Accreditation Equivalent by WES?

Discussion in 'Accreditation Discussions (RA, DETC, state approva' started by bigposse, Jan 31, 2020.

  1. bigposse

    bigposse New Member

    If a foreign degree is evaluated for use in the US, by an agency such as WES, what is it equivalent to, exactly? A degree from an RA institution here? An NA degree? Simply something equivalent to a degree approved by CHEA/USDE?

    For example, I recently saw a director of a healthcare education program here in the US who recently obtained a PhD from the University of Ulster. Not sure why this American person wanted to go through that school for his degree, although I suspect cost/path of least resistance may be at play. If WES evaluated his PhD, are they stating his PhD matches that of an RA school like UT, BYU, UConn, etc? Therefore appeasing the education admin on meeting their requirements for that position?
    I have no clue how this works....
  2. LearningAddict

    LearningAddict Well-Known Member

    Neither approves degrees, they recognize accreditors.
  3. Garp

    Garp Active Member

    I believe evaluations (ones I have seen) say whether the degree is equivalent to an RA degree.

    According to The Times Higher Education:

    "Ulster is consistently regarded as one of the most outward-looking institutions in the world, ranked in the top 25% of UK universities for world-leading research based on research power in REF 2014 with 72% of our research activity regarded as 'world-leading' and 'internationally excellent'."
  4. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

    That would be my understanding.
  5. LearningAddict

    LearningAddict Well-Known Member

  6. Neuhaus

    Neuhaus Well-Known Member

    They say it's equivalent to RA. WES's position is that RA is basically the gold standard. Their language surrounding NA degrees for evaluations in other countries seems to tread a bit carefully. I can only assume they're trying to avoid getting sued for classifying an NA degree exactly the same as an unaccredited one.

    Realistically, WES evaluations are severely limited in this respect. They aren't really comparing curriculum. They're comparing approvals. They're looking to see which level of approvals match up. In the US, all of the good and respectable schools have RA. Therefore, they are equivalent to the good and respectable schools of Canada and the UK even though they have a different means of chartering and administering those schools.

    For me, as an employer, the assurance I'm being given is that this school is legitimate. Otherwise anyone could claim any degree from another country and we would have no way of verifying the graduation or knowing if that school was legit. From what I've seen, there is no foreign equivalent to the RA/NA debate and so it's a bit of an anomaly. In another odd twist, degrees granted from institutions accredited by the New York Board of Regents are evaluated as being RA equivalent and therefore equivalent to other countries accepted degrees.

    Think of it like accreditation. Columbia is accredited by the same body as Harrisburg University of Science and Technology. That isn't Middle States saying that the two are equivalent in terms of rigor and prestige. It just means that they met the same minimum standards (and in the case of Harrisburg, just barely as of only a few years ago).
  7. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    I believe most foreign credential evaluators offer two levels. The first is institutional--is the degree granting institution comparably recognized? The second is curricular--is the degree and the work you did comparable to the same degree in the US (or some other degree)?

    WES sucks, at least when it came to my doctorate from Leicester. Just for fun I sent my Leicester transcript, degree award letter, and copy of my diploma to them for evaluation. They came back and said my Doctor of Social Science was comparable to a master's degree, not a doctorate. Needless to say, I was flabbergasted. So I sent them additional evidence--that the "points (think "credits") required for the degree were more than that of a PhD, that a PhD-level thesis was required, that it was a scholarly degree, and that the University of Leicester considers the DSocSci to be equal (not equivalent...equal) to a PhD. They didn't care. Their response was that they considered all professional doctorates issued by EU schools to be comparable to master's degrees. (Even though this is certainly not the case among EU universities.)

    In other words, they had a stupid policy and didn't look at the actual program. (Even though that's the level of evaluation I paid for.) I tried one more time, pointing out that although the title was a professional degree, the degree was considered scholarly, not professional, by Leicester. (I gave them evidence of that, too.) No dice. On top of all of that, they were really, really rude, treating me as if I was trying to pull something.

    You know how we say "your mileage may vary"? In the case of WES, it sure does. If it had mattered I would have kept shopping until I found the answer I knew was just. But I didn't. I did check with NACES, who didn't want to get involved. Unbelievable. I'm just glad I didn't have anything--like a job or immigration status--riding on that decision.
  8. tadj

    tadj Active Member

    Last edited: Jan 31, 2020
  9. GregWatts

    GregWatts Active Member

    If memory serves me correctly, didn't they opine that the Heriot-Watt MBA wasn't equal to a US masters? Ridiculous.
  10. Neuhaus

    Neuhaus Well-Known Member

    I'm not shocked. When I had my NA Masters evaluated for Canada they went out of their way. They noted that it was equivalent to being "unrecognized" in Canada but put a note that it was accredited by DEAC and WES only considers RA schools to be equivalent to Canadian schools. Setting aside the whole NA vs. RA debate, that's kind of a silly policy. I'm sure there are plenty of Canadian schools out there that are at the same level as an NA school here. They just don't have a weird accreditation scheme like we do. More than that, they clearly have no interest in factoring in programmatic accreditation.

    I don't mean to say that NA is "just as good" as RA. But I do mean to say that WES is not doing enough of a review to make that determination either way. If their rationale for evaluating a degree from country X as being RA equivalent was that country X recognizes it the way it recognizes degrees, then NA degrees should be afforded the same. USDOE doesn't create a distinction here. Instead, they issued a blanket rule which they immediately carved out an exception for (NYS Board of Regents) based on...what? What has WES actually reviewed? What standards are they actually measuring against?

    Objectively, they should not have done this with your DSC. Though I can absolutely envision a situation where they get their pants sued off if it cost an academic job. That, of course, may very well be why they made that regents exception given that the regents accredit two different hard science doctoral programs.
  11. tadj

    tadj Active Member

    I would like to know whether other Canadian evaluation services (University of Toronto's Comparative Education Service, Alberta's IQAS) fellow the same policy in dealing with U.S. nationally accredited institutions. I would also be interested in the question of how the American "WES" counterpart treats degrees from provincially-recognized Bible Colleges in Canada. Do they stand any chance of getting equivalency, or would they need an optional add-on (ABHE accreditation) to be considered?
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2020
  12. tadj

    tadj Active Member

    I suppose that a chartered Canadian Bible College with ABHE accreditation would just be treated as an American institution, or would I be wrong? Maybe it wouldn't even require an assessment. But then what about the countless Bible Colleges that have degree-granting authority through a provincial charter and nothing more? How would they be seen in the U.S.?
  13. Lerner

    Lerner Well-Known Member

    Greg actually WES equated the HWU MBA to a Masters's degree in management. It was ECE that evaluated the MBA as not even a US Masters.
  14. GregWatts

    GregWatts Active Member

    Peace, thanks for the correction. I was certain of the general issue but not the specifics.
  15. Lerner

    Lerner Well-Known Member

    Most US Credential evaluators that are NACES members or other reputable services evaluate to the RA standard.

    As far as I know, if the degree is not found to be on the level/equivalent to a degree from the US RA university or college the evaluation report will indicate that the degree is
    equivalent to a degree from a US University or College that is not Regionally Accredited. If a fake degree is provided they will notify the authorities as well.
    They can also reject the request for evaluation.
  16. Neuhaus

    Neuhaus Well-Known Member

    Except that is not what WES says. WES says that a US degree's Canadian equivalent is "Unrecognized Bachelors/Masters/Doctorate." Because they have a blanket rule except for when they deem it not to apply in, so far, one exceptional case (NYS Regents). For degrees being evaluated for use in the US, it will just come through as either recognized or unrecognized. There is no foreign equivalent to NA at least that WES seems to ever report.

    USDOE does not have tiered accreditation. You're accredited whether you are NA or RA or Faith Based or even one of the programmatic accreditors that accredit a handful of standalone schools. The tiering isn't government imposed at all. It's something that our educational system does all on its own with a vast network of private organizations that are actually doing the accrediting.

    Government imprimatur is sufficient for a degree to be ruled "equivalent" by WES in 99% of the countries they evaluate. In the US? Nope. And based on what? Largely tradition, it seems. Though I'd wager much more of it is the consequence of the inbreeding that occurs when executives float between higher education administration, consulting and other educational ancillary services.
  17. Lerner

    Lerner Well-Known Member

    My comments are about WES USA. I think if I understand your comment is about WES Canada which I consider a separate discussion.
    In the USA WES Canada has no say. They are used in another country.

    Here in the US the standard for foreign degree equivalency evaluation is RA but not only.
    Because there are also Professional licensing, such as Engineers PE, Medical Doctors, Veterinarians, etc.
    So even if the degree is found to be equivalent to RA accredited it may not pass as eligible for professional licensing. In such cases, additional scrutiny by specialty evaluation agencies exists.
    Each country decides which standard they accept as their countries equivalent or equal.
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2020
  18. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

    I think this is a critical point for some people. It's especially true in the Health professions. You can have a perfectly good degree from a well respected non-US school and have it assessed with the result being that the degree is found to be equivalent to an RA degree on the same level but that does not automatically qualify you for licensure.
  19. Neuhaus

    Neuhaus Well-Known Member

    This statement is, at best, oversimplifying matters especially as it pertains to the US.

    The "country" has no standard, period. The only time the federal government weighs in on the acceptability of a degree is for federal employment or for immigration purposes (i.e. granting a visa based on being a skilled worker). That's it. The "country" has no say on matters of licensing except for the very short list of licenses granted by the federal government.

    What degrees are acceptable for licensing is the purview of the states. A foreign law degree may be (and I believe is) unacceptable in Ohio but could very well be bar qualifying (even without an LLM) in New York. Likewise, a part-time JD program that is bar qualifying in 49 states may not make you eligible for the bar in New York. Massachusetts has decided that one particular unaccredited law school meets their standard. California has a more liberal approach, as we all know. Oregon and California, pre-recent changes but still quite recently, accepted some degrees from some unaccredited schools to qualify you for licensing as a psychologist.

    There are license classes that don't even exist between states in some cases. New York might not only accept your foreign medical degree but if you earned a bachelor of medicine and surgery (or some equivalent) they are also willing to issue you an M.D. so that your business cards look right.

    The "country" doesn't weigh in on any of this and almost every state, even if they require specific programmatic accreditation for license qualification carves out some exception to give themselves wiggle room.

    Beyond that, licensed professions account for a fraction of jobs in the United States. My company employs around 15,000 in the state of New York alone. Of those I'd say the people who have licenses necessary for their positions comes in around 100. And that's counting very liberally (i.e. the CFO does not need to be a CPA. But he was a CPA before and he's not going to let that license lapse). Of all American workers, the vast majority are not licensed or have what I've termed "soft licenses" where anyone can get one, you just have to pay a fee and pass a background check (e.g. states that license car salespeople or bartenders).

    The problem, as I've stated, is that WES strongly implies there is a national standard when there absolutely is not one. That may bring value to higher education, especially if you want to transfer foreign credits to a US institution or qualify for admission to a grad program on the basis of a foreign bachelors. Even then, it led to more than a handful of academics with pre-Bologna Italian laureas being told that their degrees were only as good as a bachelors degree for the same nonsensically rigid reasons that they decided that Rich's doctorate was on par with a U.S. Masters.

    I see no way that WES could, objectively, say that some foreign school is equivalent to an NA school. There just isn't a comparable system. So the standard, that NA degrees basically don't count, isn't the country setting a standard. It's a private entity and the private entity it is a member of setting a standard on our behalf. I object to this for the same reason I object to private accreditation being the "gold standard" here. State approval should mean more like it does in almost every other country. Instead, it's a joke. And unless you're willing to shell out over $1M to try to get the employees of an ostensibly "non-profit" entity to give you their stamp of approval, you're never going to have a "legitimate" school here, at least in the landscape of higher education.

    It's bad business. Worse, it's so well entrenched that people look at it and act like this is some objective standard that the nation has adopted. Rather, like so many other things, it's a standard we accepted because why not?
  20. Lerner

    Lerner Well-Known Member

    I should have stated that usually, each country outside of the US decides which standard they accept as their countries equivalent or equal. Indeed it's not that simple.
    While public (state) institutions are generally recognized, the status and recognition of private institutions can vary depending on the country especially if one is planning to use the US earned degree in another country.
    Chronology such as HS, Undergrad, and Grad based on age, etc.
    In the US some of my colleagues never had to get an evaluation of their foreign degrees. It's up to the employer's HR department to validate the education claims of the candidates.
    A lot of firms do this as a part of a background check.

    In some countries, there is only one body that decides the equivalency and its usually a branch or an agency that is designated by that countries ministry of education or another government body.
    In the Russian federation its an arm of the Ministry of Education.
    In the UK its NARIC. NARIC is the designated United Kingdom national agency for the recognition and comparison of international qualifications and skills. Per NARIC official policy the degrees from the US that they consider equivalent to British degrees are US degrees from Regionally Accredited universities and colleges.
    Professional institutions also rely on international accords such as the Washington accord.
    But for employment its the employer's decision, same for further education it's up to the accepting institution. There is no mandate to use NARIC. But a report from NARIC can help the potential employer to better understand the applicant's non-UK credentials and the same for further education.

    US DoE:
    There is no single authority in the United States for the recognition of foreign degrees and other qualifications. International agreements and the practice in the U.S. education system and labor market recognize the existence of three competent authorities for recognition matters:

    1. The admitting school or higher education institution, for students who seek to study in the United States and who are presenting credits or qualifications, earned abroad;

    2. The hiring employer, for individuals seeking work and who are presenting degrees or other qualifications, earned abroad; and

    3. State or territorial licensing boards, for individuals seeking to practice regulated professions in the jurisdiction of the United States and who are presenting degrees or other qualifications earned abroad.

    Many, if not most, of these competent authorities, in turn, depend on expert comparability recommendations prepared by credential evaluation services.

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