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Council of Europe Working party
on Refugee qualifications

Introduction to the topic

Report on the Seminar 15-16 Nov 1999, Strasburg

Recognition of qualifications (in the context of refugees)

Draft guidelines for the recognition of refugees’ qualifications

"Background Paper" - a potential new recognition tool for recognition of qualifications held by the refugees

Slovenian experience with certificates from Serbia and Kosovo

 Introduction to the topic

seminar on recognition of refugee qualifications,  Strasbourg, 15-16 November 1999

by Erwin Malfroy, NARIC-Flanders

All countries within the European Region have some experience with assessment of qualifications brought along by refugees from their country of origin. However, there has been no attempt to collect or evaluate this experience. Furthermore, there is a lack of extensive and updated information about the education systems from which the refugees have obtained their qualifications.

With support from the EC, the Danish Refugee Council was carrying out a project on qualifications held by refugees in 1998.

In the field of higher education, the NARIC (European Union) and ENIC (Council of Europe & UNESCO) Networks ensure an international cooperation on recognition of qualifications. During the Joint NARIC/ENIC meetings in Wien, 1998, and Vilnius, 1999, the project of the Danish Refugee Council was presented and gave the NARICs and ENICs an opportunity to comment on the project and the outcomes.

The objectives of the project were:

  • to work out a handbook offering descriptions of the education systems in Iran, Iraq, Somalia and former Yugoslavia. These areas had been chosen because Denmark had received a high number of refugees from these areas;
  • to publish a report describing and evaluating the experience of assessing refugees’ qualifications by the member states of the European Union.

The report was being written on the background of information provided by NARICs & ENICs, Ministries of Education, education institutions and refugee organizations and completed in December 1998.

In Spring 1999 the LRC of the Council of Europe & UNESCO (adopted in 1997) came into force and one of the articles especially focuses on the recognition of refugees’ qualifications.

The ENIC Bureau decided to follow up the project of the Danish Refugee Council and planned this seminar.

The purpose of the seminar is to prepare and train credential evaluators and others who will be called upon to evaluate or help to evaluate qualifications held by refugees, displaced persons and persons in a refugee-like situation.

The training seminar is developed on the basis of the crisis in South East Europe, although the first part of it will deal with concerns of more general relevance to the assessment of any qualifications held by refugees, no matter what their geographical origin is.

Although many refugees are now returning to Kosovo, this does not eliminate the need for special measures aimed at those who will remain abroad for some time to come. The return of an unexpectedly large number of refugees reduces the need for such special measures but does not do away with this concern, although much attention will naturally shift to Kosovo as well as to Serbia.

Like medical treatment, the assessment of qualifications should be fair and equal for all. This implies that while the majority of refugees from South East Europe are of ethnic Albanian origin, the same treatment should be accorded to refugees of Serbian or any other ethnic origin. Some of the Serbian refugees will have their education from Kosovo, others from Serbia. It will be recalled that the ENIC Network at its 1999 meeting adopted a statement on recognition and mobility issues related to the crisis in South East Europe.

Report by the Working Party on refugee qualifications

Seminar on recognition of refugee qualifications

Strasbourg, 15-16 November 1999

  1. Participants

Since both space and funds were limited, the working party had to make the hard choice of limiting invitations to this seminar to a number of countries having

received a high number of refugees from Kosovo.

The following ENICs were invited to appoint two representatives each to the seminar:

  1.  Switzerland
  2.  United Kingdom
  3.  Germany
  4.  Austria
  5.  Belgium
  6.  Netherlands
  7.  France
  8.  Italy
  9.  Norway
  10.  Sweden
  11.  Turkey
  12.  Hungary

The representatives were either ENIC staff or credential evaluators from higher education institutions or others involved in the recognition of refugee qualifications, or a combination thereof.

Canada sent, on his own expenses, a representative of the International Credential Evaluation Service dealing with this issue.

A list of all the participants can be obtained from Mr. Villano Qiriazi of the Council of Europe, tel:++33 388 41 36 24 fax:++33 388 41 27 06, e-mail: villano.qiriazi@coe.int.

  1. Monday 15 November 1999

 Opening addresses

by Mr. Sjur Bergan, head of Higher Education and Research Section of the Council of Europe and Mr. Erwin Malfroy, chair of the working party on refugee qualifications.

 Introduction to the seminar

by Mr. Erwin Malfroy, chair of the working party on refugee qualifications.

 Major issues in the recognition of refugee qualifications

by Dr. Hernan Rosenkranz, World University Service – United Kingdom

 Guidelines on recognition of refugee qualifications

by Mr. Erwin Malfroy

 Presentation of the Background Paper

by Kitty Wigleven

 Group discussions

• The remarks and suggestions made during the group discussions regarding the Guidelines and the Background Paper are included in the redrafted versions.

In Canada there is already a kind of Background Paper in use.

A sample can be faxed upon request (erwin.malfroy@ond.vlaanderen.be).

• A general remark is that in each country the legal situation for refugees is quite different. Although there are almost no special legal measures for refugees wanting to get access to higher education or employment, the ENICs try to find within the legal framework ways to convince higher education institutions to admit refugees or convince professional bodies to give refugees a chance to proof their skills through practical trainings.

Some of the countries have special measures for refugees from well-defined countries.

All ENICs present were invited to submit examples of such special measures taken.

• In spite of the fact that special measures, such as interviews and tests, may require extra time, the whole procedure should not expand the four months deadline.

• The language barrier stays a very important obstacle to create goodwill by higher education institutions and employers. Unfortunately forgeries can easily and quickly destroy the build-up helpfulness.

3. Tuesday 16 November 1999

Access qualifications in Kosovo

by Ms. Polona Miklauc Valencic and Ms. Eva Vilfan from the Slovenian ENIC

 Higher education system in Kosovo

by Mr. Elmar Pichl, World University Service - Austria

 Plenary discussion session

• Taken into account the lack of educational facilities, the question of the quality of the followed education in Kosovo via the parallel system arise especially in the field of applied science or medicine. It will be very hard for credential evaluators to consider the quality of such studies to be comparable to the quality standards of their own educational system.

• Given the fact that the educational system in Kosovo is a parallel educational system and that for example the degrees were printed on any available paper, authenticity of the documents and degrees is a major issue.

• In order to tackle the major recognition problems concerning degrees from Kosovo, the credential evaluators need authorised sources of information.

 Final session

• Conclusions of the seminar

This first encounter between representatives of refugee organizations and credential evaluators (ENICs) was successful and stressed the importance of sharing information and good examples.

• Follow up

The working party will make a report of the seminar that will be put on the ENIC listserver.

The outcomes of this first seminar will be included in the updating of the Council of Europa & UNESCO draft Recommendation on criteria and procedures.



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