Commonwealth plan aims to improve student mobility

April 11, 2003

Commonwealth students could soon find it easier to transfer their studies to other member states if a Commonwealth Secretariat initiative proves successful.

The secretariat wants to see a more unified system of qualification recognition among the Commonwealth's 54 nations.

The move follows talks at a conference in February, co-hosted by the New Zealand qualifications authority, where delegates considered the pros and cons of developing a common framework.

The secretariat will report its findings to the conference of Commonwealth education ministers in Edinburgh in October.

Gari Donn, the secretariat's chief programme officer for higher education and coordinating of the project, said: "There is a long way to go.

Nevertheless, it would be helpful if, for example, a worker in South Africa who had gone back to college or university and had accreditation for prior learning could know that having studied for a year in South Africa they could move more easily on to a course in another country such as New Zealand or the UK."

Dr Donn said exploratory talks had already made it easier for institutions in some countries to "unpack" students' qualifications from another country.

One problem is that each country's qualification system is designed to meet different kinds of objectives. For instance, South Africa's system is built around political goals, while Scotland's is based more on purely educational aims, she added.

Another potential obstacle is that some poorer Commonwealth countries are concerned about the costs involved in creating a common system.

Dr Donn said: "That put a reality check on this work. But what we are hoping is that countries that are still moving towards building their own qualifications frameworks will not have to re-invent the wheel."

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