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Some problems of mutual qualifications recognition

Irina I. Gaydel

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Shevchenko E.V. Some Problems of Mutual Qualifications Recognition // Cooperation between Finish and Russian Higher Education Institutions in the Field of Education: Finnish-Russian Seminar, St. Petersburg, June 4-5, 1998. - St. Petersburg: SPbSTU, 1998. - 28 p. - P. 13-16.


Evgeni V. Shevchenko

The problem of qualifications recognition has two equally important aspects: a) recognition of national educational documents abroad, and b) recognition of foreign credentials in own country. Whereas a correct and competent solution to the first problem protects the interests of national Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) graduates in the world labor market, in the latter case we are dealing with protection of the internal labor market, quality assurance of education in own country. In both cases a correct recognition testifies to the level of competence of specialists in the field of international education.
As long ago as on December 7, 1979, Protocol of Mutual Recognition of Equivalence of Documents on Higher Education, Academic Degrees and Diplomas Leading to Admission to Higher Education Institutions was signed between the Government of the USSR and the Government of the Republic of Finland. The Protocol is still in force. In accordance with the Protocol, Russian former 4-5 year diplomas are recognized in Finland as the Master level, while the Bachelor's and Master's Degrees that appeared recently were not recognized. But even that recognition was selective. It was understandable why Finland did not recognize education in the sphere of Social sciences, History, Law. Though with difficulty, but still understandable was why education in Economics or business administration was not recognized. However, it was completely incomprehensible why Finland did not recognize Russian education in the field of Technology; technological education in a country capable of launching manned vehicles into space is hardly likely to be bad.
"Guidelines for the Recognition of Qualifications from the other European Countries in the Russian Federation and of Russian Qualifications in the other European Countries" prepared on instructions from UNESCO and approved in June of 1997 in Helsinki should be considered a breakthrough in the matter of recognition of Russian qualifications. In accordance with this document, in particular, for countries with two tiers of university degrees, the Russian degree of Bakalavr (Bachelor) is recommended to be recognized at the level of the first degree (in Finland, it is the degree of kandidaatti), while the degree of Diplomirovanny Spetsialist (Diploma Specialist) and the degree of Magistr (Master) are recommended for recognition at the level of the second, or Master's, degree (in Finland, it is the degree of maisteri). It may be considered now that the lack of understanding that occurred when the Protocol of 1979 was applied, does not exist any longer.
In April of 1997 the Lisbon Convention was adopted, which has not yet been signed by either Finland or Russia. It is known that the Russian National Committee for UNESCO is taking all measures for Russia to sign the Convention in the near future. This Convention, as important as it is, only partially resolves the problem of recognition. As a matter of fact, the Convention calls for recognition on the merits on the basis of delivering more information. Universities of Russian and Finland have a great deal to accomplish to implement the Lisbon Convention. One of the ways to tackle this problem may be the issuance to every graduate, in addition to a diploma of any level, of UNESCO/Council of Europe Diploma Supplement providing the necessary and sufficient information on the education received.
In the recent years, changes have taken place in the Higher Education Systems of our two countries which will make us thoroughly study new problems connected with recognition of qualifications. For example, in Russia:


New State Higher Education Institutions (SHEIs) have been opened. Whereas there were 534 SHEIs in Russia in 1992, in 1997 there were already as many as 573. In St. Petersburg alone there are 49 SHEIs now instead of 43.


Joint educational programmes with foreign universities are being developed. An example is English franchising programmes offered by the North-West Correspondent Polytechnical Institute or programmes of Russian-American Higher School of Management of St. Petersburg State Technical University.


Non-governmental Higher Educational Institutions (NGHEIs) have been opened. Among them there are many theological educational institutions of various religions, branches of foreign universities, former trade union, Communist Party or Komsomol (Young Communist League) educational institutions. A great number of Private universities have emerged which are financed by the funds received from the students.


Educational institutions of non-university level of higher education have been established on the basis of former Technicoums.


Renaming of Russian HEIs is still going on.


It is intended to merge 2 or 3 HEIs into one university, which has already happened in 15 Russian cities.

It is necessary to single out the problem of recognition of documents certifying the education and study periods in Russian HEIs related to the fact that educational institutions have received greater independence in establishing admission rules and curriculum and plan development. The development and application of State Educational Standard (SES) in Russia alleviates this problem but does not resolve it to the full. This is particularly true for NGHEIs, approximately thirty of which have already passed the State Attestation and have the right now to issue educational documents of the government model.
It is important for Russian specialists that new academic degrees have appeared in Finland and that many Polytechnics have been transferred to the rank of AMK-institutions. Many AMK-institutions develop joint programmes with St. Petersburg HEIs now and open their representative offices in the city. St. Petersburg HEIs have begun admission of Finnish citizens for study including distance learning programmes; in this connection a question arises of the legitimacy of such activities from the point of view of Finnish Laws on Education. Finnish Institute of Management is functioning in St. Petersburg.
A general problem which both Russia and Finland will have to face in the near future is the problem of recognition of qualifications from CIS and Baltic countries. These countries are in the process of active implementation of education reforms: the secondary school study time is modified, including the changes in the direction of shortening; various types of complete secondary education are introduced, not all of which give access to higher education; university admission rules and regulations are changed; the periods of training for Bachelors, Specialists and Masters have already changed; students' knowledge evaluation systems adopted now are different from those used earlier; the names of educational documents have changed virtually everywhere to reflect the diversification of educational systems; some of the countries consider a transition to a different alphabet, Latin or Arabic.

Recognition of national qualifications abroad as well as of foreign qualifications in own country cannot be an automatic matter. It is essential to present the Systems of Education of one's own countries on a wider scale. The following comprehensive descriptions of Russian System of Higher Education in the English language have recently been published: 1) Oleg Kouptsov. Mutual Recognition of Qualifications: The Russian Federation and the other European countries. Published by UNESCO/CEPES. Bucharest. 1997. 2) Evgeny Shevchenko. Higher Education System for International Students in St. Petersburg. Published by the Association of the Vice Rector on International Relations of St. Petersburg Higher Education Institutions. St. Petersburg. 1998. However, descriptions of System of Education are often not understood in full by the counterparts abroad because of a great difference in the systems of organization of the admission and study process, drawing up the curriculum, knowledge evaluation systems, etc.
In our opinion, in order to improve the recognition of qualifications between Finland and Russia, it can be recommended to begin work on the following goal-oriented programmes as soon as possible:

- Programme of description of both Finnish and Russian Systems of Education by a group of Finnish and Russian specialists, in terms understood by Russian and Finnish academic society, including a description of teaching methods, conditions and procedures of admission of new-coming students, structures of curriculum, etc.
- Programme of harmonizing the Systems of Students' Knowledge evaluation (grades and marks) and the System of Credit (registration of the volume of studied material) to facilitate mutual recognition of qualifications.
- Programme of recognition of separate programmes and courses taught by Finnish and St. Petersburg HEIs of the same profile, primarily of those that are studied by Finnish citizens in Russia and Russian citizens in Finland.
- Programme of reciprocal training of international education administrators.

This work must have a programmatic character, can be done only by joint efforts of specialists of the two countries and must lead to signing a new bilateral agreement on recognition between Finland and Russia.

Mr. Evgeny Vassilievitch Shevchenko Candidate of Technical Science. Head of the Department "Management of International Education". Dean for Foreign Student Affairs of the St. Petersburg State Technical University. Expert of the Constant Working Commission on the Attestation and Accreditation of HEIs and Recognition of Credential at the States - participants of CIS Council on the cooperation in the field of education. Vice Chairman of the Commission on Verifying Validity (Authenticity) of Training Courses, Educational Certificates, Professional Titles and Academic Degrees at the International Non-governmental organization "Incorvus Corporation". Chairman of the Expert Council of the Russian Council for Academic Mobility.

Источник: Shevchenko E.V. Some Problems of Mutual Qualifications Recognition // Cooperation between Finish and Russian Higher Education Institutions in the Field of Education: Finnish-Russian Seminar, St. Petersburg, June 4-5, 1998. - St. Petersburg: SPbSTU, 1998. - 28 p. - P. 13-16.

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