Standards for the Profession of International Credential Evaluation

The institution had all the hallmarks of a diploma mill – no street address, generic photos of smiling models in graduation gowns and mortarboards, promises that the degrees could be earned quickly based on life experience and without academic fuss.   The accreditor was unknown and seemed to have recognized only one institution – the institution in question.  You wrote for more information.  The email response from the chancellor was full of unverifiable claims and convoluted explanations of provisional registration with government authorities as a business enterprise.  

What do you do?  Is this institution recognized or not?  You have collected resource materials on diploma mills and recognition of legitimate institutions of higher education around the world.  You feel confident that you can make a decision about this institution.   Unrecognized.  You write your report and send it off to the student with a credential from the institution.

Then the emails and threats follow.  The institution will not accept your conclusion.  You are threatened with legal action, your supervisor is contacted, and your professionalism is questioned.  Your standing as a professional and the reputation of your institution is at risk if you cannot uphold the validity of your decision.

This scenario plays out around the world daily as international credential evaluators and assessors keep ahead of predatory purveyors of questionable educational experiences and fraudulent educational credentials.

“Just send me the name of that book with all the answers.”

For those of us in the field of international credential assessment, that is a common request from faculty members vetting graduate students with credentials from an overseas university, international students applying for admission, or employers wanting to hire someone who was educated in a different country.  

People who are not familiar with the profession of international credential evaluation often do not understand the depth and complexity of this type of work.  The wealth of knowledge and methods required to properly assess the education and resulting credentials from another country cannot be found in one volume on the topic.  Since this profession operates across borders, the practices, methods, and quality factors of professionals in different global regions may differ, based on regional needs.  

We need more than the written resources that support our profession.  

We need clarity on standards.

Certain fundamental ethical and professional standards already exist.  These standards differentiate the responsibility of credential assessment from a purely clerical and unsystematic activity to that of a deliberate, specialized professional discipline, requiring expert education, knowledge, and training.

The field of international credential evaluation has existed for decades but has only recently been formalized and recognized internationally through The Association for International Credential Evaluation Professionals (TAICEP).  TAICEP is the only international professional association dedicated solely to this profession and serves practitioners in all parts of the world.  Founded in 2013, TAICEP has moved forward in codifying professional competencies for practitioners and general outlines that describe the work of credential assessment.   Now it is time to turn our attention to further formalizing the methodology, principles, and standards of the profession.

Accountants have Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).  GAAP ensures that accounting data from other countries can be trusted to make informed financial decisions. What is the equivalent for international credential evaluators?  There currently is none.  We need to identify generally accepted credential evaluation principles to ensure that stakeholders can be confident in the decisions made and information provided by professional international credential evaluators and assessors.

We need to examine some of the more vexing and controversial matters that face our profession.  Those include issues such as:

  • What constitutes a recognized institution?
  • What is a diploma mill?
  • How do we fairly and consistently measure the quantity and quality of academic work completed?
  • What constitutes an equivalent degree?
  • How do we differentiate levels of education?
  • What constitutes credit-worthy work?

Many credential evaluators and assessors around the world have developed standards and processes that answer these questions.  It is time for us to gather this collective knowledge and wisdom and identify our generally accepted standards.  Doing so will strengthen our profession and serve the public and our stakeholders.

What do you think?  

  • Does the profession of international credential evaluation need a body of generally accepted standards?
  • How do we develop standards that can be universally accepted while still meeting regional needs?
  • Are there good models for developing such standards?
  • Who are our allies working on such a project?

TAICEP is the right organization to generate clear principles for the international credential evaluation profession for the benefit of learners and all education stakeholders.

Let’s get this started! Now! If you are interested in collaborating with other professional credential evaluators on this project, please email Margit Schatzman, past President of TAICEP at 

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. She is a frequent speaker at U.S. and international conferences on topics such as credential evaluation principles and methods, and falsified and altered documents.


    Very well said!  

    The absence of definitive standards leaves our industry and profession of constant risk of  imposter companies, and those seeking only economic gain by lowering the standards recognized by many in our industry.  Ultimately it's the internationally educated student / individual who looses without a codified set of standards that our industry is willing to embrace.  IEE is as committed as ECE is to serving our clients with integrity and generally accepted evaluation standards, many of which are published by AACRAO and NAFSA, and lowering the barriers for immigrants and internationally educated people.  

    The recognition of fake institutions is only one of the many challenges we face as you very well described in your blog.  The inflation of grades and credits can be equally discriminatory to those educated in the United States, as well as, setting the international student up for failure in the U.S.  IEE is committed to lowering the barriers to international students, but not by lowering our evaluation standards to accommodate the unqualified student for admission to a program they may not be qualified to succeed in.   "Caveat Emptor" may be a legal term that many hide behind.  It shouldn't be the tag line for international credential evaluators.

    Thanks for your insight and constant pressure to bring our industry to the level that most professions have already created.  Regretfully we have fallen behind the rest of the world in the adoption of principles to ensure the accurate US equivalencies of international education.   Hopefully TAICEP steps up to the plate on creating the equal playing field most of us desire in the USA.

    With full support,

    David Haynes,

  • polixeniat

    Hello! I found this article while researching "highly debated international credentials". 



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