Very few US universities have any policies on how they should treat qualifications held by refugees, an expert on credential evaluation has said.
With millions of Syrian refugees seeking asylum in the West and an estimated 10 million stateless people globally, higher education institutions face a growing number of applications to study supported by documents from war-torn countries, said Marybeth Gruenewald, director of global initiatives at the Educational Credential Evaluators, a non-profit organisation based in Milwaukee.
But “very, very few” organisations contacted by Ms Gruenewald had any procedures on how to assess papers submitted by refugees or had thought about how they may authenticate such documents, she told the European Association for International Education’s annual conference, which was held in Glasgow from 15 to 18 September.
Reaching the high school, college or university that had awarded the qualifications to check their validity can often be very difficult, particularly if it has been affected by internal conflict, she explained.
“If these certificates are obtained at refugee camp schools, then recognition of credentials is almost impossible,” Ms Gruenewald said.
In these cases, admissions officers should work with faculty members to see if they can find alternative ways to test if an applicant will be able to succeed at their university, she added.
She also praised the creation of schemes to provide more formal certificates of education in refugee camps, such as exams run by Etilaf, the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, sat by 14,000 people in June 2014 and accepted by Turkish universities.
On recognising certificates, she concluded: “There is a human being behind every document who has gone through a lot of strife to get where they are.”