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TAICEP explores fraud and best practice for aiding refugees

IELTS has teams dedicated to issuing cease and desist letters to companies producing fake results. Photo: @TAICEP on LinkedIn

Over 200 delegates attended the 2022 TAICEP conference

The conference, which took place from October 18-21, delved into the theme of ‘Reconnect, re-evaluate and renew’.

TAICEP president Jeanie Bell said the past few days had “allowed us to reconnect with colleagues near and far following the pandemic”, and given delegates “a chance to renew our skills and re-evaluate our practices in the ever-shifting landscape of international credential evaluation”.

“We’ve travelled from South Africa to Azerbaijan,” Bell explained, talking about the conference’s sessions.

“We’ve experienced haggis and tortillas. We’ve been reminded that we need to be vigilant when it comes to determining what constitutes an authentic document, and so much more.”

Margaret Hutchinson, international articulation manager for Scottish Qualifications Authority  and chair of this year’s conference planning committee said: “It is a huge honour to be able to bring colleagues from all over the world to Glasgow.”

“TAICEP gives credential evaluators the opportunity to hear from one another, forge and maintain relationships and networks, and learn and adopt best practice. While the online conferences over the last two years have been useful for maintaining connections, nothing compares to being able to see colleagues face-to-face and hear first hand about the latest ideas and developments,” Hutchinson added.

One recurring topic throughout the sessions was the aforementioned rise of credential fraud in the digital age, including students sending forged paperwork from a fake email address to impersonate an institution, test report form tampering, students hiring imposters to take tests for them, and more.

“IELTS has the power to open doors for people, to change their lives, send them off to an institution or country for a new start and we know that a lot of people see it as a blocker. If their English isn’t good enough and they are really desperate they will try and circumvent our systems,” Fiona Mason, global account manager, at the International English Language Testing System said.

According to Mason, this has led to a large industry of fake IELTS test score mills which are advertised across social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.

IELTS has teams dedicated to issuing cease and desist letters to such companies but Mason described the rising issue as “a game of whack a mole” and said that “we get one shut down and another one is there in a few days or a few weeks,”

“Trust but verify” was the advice given by Susan Whipple, senior credentials evaluator at SpanTran: The Evaluation Company.

Whipple highlighted the importance of acknowledging that “fraud happens everywhere” and warned delegates about the dangers of unfairly associating fraud with international students from particular countries.

“It’s a global experience. We need to have good ways to prevent this and to ensure the university’s integrity is maintained, we can’t do things that are going to make assumptions that are incorrect or penalise our students,” she continued.

“We have to advocate for ongoing training within our organisations,” added Whipple.

The other linked subject weaved through the conference was how evaluators can effectively evaluate the credentials of refugees – which may be lost or more difficult to verify. Such instances require the need for evaluators to be flexible, understanding and to explore evolving practices such as interview-based methods instead of traditional methods.

“By defining our role as both door-opener and gate-keeper, we will be able also to see the importance of our profession. We are here to help the individual to continue their meaningful integration into society,” said Marina Malgina, head of section, Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education.

By defining our role as both door-opener and gate-keeper, we will be able also to see the importance of our profession.

“But what do we understand by meaningful? Do we want to give the wrong information to this applicant about their qualifications? No,” she continued.

“We should be kind. We should always see the person behind the qualification but we should follow the rules. We, as credential evaluators, and also within the TAICEP framework, have a code of conduct,” said Malgina.

“These principles are also valuable for the interview-based evaluations,” she added.

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