Credential Evaluation During the COVID-19 Pandemic

by Shelby Cearley, Senior Evaluator

The global COVID-19 crisis is having a tremendous impact on admissions and credential evaluation. Many countries have closed institutions at some or all education levels, which means that they cannot physically send credentials at present; some countries have allowed institutions and government entities to reopen, but this has caused a delay in the receipt of credentials. Also, the Scottish Qualifications Authority1 the UK Government2, and International Baccalaureate3 announced the cancellation of all upcoming exams, something which has never happened before. In the United States, many institutions have moved to online instruction, cancelled spring commencement ceremonies, and are allowing employees to work remotely. You may wonder how can you can continue to evaluate international credentials if you are not physically on campus to receive shipments of physical documents or when an international institution cannot send official documents. The answer is simple: yes, you can still evaluate credentials, but that evaluation will most likely be a different one than you’ve previously done. 

Think about the purpose of your evaluation. Does that purpose necessitate the use of only official documentation? For example, an admissions evaluation does not necessarily need to be completed using official documents, as many institutions already use online application platforms that enable their applicants to submit electronic copies. You can use applicant-supplied copies for evaluation purposes, preferably with high-quality/high-resolution color copies, but black-and-white copies are acceptable as long as they are clear and readable. Alternatively, you may consider accepting credentials currently in the applicant’s possession which may have been opened since many applicants will have personal copies of their credentials for their own records. Review what the applicant has provided. Does it have the features you would expect to see from this kind of credential? Is there any amiss with the documents that would make you think that they have been altered? You should not evaluate anything that has enough red flags to make you question its authenticity; those should be verified with the issuing institution/entity. If there are no immediate red flags, then you can use the copies to complete your evaluation. Some documents may be verifiable through an institution’s portal (i.e., the Pontifícia Universidade Católica de Campinas verification site4, using information on the credential to determine authenticity) or through a national database (i.e., Ecuador’s Consulta de Títulos de Bachillerdatabase5). Don’t forget that some entities are still issuing official electronic credentials (i.e., Australia’s My eQuals, China’s CHESICC and CDGDC, Parchment, etc.), so you can still expect to receive those officially. Students are often admitted with provisions or conditions on their acceptance. In this situation, you should require the final/official credentials be sent to your institution in a reasonable timeframe. We don’t know how long this pandemic may affect institutions, but it is not unreasonable to give a deadline within the first semester of enrollment. 

IEE is responding to the crisis by issuing a provisional evaluation. This allows the client to submit copies of their documents if they are not able to get them sent officially from their institution, and they can submit electronic copies by email attachment. These are reviewed by our Document Verifications team and forwarded to our Evaluations team if there are no red flags. We then complete an evaluation, although the report looks slightly different. We include a cover letter stating that is a provisional report, which we will update at no charge to the client if the original/official documents are received within six months. On the report itself, the authentication field (which is where we enter what type of credentials were received) indicates that copies were used due to the pandemic, and an additional note is added with additional information why those scans were accepted:

This enables us to continue serving our clients while letting end-users know that the report is provisional. 

How do you know which institutions are closed? This is a little trickier to answer. There is no single list of closures. Some countries have issued country-wide institution closures, while others have allowed institutions and/or local governments to make that determination. You should be able to start with the website of the entity responsible for education in a particular country (i.e., the Ministry of Education) to see if there is a nationwide closure. Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology website6 shows that primary and secondary schools were closed as of March 2nd, but it does not mention tertiary-level institutions. Alternatively, you can visit the website of the individual institution (if there is one) to see if there is any information about closure and possible reopening. For example, visiting the McGill University website7 shows that the university is closed until at least May 1st. You may also be able to view national tertiary-level closures on the University World News website.

It is difficult to know how long this pandemic may affect us. However, with a little flexibility, we can continue to provide internationally educated people with credential evaluations that enable admissions and employment decisions to be made without sacrificing the quality of the evaluation. 

References 

  1. Scottish Qualifications Authority. (n.d.) SQA news. Retrieved 1 April 2020 from https://www.sqa.org.uk/sqa/35832.html
  2. UK Department for Education. (n.d.). Coronavirus (COVID-19): Cancellation of GCSEs, AS and A levels in 2020. Retrieved 1 April 2020 from https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-cancellation-of-gcses-as-and-a-levels-in-2020/coronavirus-covid-19-cancellation-of-gcses-as-and-a-levels-in-2020
  3. Sharma, Y. (2020, 25 March). “Major international and national school exams suspended”. University World News. Retrieved 1 April 2020 from https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20200325174758462
  4. Pontifícia Universidade Católica de Campinas. (n.d.). Verificação de autenticidade de documento acadêmico. Retrieved 1 April 2020 from https://www.puccampinas.edu.br/verificacao-de-autenticidade-de-documento/
  5. Gobierno del Ecuador. (n.d.). Consulta de títulos de bachiller. Retrieved 1 April 2020 from http://servicios.educacion.gob.ec/titulacion25-web/faces/paginas/consulta-titulosrefrendados.xhtml
  6. Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (Japan). (n.d.). COVID-19: Information about MEXT’s measures – Temporary closure of Japan’s schools. Retrieved 1 April 2020 from https://www.mext.go.jp/en/mext_00006.html
  7. McGill University. (n.d.) McGill University Homepage. Retrieved 1 April 2020 from https://mcgill.ca

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *