Move to enable recognition of Syrian refugee credits

A new scheme to enable Syrian refugees to have their credits and qualifications recognised so that they can continue employment or further studies in Jordan will be launched on 1 April by the UK NARIC, the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom, funded by the UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees have poured across the border into Jordan since the conflict in Syria began in 2011. A significant proportion are university students who have had to abandon their courses, but also many school leavers and graduates have arrived without documentation of their educational qualifications, either because they had to leave their homes in a hurry for their own safety or because the documentation was destroyed in the fighting.

The NARIC scheme will process 500 applicants in its first year and use methodology borrowed from a similar programme helping refugees in Greece.

“The methodology we use is the same one we use to compare qualifications earned out of the UK to qualifications in the UK framework – with a fine-tooth comb level of descriptors to enable us to understand how they compare,” Tim Buttress, head of stakeholder management at UK NARIC, told University World News.

“In most of our other work we would compare to UK standards, but in this one we have been able to compare with Jordanian standards, so that Syrians can enter the jobs market or study market in Jordan.”

The idea was the brainchild of UK NARIC Chief Executive Cloud Bai-Yun who wanted to be able to develop a methodology to recognise Syrian refugees’ qualifications in Jordan by comparing the quality with those in the Jordanian system.

“Fundamentally we are using the same methodology in Jordan as we did in Greece,” Buttress said.

He said the methodology could be used in other countries, particularly Lebanon and Turkey, which are also taking in large numbers of Syrian refugees.

Adnan Rawwash, UK NARIC’s business development officer for the Middle East and North Africa region, said around £300,000 (US$422,000) is being spent on the initiative this year – and the hope is that the scheme will be extended – with the aim of helping 500 applicants.

The focus will be on study credits and qualifications and particularly qualifications relevant to sectors in which refugees are allowed to work. Host countries often restrict work opportunities for refugees to protect opportunities for their own population, but Jordan is allowing refugees to work in some sectors.

“There are 650,000 Syrian refugees registered in Jordan, mainly based in camps in the north,” Rawwash told University World News. “Mainly they are allowed to go to work in specific sectors such as construction and agriculture, but not all sectors, so we are focusing on those.”

Buttress said UK NARIC will be providing refugees with information so that they can continue their studies, but is also looking at credit transfer to the extent that if they are part-way through a qualification, they can complete that in Jordan as well.

“Being able to finish the qualification would be of great benefit to them and wider Jordan,” Buttress said.

Awareness needed

Key to whether the initiative will be effective is growth of awareness about it. Rawwash is visiting Jordan this month to engage with external stakeholders such as the Association of Arab Universities, and the ministries of higher education and research, planning and labour.

Refugees are able to upload their documentation online. Individuals whose qualifications are compared will get a statement in English and Arabic and employers and institutions need to understand what the statement means.

“Raising awareness about how to use the NARIC statement is part of a process on the ground we have to do in Jordan,” Buttress said.

“The idea is that if you had trained as an architect, for instance, is there any way of taking that forward into another country, so that they can operate at a level they are qualified for and be of maximum benefit to the wider community.”

The pilot that UK NARIC operated in Greece has been extended by its Norwegian counterpart ENIC-NARIC with support from the UK. “Hopefully we can do the same with this project and take it into other parts of the world and other parts of the region,” Buttress said.

Refugees with full qualification documents will be issued with a UK NARIC Statement of Comparability to Jordan standards, with next steps guidance.

Those with partly completed studies, with documents showing their passes and achievements, will be allocated ‘credits’ to reflect their passes and the credits will fit with the Jordanian credit system. They will be given advice on next steps and links to suitable courses so that they can complete their studies.

Those with missing documents for either completed or partly completed qualifications will be given “advice on progression options”.

UK NARIC will be reporting back on this programme at its national conference in London in November.