Setting the Standard for Graduate Admissions: Three-year degrees and other admissions challenges

April 18, 2017
  • AACRAO Connect
  • International Admissions and Credential Evaluation

Following this year’s AACRAO Annual Meeting, Association of International Credential Evaluators (AICE) held its 2nd Annual Symposium on April 6, 2017, in Minneapolis, MN.  The symposium’s theme was: Setting the Standard for Graduate Admissions: Three-year degrees and other admissions challenges.  This event brought together AICE‘s Endorsed and Affiliate Members, representatives of AACRAO, university admissions officers and other international education professionals in an open dialogue to discuss issues of equating three-year degrees from various countries to US degree equivalents. The diverse and dynamic group of panelists and attendees provided in-depth insights on three-year programs from around the world as well as methodologies and tools for evaluating these programs for continuing education, graduate admissions and employment.

The symposium was moderated by Dr. Alexander Agafonov, Executive Vice President/COO of Globe Language Services, Inc.  The program was divided into three modules, each addressed by a panel of experts:

Module 1: Bologna-Patterned Three-year Degrees.

Aleks Morawski, Director of Evaluations, Foreign Credits, Inc. (moderator); Melanie Gottlieb, Deputy Director, AACRAO; Robert Watkins, Assistant Director of Admissions, Graduate and International Admissions Office, University of Texas, Austin.

Module 2: Three-year Bachelor’s Degree: South Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka).

Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert, President/CEO, Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (moderator); Ujjaini Shasrabudhe, Director, Office of Graduate Admissions, University of Southern California; Annetta Stroud, Senior Evaluator and Training Coordinator, AACRAO

Module 3: Beyond South Asia and Bologna: Three-year degrees from Australia, South Africa, and Israel.

Beth Cotter, President/CEO of Foreign Credential Evaluations, Inc. (moderator); Ann M. Koenig, Associate Director, AACRAO International; Stephanie Ingvaldson, International Student Services and Programs, California State University, Sacramento; Josh Trevers, Globe Language Services, Inc.

Survey: Acceptance and treatment of 3-year degrees

The introductory part of the Symposium featured a presentation of survey results. The survey (view PPT here), which focused on acceptance and treatment of three-year degrees by educational institutions, was jointly developed and administered by AICE and AACRAO. 360 AACRAO member institutions participated in the survey providing valuable data on their policies for considering three-year degrees for graduate admissions.

Some survey highlights:

  • Only 30% of institutions reported that they require a bachelor’s degree that is 4 years in length for graduate admission; 29% indicated that they do not, and another 25% reported that they evaluate each file in a case-by-case fashion (chart on slide 4)

  • 20% of institutions reported that they would accept a european bachelor’s degree that is 3 years in length (chart on slide 5)

  • 45% of institutions reported that they do not consider if the international credential gives access to graduate education in the native system when making an admission decision (chart on slide 9)

AACRAO and AICE concluded that overall survey results showed divergent institutional opinions and opportunities to further engage institutions in the discussion of three-year degrees and graduate admission.  Opinions remain divergent despite a decade of engagement post-Bologna reforms in Europe.

Interactive session

The Symposium also included a breakout session, which allowed participants to interact with the panelists in a closer and less formal setting. This resulted in the most productive and informative discussion on the topic of three-year degrees. The breakout groups presented the results of their discussions identifying the common outcomes. The following conclusions reflected the consensus of the Symposium participants:

  1. It is best to use quantitative method (year-counting) to evaluate post-secondary studies from foreign countries;

  2. It is useful to acknowledge completion of the home country benchmark credential in addition to the number of years of post-secondary study completed;

  3. It is necessary to always review full educational history of an applicant (not just his or her three-year degree);

  4. It is useful to acknowledge home-country access outcomes for a particular credential;

  5. Evaluation recommendations should be based upon primary sources appropriate to the credential era.

AICE will use these outcomes and other insights from the Symposium to update its Credential Evaluation Standards, which are published on AICE’s website at

The International Education Standards Council (IESC), which makes placement recommendations for AACRAO’s EDGE database on global higher education, will continue its work with our European colleagues to fine tune the placement recommendations for Bologna-compliant bachelor degrees.

Interested in International Admissions Topics?  Don't miss International Recruitment and Marketing: Managing the Message in Challenging Times, a  FREE (LIVE) webinar on Tuesday, April 252-3 PM ET.


Melanie Gottlieb, Deputy Director at AACRAO, reporting on the AACRAO-AICE Survey on Three-year Degrees


Module 1: Bologna-patterned three-year degree; Panelists (L-R): Robert Watkins, Melanie Gottlieb, Aleksander Morawski


Module 2: Three-year Bachelor’s Degree: South Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka); Panelists (L-R):

Ujjaini Shasrabudhe, Annetta Stroude, Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert



Module 3: Beyond South Asia and Bologna: Three-year degrees from Australia, South Africa, and Israel.

Panelists (L-R): Stephanie Ingvaldson, Anne M. Koenig, Josh Trevers, Beth Cotter.


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