European Qualifications Passport for Refugees
The European Qualifications Passport for Refugees is a unique instrument providing refugees with an assessment of qualifications that cannot be fully documented. Based on the Lisbon Recognition Convention (Council of Europe/UNESCO), the methodology tested by the Council of Europe, the UNHCR, nine countries, National Recognition Centres and universities enables refugees to have their qualifications accepted across borders to continue their studies or find a job related to their education.
Since the beginning of what is often referred to as the refugee crisis in Europe, the recognition of qualifications held by refugees has become one of the tools for refugees’ integration into European societies. A survey published in 2016 showed that some 70 per cent of the States parties to the Council of Europe/UNESCO Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region (Lisbon Recognition Convention; ETS 165) have not taken measures to implement Article VII of the Convention, which refers to the recognition of qualifications held by refugees, displaced persons and persons in a refugee-like situation that cannot be fully documented.
In 2017, the Council of Europe implemented a pilot project in Greece that successfully tested the European Qualifications Passport for Refugees, a methodology that makes it possible to assess qualifications held by refugees in cases where those qualifications cannot be fully documented and also provides a format for describing those qualifications, once assessed, that should facilitate the use of the assessment both within and beyond the refugee’s (first) host country. At its extraordinary meeting on 14 November 2017, the Lisbon Recognition Convention Committee adopted a Recommendation on the Recognition of Refugees’ Qualifications under the Lisbon Recognition Convention and its Explanatory Memorandum .
The assessment of qualifications held by refugees is based on a self-assessment questionnaire and a structured interview conducted by a team of two credentials evaluators from different ENICs (national information centre on recognition), at least one of whom has expert knowledge of the language and education system of the country from which the applicant claims to have his/her qualification. If the credentials evaluators, through the interview and using any available documentation, consider it likely the applicant has earned the qualification claimed, the qualification is described in a defined format called the European Qualifications Passport for Refugees (EQPR). The EQPR includes three sections: the assessment part, the explanatory part and advice on the way ahead. The assessment part of the document contains information describing the highest achieved qualification(s), subject field, other relevant qualifications, as well as work experience and language proficiency. The explanatory and advisory sections contain information about the status of the document and a short description of the project.
The EQPR should eliminate unnecessary and repeated further assessments of the same qualifications in other European countries if and when the EQPR holder moves. The EQPR does not constitute a formal recognition act, and it will not give access to study programmes or profession with specific requirements, such as most regulated profession (typically medical doctor, dentist, lawyer, engineer), but it does set out the attainment of the individual.
The EQPR was developed through a pilot project conducted by the Council of Europe in 2017, with the participation of Greece (Ministry and ENIC), Italy (ENIC), Norway (ENIC), and the United Kingdom (ENIC) as well as the UNHCR.
The second phase of the project runs from 2018 through 2020 and involves the original partners plus the ENICs of Armenia, Canada, France, Germany, and the Netherlands. Interviews have taken place in Greece, France, Italy, and the Netherlands and will also be conducted in Germany. Additional countries - including Belgium (Flemish community), Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Ireland and Spain – have shown interest in participating as observers in the evaluations.
Many of the applicants are interviewed online, and the development of a secure IT platform is an important part of the project.
By December 2019, 438 EQPR have been issued out of 525 interviews.
With a credible methodology now tested, the current focus is on upscaling the use of the EQPR. This is being done mainly through on-line interviews and the development of evaluators' capacity on the EQPR methodology including a creation of a pool of trained credential evaluators among the National Recognition Centres (ENICs/NARIC)s and to make the EQPR an integral part of recognition. Awareness raising is key and the project is reaching out to communities (including higher education institutions, employers, local authorities and NGOs) in order to facilitate refugees’ integration into their new host societies.
The European Qualifications Passport for Refugees was presented at the UNHCR's Global Forum for Refugees in Geneva in December 2019 as a best practice.
The EQPR makes effective access to assessment of refugees’ qualifications a reality so that refugees now and in the future can continue their studies and/or to find a job related to their education, giving hope to them and their families.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
The European Qualifications Passport for Refugees is a unique instrument to credibly assess refugees qualifications across borders even if not documented. Based on the CoE/UNESCO Lisbon Recognition Convention - the Council of Europe has brought together a range of partners, including the UNHCR, ministries of education, National Recognition Centres and universities - to give refugees hope in their new communities.
The credential evaluators all know the higher education systems of the refugees' host countries and speak the language. No other such instrument exists in Europe.
The voice of the refugees speak for themselves on how the European Qualifications Passport for Refugees has impacted their lives. For example, Anwar from Syria obtained the EQPR in Athens and now lives in Oslo with her family and was able to continue her studies in her field, physiotherapy. This is but one of many examples of how the EQPR can be used across borders to give refugees a new start in life.
What is the current status of your innovation?
The European Qualifications Passport for Refugees was piloted in 2017. The main aim of this period was to develop a credible methodology for assessing refugee qualifications when documentation doesn't exist.
Once this phase was finalized, a second phase is now ongoing with a focus on carrying out evaluations both in person and on-line, awareness raising among both refugees and their new communities and developing a secure IT platform for storing and sharing information.
The upcoming period will focus on upscaling the European Qualifications Passport for Refugees through on-line interviews and acceptance of the EQPR among the network of National Information Centres (https://www.enic-naric.net/). Awareness raising will continue as well among countries hosting refugees.
Collaborations & Partnerships
Council of Europe, Lead institution, co-ordination, political support
UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) - to identify refugees to take part in this programme, advice
Ministries of Education - Greece, Italy and Norway, the Flemish Government - partners and donors
National Information Centres (ENICs/NARICs) from Greece, Italy, Norway, UK, Armenia, Canada, France, Germany and the Netherlands - evaluations
Conference of University Rectors of Italy - evaluations and selection of candidates
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Refugees - 85% who pass the EQPR
National and local authorities - benefit from easier integration of refugees
Universities, especially in Italy which have accepted some 30 refugees as students who have obtained the EQPR
Communities - quicker integration of refugees and better use of their skills
NGOs - Use of the EQPR in their integration practices
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
- 438 EQPR issued out of 525 interviews;
- 140 interviews conducted by video;
- 39 holders of the EQPR accepted at universities;
- Evaluations held in Greece, France, Italy, and the Netherlands;
- 37 credentials evaluators trained in the EQPR methodology;
- Different languages used in assessments (Arabic, Dari/Farsi, English, French, Italian…);
- Broad media coverage (selection of articles to be found on the project website );
- Public event with the UNHCR and the City of Strasbourg;
- EQPR presented at the UNGA Side event held on 26 September in New York, USA
- EQPR presented as a best practice at the UNHCR Refugee World Forum in Geneva on 16 December 2019
Challenges and Failures
- Developing a methodology which would be acceptable to universities and employers
- Spreading the word about the EQPR among refugees, creating trust in the process
- On-line interviews - how to ensure that they are as credible as a face-to-face interview
- The EQPR accepted in more countries
Conditions for Success
Mutliple partners from different perspectives, all working towards the same goal - to support the integration of refugees through assesssing their qualifications. Under the umbrella of the Council of Europe, we worked in partnership with National Recognition Centres, ministries of education, the UNHCR and universities.
Carrying out this initiative with the underpinning of an international convention - the Lisbon Recognition Convention - provides a solid legal basis.
Involving refugees who have undergone the process of evaluations to explain it to potential applicants.
The fact that a network of Recognition Centres already exists, with experienced credential evaluators, was also key.
UNESCO has recently adopted a Global Recognition Passport for Refugees which was based on the European Qualifications Passport for Refugees, to be used outside Europe. It is now being piloted in Zambia.
While legal instruments may exist, identifying practical instruments such as the European Qualifications Passport for Refugees is the only way to ensure that they are put into practice.