Council of Europe Working party on Refugee qualifications
Guidelines for the recognition
of refugee's qualifications
presentation for the seminar in Strasburg 15-16 Nov 1999
by Mr. Erwin Malfroy, NARIC-Flanders
The assessment of refugees qualifications
Guidelines for the credential evaluator
The "Background document" on refugee's qualification
The report of the Danish Refugee Council Assessment and
of Refugees Qualifications in the European Community
(December 1998) identified a number of recognition-related problems facing
refugees in many countries.
Numerous refugees who could be contributing to the European societies
using their qualifications are today unemployed or obliged to restart education or
training already completed in their home country. Whilst many barriers can be mentioned to
explain refugee unemployment, there is much evidence that systems for assessment and
recognition of foreign certificates, skills and knowledge often fail to offer refugees
appropriate routes into employment or further education and training.
Important changes have taken place in the field of
assessment and recognition of foreign qualifications in Europe, such as increasing
cooperation within higher education (e.g. the Bologna Declaration and the new model of the Diploma Supplement, the
implementation of EU directives
concerning the recognition of regulated professions and the Lisbon Recognition
Convention. Concepts of recognition have evolved towards a wider acceptance of
differences between various education systems.
In recent years, the question of recognition of
refugees' qualifications has been dealt with within several European forums on refugee
integration or international mobility. Conventions, like the Lisbon Recognition Convention
and networks existing in the field of higher education have begun to address the
particular problems of refugees and, in some European countries, the question has been
given some attention by the government.
The main recognition-related problems facing refugees
- insufficient information and opaque procedures;
- lack of provisions for various areas of assessment or
- lack of procedures to deal with insufficient
- additional procedures or requirements for non-EU
- lack of financial support and bridging to mainstream
education and training.
These are problems adding to the barriers affecting the
professional and academic opportunities of refugee qualification holders.
The assessment of
The assessment of a refugee qualification calls for a different approach
than that normally used by credential evaluators.
Instead of assessing a qualification on the basis of a well documented
file, credential evaluators will often have to assess refugee qualifications on the basis
of incomplete or even entirely missing information about both the individual
qualification and the system from which it hails. The educational system may be a parallel
one or may be broken down caused by a civil war.
It goes without saying that the legalisation of the refugees
documents by an authority of a refugee producing country is a Danaides job.
An assessment of competence instead of an assessment of documents may be
a soulsaving approach.
The working party of the Council of Europe suggests in this document a
kind of good practice for the credential evaluator dealing with refugees
The guidelines may be used by the parties of the Lisbon Recognition
Convention as a tool to fulfill their legal duty mentioned in article VII:
Each Party shall take all feasible and reasonable steps within the
framework of its education system and in conformity with its constitutional, legal, and
regulatory provisions to develop procedures designed to access fairly and expeditiously
whether refugees, displaced persons and persons in a refugee-like situation fulfill the
relevant requirements for access to higher education, to further higher education programmes or to employment activities, even in cases in which the qualifications obtained
in one of the Parties cannot be proven trough documentary evidence.
Credential evaluators belonging to an ENIC may use the Statement by
the ENIC Network on the crisis in South East Europe to strengthen their efforts to
implement the suggested guidelines.
Guidelines for the credential evaluator
The guidelines are based upon the suggestions made by the Danish Refugee
Council in their report.
Terms are used in the same sense as the educational terms in the Lisbon
The guidelines are in particular directed at recognition cases where a
refugee qualification is involved. It is understood that for the recognition of
refugees qualifications the general principles and good practices for the assessment
of foreign qualifications are unrestricted applicable.
Next to the guidelines, the credential evaluator is invited to contact
the ENIC and NARIC Network and share the gained knowledge
and experience concerning the recognition of refugees qualifications.
1. The recognition issue is the assessment of refugee
qualifications on the basis of incomplete or even entirely missing
information about both the individual qualification and the system from which it hails.
Missing documented information in the process of access to higher
education could be compensated by interviews, special examinations, sworn statements or
Credential evaluators should also accept supporting evidence
demonstrating the student had access to higher education in the home country, thus
resulting in the possibility to apply the principle of the Convention on the equivalence
of diplomas leading to admission to universities nr.15 of the Council of Europe.
Some examples of supporting evidence:
- teachers statements about the followed educational training
- a published list of registered students
- student Ids
- students index
- admittance to State Examinations
- professional status
Credential evaluators should also accept documents from supporting
institutions, like The British Council and the Red Cross.
A provisional recognition for the purpose of employment can
be granted under the condition the refugee proofs his or her skills and competence in the
line of the claimed final educational training trough supervised temporary employment.
2. In order not to loose valuable time, the refugee should
- have access to the assessment at an early stage in order not to miss the
start of the academic year. A conditional access upon arrival of the required documents
after a special examination or interview should be possible.
- receive a final recognition decision within 4 months after the
- be able to obtain an advisory statement that can be used as a reliable
tool in job search, career guidance, etc. Of course, this kind of statement can not
replace a real recognition decision.
- be able to stay in touch with the field of study, profession or trade,
through various measures including bridging courses with language tuition
3. To give refugees full benefit of their individual qualifications
skills and knowledge, the criteria for the assessment of the refugee qualification for
employment purposes should include work experience, which can be proven by statements of
employers. The work experience should make it possible to:
- bridge undocumented educational gap
- fully compensate detected shortfalls, like a shortage of practical
- update old degrees
4. Refugees are often in a difficult financial situation. No extra fees
for the assessment of refugees qualifications should be charged, on the contrary,
refugees may be exempted from it. To reduce the costs even more the credential evaluators
should accept as much as possible documents in another language. They should also accept
translations of the documents into another language than theirs.
5. The information on the procedures and criteria for the
assessment of refugees qualifications should be plain and the written materials,
such as the application form should be in a relevant language, where appropriate.
Social workers, vocational guidance counselors, etc. should be kept
informed on the procedures and criteria for the assessment of refugees
6. In case the credential evaluator discover a substantial difference
between the refugees qualification and the local one, suitable adaptation courses to
bridge the gaps and shortfalls should be encouraged to organize, taking into account the
refugees qualifications to avoid starting from scratch.
7. Relevant data on refugee applicants should be collected in order to
provide information facilitating the development of integration measures.
8. By organizing encounters (face tot face or via the Internet) between
- assessment agencies and refugee-assisting organizations
- assessment agencies and labour-assisting organizations
the awareness of certain recognition procedure problems will increase
and solutions can be suggested and discussed.
Beginning of document