The need for a new recognition scheme
In 2015, Norway, as well as many other countries in Europe, experienced a significant increase in the number of refugees. As a result, the number of refugees with qualifications who will apply for NOKUT’s General Recognition is expected to increase significantly in 2016, as well as in 2017. From Syria alone, close to 1,000 applicants can be expected in the coming year. Simultaneously, NOKUT is seeing an increase in the number of applicants from other refugee countries, such as Eritrea.
Many of the refugees who apply for NOKUT’s recognition are unable to document their qualifications, and must therefore be referred to the UVD-procedure, NOKUT’s recognition procedure for persons without verifiable documentation, which is specifically adapted for refugees. The UVD-procedure, which includes the use of expert evaluations and extensive testing, is very time- and resource demanding. The UVD-procedure also presupposes the following three requirements:
- The applicant must possess sufficient language proficiency in English, Norwegian or another Scandinavian language.
- The applicant must have permanent residency in Norway.
- The applicant must possess a completed qualification within higher education.
NOKUT is now seeing that an expanding group of refugees are facing challenges in fulfilling the three requirements. In order to be prepared for a situation in which large groups of refugees are left without a possibility for recognition, NOKUT has completed a pilot project in order to test a new methodology for evaluation of refugees’ qualifications.
The content of NOKUT’s Qualifications Passport for Refugees
The pilot project was carried out in the period February–May 2016. During this period, a total of 20 qualifications passports were issued. Participants were chosen from active applications pending with NOKUT, for whom the application for General Recognition through the UVD-procedure could not be completed with a legally binding decision.
NOKUT’s Qualifications Passport for Refugees is a standardized statement from NOKUT containing information about the applicant’s highest completed qualification, work experience and language proficiency, in addition to advice and guidance about the road ahead. The document contains information on the documentation that formed the basis for the individual assessment.
NOKUT’s Qualifications Passport for Refugees is valid for a limited time, and has a validity of three years from the date of issue. The goal is that within this timeframe, applicants will have the opportunity to find employment or continue with further studies, improve their language proficiency or, if they still need to, apply for formal recognition or authorization.
The methodology used for the evaluation of this group of applicants is based on elements developed through NOKUT’s UVD-procedure, as well as the proposal on European Qualifications Passport for Refugees developed by NOKUT and our British sister office, UK NARIC. The method is a combination of the evaluation of available documentation, and a structured interview with the applicant carried out by experienced case officers.
The aim of the Pilot project was to assess whether the qualifications passport could be established as a possible supplement in the increasing number of cases in which the existing recognition procedures resulting in a legally binding decision from NOKUT cannot be utilized.
Experiences and feedback from users
The end users of NOKUT’s Qualifications Passport for Refugees will primarily be the following three groups: employers, the integration sector and higher education institutions. With this in mind, NOKUT conducted interviews in focus groups with representatives from each of these three groups. The feedback from the focus groups was positive and constructive. The members of the focus groups stated that the qualifications passport has the potential to be an effective tool. The feedback and input from each of the focus groups have been actively utilized in further development of the final document, which we have called NOKUT’s Qualifications Passport for Refugees.
Simultaneously, a short survey on how the candidates themselves perceived the process of obtaining the qualifications passport was conducted. The feedback from the candidates indicates that the qualifications passport is seen as a valuable offer, and that the evaluation process had made them more aware of their qualifications, and of which competences they should use as a basis for further activities.
NOKUT’s Qualifications Passport for Refugees is suggested as a new permanent scheme to supplement existing recognition procedures
Based on the experiences gained from the pilot project, it has been concluded that the model of recognition tested can be made into a permanent scheme to supplement NOKUT’s existing recognition procedures. The establishment of NOKUT’s Qualifications Passport for Refugees as a permanent scheme will benefit both the refugees affected, and society as a whole. Refugees with higher education who fall short of the requirements for NOKUT’s other recognition procedures will be given a real option from NOKUT to have their qualifications evaluated, in addition to advice about the road ahead. This may prove positive for further integration. Furthermore, the document has the potential to give the integration sector, employers and higher education institutions standardized and quality assured assistance in their assessments of adapted measures.
Compared to the UVD-procedure, the costs of issuing a qualifications passport will be significantly lower. While a UVD-evaluation has an average requirement for resources of about 50,000 NOK, the experiences from the pilot project indicate that the average cost of issuing a qualifications passport will be around 5.000 NOK.
Download the document: