ECE and the Groningen Declaration - Part 1

On April 8th, 2014, ECE signed the Groningen Declaration.  Since then, members of our staff have been involved in various efforts to promote the vision of Digital Student Data Portability. We asked them to write about their involvement. This 3-part series will be published each week leading up to the Seventh Annual Groningen Declaration Meeting in Paris.

Part 1 - Why We Signed

ECE is a Groningen Declaration supporter, and here is why.

I’ve been in the international credential evaluation field for over 30 years.  When I started out as an evaluator, the documents we received were always paper and marked with stamps, seals, wavy water marks, loopy signatures, somber student photos, and faded ribbons.  As technology changed we started seeing slick laser printed transcripts on safety paper and fewer dot matrix grade reports generated on track-edged stock or typed documents on flimsy onion skin paper.  While a few handwritten forms come to us (very rarely), today we might not even see any paper documents at all. We are likely to view scanned documents on computer monitors or results listed in databases.

 UK examinations then and now. On the left, a paper document for examinations taken in 1977. On the right, examination results can now be accessed online.

So why have I wandered down memory lane?  What does this nostalgia have to do with the Groningen Declaration?  All of the features of the classic degree, grade report, or transcript are identifiers of authenticity and help to confirm that the document is a genuine reflection of educational attainment. Determining authenticity is one of many key professional responsibilities of an international credential evaluator.  We accept this responsibility and take it very seriously.  After all, we are gatekeepers to education, employment, and professional licensing.

The users of our evaluations count on us not only to interpret the student’s record accurately, but also to ensure that the documents are authentic.  An employer needs to know if a potential employee really had the education needed to do a job or be professionally licensed.  A graduate program relies on authentic documents to ensure that a worthy student is admitted, not one who falsified grades or changed course titles.

For the student, the need of the credential evaluator to authenticate her document can form a major barrier.  To have a document verified by the issuing institution can be time-consuming and costly.  Delays in processing her file might lead to a denial of admission to a graduate program or a lost job offer.  In dire circumstances a refugee or victim of human trafficking or natural disaster might not have access to his educational institution in order for documents to be issued or verified.

To improve the efficiency of the whole credential evaluation process, why not have a universal system to move educational information electronically?  The Groningen Declaration proposes that solution.  Simply put, citizens worldwide should be able to consult and share their authentic educational data with whomever they want, whenever they want, wherever they want.  At Educational Credential Evaluators we believe that students should have the right to own and have constant access to their documents.  It aligns with our values of providing high quality support and services to students educated around the world as well as protecting the integrity of educational documentation.  That is why I signed the Groningen Declaration on behalf of ECE.

The Groningen Declaration Network is bringing together stakeholders from across the globe to make digital student data portability a reality.  This voluntary effort relies on the cooperative efforts of educational record keepers and people who work with educational documentation to establish standards, promote best practices, integrate systems and technology, and encourage acceptance.  We support these efforts and are actively involved in moving forward the goals of the Groningen Declaration. My colleagues Margaret Wenger and Jim Kelly are working collaboratively with other volunteers to address issues of credential integrity and technology, respectively.  What are your thoughts on this transformative initiative?

Margit Schatzman has been involved in international admissions and credential evaluation for over 30 years. She began at ECE in 1983 as an Evaluator. In 1985 she became Vice President. She has been president of ECE since January 1, 2007.

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