Unesco plans global guidelines on qualification recognition

Immigrants whose qualifications are formally recognised are more likely to have a job which matches their level of education, says report

December 18, 2018
Jobs fair
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More than a third of immigrants with tertiary-level education in Europe are overqualified for their jobs, compared with a quarter of non-migrants, according to a report from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

When focusing on those with university degrees gained in countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development outside Europe and North America, less than 15 per cent said that their level of education matched their jobs. This compares with almost 70 per cent among other immigrants who studied in the host country, and nearly 75 per cent among natives.

The study suggests that the lack of recognition of learning outcomes for migrants and refugees is a key factor, showing that immigrants in OECD countries whose qualifications are formally recognised have, on average, a 10 percentage point lower overqualification rate for their job.

Meanwhile, one in eight immigrants in Europe said that the greatest hurdle they faced in securing suitable work was the lack of a means to have their qualifications recognised, which was placed well above inadequate language skills, discrimination and visa restrictions.

The study, What a Waste: Ensure Migrants and Refugees’ Qualifications and Prior Learning Are Recognised, was published by Unesco’s Global Education Monitoring Report, the Education Above All Foundation and the United Nations high commissioner for refugees on 18 December.

It argues that despite there being multiple conventions and laws aimed at addressing the issue, progress has been slow and national policies tend to be fragmented and poorly advertised.

It adds that Unesco has drafted a Global Convention on the Recognition of Higher Education Qualifications to be tabled for adoption in 2019.

Manos Antoninis, director of the Global Education Monitoring Report, said that the countries that had made the most progress in this area were those that had carried out a “society-wide intervention”, where government agencies work with the private sector and the representatives of professional organisations or unions.

Madeleine Sumption, director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, said that qualification recognition was a “major problem” that was also “incredibly difficult to fix”.

“A formal certificate of recognition is not usually enough to convince an employer to hire someone,” she said, adding that it can be hard to ensure that immigrants’ prior work experience is recognised.

She said that initiatives that have focused on the regulatory barriers to recognition have generally been the most effective, but acknowledged that this was much easier to tackle in sectors where there was a legal requirement for a certain level of qualification, such as medicine or law.

ellie.bothwell@timeshighereducation.com

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