information centers that other countries have set up to ask about their practices and their qualifications. Canada wanted to create a similar system. In 2013, the government made it mandatory that anyone applying for immigration must get an assessment of their education from an approved agency. 

The LRC has been seen as a guideline for establishing good practices and quality assurance in evaluation across the country. The LRC has never been taken as a literal legal framework-- It is never a matter of “here is what you have to do and how you have to do it.” The Canadian view of the LRC is that it has given organizations more autonomy. It has been viewed as encouragement, not coercion, interpreted as:“here are things you should strive for,”and how organizations within the country do the work is more or less up to them. All the agencies in Canada set their own policies independently, but using the LRC as a model, they operate on the same fundamental principles and ideas so they base decisions on good information and are working towards the same goals. This is not to say that the work is complete-- there may be areas where each agency would like to improve and better align with the convention, but generally speaking, the LRC has empowered Canadian organizations to use their judgment. 

Canada's compliance with the LRC was generally quite favorable. The assessment services and competent recognition authorities already apply the LRC principles to internationally educated applicants from all regions of the world. This demonstrates that Canada is ready for the next step, which is the Global Convention on Recognition.

From the Canadian perspective, the Global Recognition Convention aims to make recognition practices fair, consistent, non-discriminatory, non-arbitrary, transparent, quality-assured, and in accordance with established rules and regulations of each party. Some important points of the Global Recognition Convention that make it easier to adopt: 

It does not grant the right to have a degree automatically recognized, but rather it gives the right to go through a process to determine whether credentials will be recognized or not. It is not proscriptive in the process--it merely states there must be one, and that it must be transparent to the stakeholders. 

In some cases, although recognition is ultimately not granted, the individual still had access to the assessment process. Persons have a right to an explanation of why recognition was not granted, as well as to an appeal process. It is recommended that alternatives be offered to individuals in refugee situations who have unverifiable credentials. 

The Global Recognition Convention respects institutional authority and the autonomy of countries to set their own criteria. The fact that the term“substantial difference” isn't strictly defined in the Global Recognition Convention allows countries some autonomy to make decisions that are appropriate for their own system. What is substantial in one country may not be in another. 

There has been some concern over the wording about recognition of prior learning or nontraditional education. The Global Recognition Convention agreement article states nontraditional education should be assessed using similar criteria as traditional learning modes. Some organizations have asked whether they have to assess all distance learning programs or anything nontraditional. The wording indicates it's only as long as these are the same or comparable quality assurance mechanisms. There is probably some leeway, since a lot of the interpretation is left to the signing parties. 

"The goal of the Global Recognition Convention is not coercion, but promotion of educational mobility and recognition to the mutual benefit of all parties."

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