A strong part of the vision that sits behind the Global Freshman business is that we want to assist students to navigate the global education system and fulfil their hopes and dreams in education in a more affordable and easier way. This involves bringing more value and choice to the student as well as demystifying numerous University and recruitment agent policies and processes.

I was therefore very interested to read recently that The Global Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education will come into force on Sunday 5 March, 2023 (Convention).

I doubt many people will get past that wordy title (a normal issue with UN related documents) but in essence it’s an early tentative step towards supporting an updated legally binding framework on higher education which has a stated objective of “fostering international mobility and opening up increased opportunities for students and qualification holders worldwide”. Adopted at the 40th Session of the UNESCO General Conference in November 2019, the Global Convention complements the five UNESCO regional conventions on the recognition of higher education qualifications across member countries. 

The education ecosystem which the Convention seeks to influence is one where an all-pervading attitude of “My standard is better than yours” attitude is often prevalent. This is a natural approach by sovereign countries then often largely mimicked by their domestic Universities (even those who may be separated geographically by a few kilometres). The fact that the course content is substantially similar or broadly equivalent (certainly from a prospective employer’s point of view) doesn’t matter, the status quo attitude is that “My undergraduate business degree is better than yours and is special, as is my Master’s offering because I am [X] Uni in [X] country and I have been around for 100 years… And so on. This nation and University level parochialism is further complicated for the student by the University ranking systems (don’t get me started – definitely deserving of a separate piece one day), which suffice to say are in my view not worth the paper they are written on and are designed to gamify the battle of reputations (see the paper available at https://www.iier.org.au/iier30/fauzi.pdf by Messrs Fauzi, Tan, David, Awalludin from 2020 where these academics put it more diplomatically by discussing various “methodologies” which are in use).

As anyone in higher education student recruitment will know, the myriad and mystical equivalence policies of admission departments is the stuff of legend. Far too often it becomes a race to close the door on students whose local Universities are considered “lower tier”. That is of course until that University down the road is accepting students with that qualification, and successfully progressing them – then its yet another me too University race…

The Convention and other sorts of macro-level policy like it are generally a positive thing and attempt to provide a runway and an early framework for a faraway future. In the meantime, innovative companies and education providers are already making significant inroads into more cross-border recognition and collaboration. While the International Baccalaureate and Cambridge International high school qualifications are two of the best and rare examples of truly global education programmes underpinned by trust and reliability, we will see others emerging over the next few years, maybe not as grand and all encompassing, but the momentum towards greater transparency for students, greater choice and greater value will provide a spark which should catch. The English language will remain the most prevalent key to unlock choice in international education, but new study routes to a chosen endpoint will continue to emerge.

Our Global Freshman Certificate project is one of these initiatives, where we are seeking to provide a quality online course through a quality University which is then recognised for transfer progression, by our growing list of member Universities worldwide. This takes some pain out of international year 1 and opens up a myriad of progression options. Innovative, different and a challenge to the status quo now, we will be a niche for a time. Stay tuned for how this and other new ways of accessing and thinking about international student mobility start to influence the mainstream market over time.

Jason McLennan
CEO ISP Eduworld Pty Ltd