Substantial Difference in the Recognition of Foreign Qualifications? A Research Study on the Practices of Credential Evaluators in Irish Higher Education Institutions


Lenehan, Niamh (2015) Substantial Difference in the Recognition of Foreign Qualifications? A Research Study on the Practices of Credential Evaluators in Irish Higher Education Institutions. PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.

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Abstract

This study investigates the practices of those individuals acting as foreign credential evaluators with a focus on postgraduate access at Irish higher education institutions (HEIs). Using a research design that involves a refined form of Grounded Theory (Glaser and Strauss 1967; Charmaz 2000, 2006; Glaser 2001), the researcher explores what constitutes and influences practice in differing local contexts for credential evaluators. A preliminary research phase aided the development of four research questions which facilitated the conducting of 14 semi-structured interviews and two focus group interviews with credential evaluators. Each of the four research questions concern a key aspect of the work of credential evaluators. - Role: What do credential evaluators feel their role entails, and what are their priorities when evaluating foreign qualifications? - Values: What values are important to credential evaluators in evaluating foreign qualifications? - Processes: What resources, tools and procedures are used in carrying out credential evaluation? - Policy: What policies impact on the work of a credential evaluator and how? These specific questions do not exhaust the broader aims of the research. These are concerned with advancing understanding of credential evaluation practice at HEIs, thereby offering a reliable means of improving practice, based on an analysis of best available information and knowledge. Based on the researcher’s interpretation of the data, five key issues impacting on credential evaluation practice emerged from the interviews. I. Discrepancies in approach to credential evaluation in higher education institutions II. Benefits and difficulties in using UK NARIC as an authority in credential evaluation III. Differing levels of professional support for credential evaluation within and across higher education institutions IV. Understanding credential evaluation practice through connections with existing policies and activities V. Tensions between the needs of the individual applicant, the credential evaluator and the higher education institution The issues highlighted above are interdependent with the matter of professional identity offered by the researcher as the main connecting thread. Firstly, there is as yet no designated role of evaluator of foreign credentials in Irish HEIs, leading to a lack of clarity. Secondly, extensive use of UK NARIC services, although helpful in some key respects, can also exacerbate confusions where the role of Irish HEIs as competent recognition authorities is concerned. The duration and depth of experience of a credential evaluator have a strong impact on his/her capability, especially when seeking and accessing appropriate assistance for credential evaluation activities. This experience factor is all the more important currently, as the context for foreign credential evaluation is changing rapidly. The global demand for higher education has increased exponentially, resulting in increased mobility of potential students and the development of a plethora of credential evaluation tools. This dynamic has led to greater demands on HEIs for transparency, fairness and accountability in how foreign qualifications are recognised. Finally, while the Lisbon Recognition Convention provides a legal and ethical framework to guide practice, the research undertaken for this thesis suggests that decision-making is highly individualised. It frequently relies on tacit knowledge, experience and informal networks and is impacted on by the prevailing organisational culture. There is a tension between the push for standardised approaches to practice on the one hand and the pressures of internationalisation, and the autonomy of academics and institutions on the other. In summary, credential evaluation at Irish HEIs is shown to be an emergent, rather than established practice. Based on analysis of the findings, the thesis explores the merits of promoting community of practice approaches (Wenger 1998) to address fruitfully the main issues of concern investigated during the research. The study concludes by offering a number of recommendations for attention and action by credential evaluators and management staff at HEIs in particular. A number of reflections by the researcher are also offered.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Substantial Difference; Recognition; Foreign Qualifications; Research Study; Practices of Credential Evaluators; Irish Higher Education Institutions;
Academic Unit: Faculty of Social Sciences > Education
Item ID: 7582
Depositing User: IR eTheses
Date Deposited: 27 Oct 2016 08:45
URI:

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