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Database to combat academic fraud in Aus, NZ

An ambitious digital initiative to combat academic qualifications fraud is rolling out across Australia and New Zealand.

Margaret Gardner, vice-chancellor of Monash University, speaks on My eQuals at Groningen Declaration NetworkMargaret Gardner, vice-chancellor of Monash University in Australia, talks about the My eQuals project at the recent Groningen Declaration Network meeting in Melbourne.

"It is a great example of what universities can achieve when they cooperate”

Launched as Australia’s response to the Groningen Declaration Network, a worldwide initiative to tackle fraud in academic qualifications and enhance student mobility, My eQuals entails universities certifying the accuracy of qualifications records before releasing them into a database of verified qualifications.

Students at participating institutions can then access and share their records at any time.

“My eQuals will enhance student mobility and streamline processes for employers and others”

Managed by Higher Ed Services, a not-for-profit owned by Groningen Declaration signatory Universities Australia, the project aims to ease the burden of qualifications verification for education institutions and employers.

It should therefore also ease the application process for education and job opportunities both overseas and in students’ home country.

“My eQuals will enhance student mobility and streamline processes for employers and others who will be able to verify the authenticity of credential documents issued by institutions around the globe,” commented Stuart McCutcheon, vice-chancellor at the University of Auckland.

The university is one of four – along with the University of Melbourne, Monash University and Griffith University in Australia – that have already adopted My eQuals.

More institutions will join a phased approach over the next 18 months.

Altogether, 45 institutions have signed onto the project: 37 in Australia and all eight of New Zealand’s universities.

Announcing his support for the My eQuals project earlier this year, Australia’s education minister Simon Birmingham said the project will strengthen Australia’s education reputation overseas and “help build trust in the quality and portability of Australian qualifications in Asia and around the world”.

“Universities have an opportunity with this project to better enable students to move between institutions at home and abroad which will help further boost the reputation of our higher education sector.”

The project was lauded at the recent annual meeting of the Groningen Declaration Network, held in Melbourne – its first since it was freshly incorporated as a not-for-profit global initiative.

A key aim of the declaration is to create central data administration systems to combat academic fraud.

The meeting and the inception of projects like My eQuals show that the network “still proves relevant and hopefully sustainable”, its executive secretary, Herman de Leeuw, told The PIE News.

However, he did note that the latter point is “certainly not something to be taken for granted”. Keeping the initiative financially viable will be a challenge in the years to come, he added.

Attended by representatives f organisations from around the world including UNESCO, the World Bank, the OECD, the European Commission and TAICEP, the meeting included workshops on how to check the integrity of academic qualifications, recognising migrant skills and building effective partnerships to combat fraud.

It also also touched on initiatives such as the European Qualifications Passport,

The next initiative to “watch very closely” will be Central Depository Services (India) Limited National Academic Depository – C-NAD – which is developing a database through which it will verify and store academic qualifications digitally, said Herman de Leeuw.

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