Written by the TAICEP Digital Student Data Task Force
We all grapple with documentation issues in the best of times, but with the coronavirus pandemic limiting our access to sending, receiving, and processing paper documents, the Digital Student Data Task Force would like to provide some updates on a handful of countries with processes for sharing student records electronically.
In this article, we’ll share updates from China, India, Italy, Norway, Singapore, and Sweden, with the focus on the credential evaluator experience – how to have the student access and share the credentials, and how to get usable documents into our systems.
People’s Republic of China
In China, we are working with two government agencies under the auspices of the Ministry of Education: the China Academic Degrees and Graduate Education Development Center (CDGDC) and the China Higher Education Student Information and Career Center (CHESICC). Both of these institutions verify different elements of Chinese educational records.
It is important to note that China awards dual credentials upon completion of academic programs. In China, qualifications and degrees are separate types of credentials that lead to separate documents. They are also verified by separate government institutions. In other countries, “qualifications” and “degrees” may be used interchangeably, but in the Chinese education system, they refer to two different documents that represent different points of completion for levels of study.
Certificates of Graduation are qualifications awarded upon completion of a recognized educational program at a defined level, ranging from primary school to doctoral study. Degree certificates are only awarded to graduates of Bachelor, Master, and Doctoral programs. Qualifications are awarded upon completion of coursework at a particular academic level, while degree certificates are awarded upon completion of additional requirements beyond just completion of the coursework. These additional requirements may include a Chinese College English Test (CET), a final paper, minimum grades in the major or minimum grade point average, and other requirements. In addition, students cannot have received any disciplinary actions for political reasons.
Since 1992, the degree certificate and certificate of graduation have been issued as separate documents. A 毕业证书 (Certificate of Graduation) is a qualification that may be awarded after completion of primary school (grade 6), junior middle school (grade 9), senior secondary school (grade 12), a Zhuanke (short-cycle undergraduate program of 2-3 years) program, a Benke (long-cycle undergraduate) program, a Master’s program, or a Doctoral program. The Certificate of Graduation indicates that the coursework was completed for that academic level, but despite the English translation, the Certificate of Graduation does not confer award of the degree.
Degree certificates include the 学士学位证书 (Bachelor degree certificate), the 硕士学位证书 (Master’s degree), and 博士学位证书 (Doctoral degree). Degree certificates are not awarded for Zhuanke (short-cycle undergraduate) programs.
More information about the dual qualification and degree system can be found in English directly from CHESICC: https://www.chsi.com.cn/en/news/201312/20131202/663878204.html
Among its other duties, CDGDC verifies degree certificates for Bachelor, Master, and Doctoral degree programs. CDGDC used to verify some high school transcripts, university transcripts, and other educational records, but they currently only verify degrees. There is no fee to students or evaluators for this service. While the CDGDC has an English version of its website, students apply using the Chinese language version. After communicating directly with CDGDC in March, we were able to determine that they are still open for business and working as normal. There may be delays for some degree verifications, especially for older graduation dates, but they have not closed. The main CDGDC website is http://www.cdgdc.edu.cn/ and is only available in Chinese, but the verification site was available in both Chinese and English as recently as last month.
Students request that their degree certificate to be verified by going to https://www.chinadegrees.cn/cqva/gateway.html
Along the left side of the screen, they will need to create an account by click on the 注册 (Registration) link and signing up for an account by entering their email address and creating a password. Students will then need to fill out the application form online and attach electronic supporting documents. Once they have submitted their application, they can check their application status at the same website. Students will be assigned one application number regardless of how many degrees they have, but each separate degree will have its own report number.
Evaluators check the validity of the CDGDC degrees https://www.chinadegrees.cn/cqva/gateway.html. Evaluators will enter the report number and the on-screen Captcha into the Chinese language website. Documents that appear in blue means that the verification confirms authentic documents while pink confirms fraudulent documents.
CHESICC verifies educational qualifications at the secondary and higher education level. Academic secondary school certificates of graduation can be verified. CHESICC no longer verifies graduation certificates from vocational or technical high schools, and they stopped verifying all high school transcripts in May 2019. CHESICC also verifies higher education qualifications such as the certificates of graduation from Zhuanke, Benke, Master, and Doctoral programs and their accompanying higher education transcripts. In addition, CHESICC verifies some university entrance examinations.
CHESICC maintains an English website that allows evaluators to verify the reports in English. Please note that updates regarding COVID-19 have been posted only on the Chinese version of the website. Direct communication with CHESICC in March confirmed that they are still open but are working remotely, so students can apply online and communicate via email or using WeChat but cannot go in person or access services by phone. They are continuing to process verification requests, but there may be delays with older qualifications awarded before 2000 since many schools and universities in China are still closed.
Students can apply online for their senior high school certificate of graduation, university transcripts, or university-level certificate of graduation to be verified by CHESICC via https://www.chsi.com.cn/en/pvr/ (in English) which redirects to https://www.chsi.com.cn/wssq/ (in Chinese). Samples of the various qualifications are available in English at https://www.chsi.com.cn/en/pvr/brief.jsp.
Secondary school graduates need to order the 中等教育学历 报告 / Secondary Education Qualification as proof of high school graduation. Higher education students would order the 中国高等教育学历认证报告/ Verification Report of China Higher Education Qualification Certificate (Certificate of Graduation) and 高等学校学生成绩报告 or 中国高等学校学生成绩认证报告 / Verification Report of China Higher Education Student’s Academic Transcript. Evaluators can check the verification reports online and in English from https://www.chsi.com.cn/en/pvr/check.jsp
Several digital platforms exist in India for accessing student records. However, the availability of electronic records can vary, depending on whether arrangements have been made between the examination boards and institutions of study and the digital service providers. At present, most notable are the National Academic Depository (NAD) and Truecopy.
The National Academic Depository was created by the government at the end of 2016, as a registry of student records at both the secondary and postsecondary level. Two providers, Central Depository Services Limited (CDSL, www.cdslindia.com) and National Securities Depository Limited (NSDL, www.nsdl.co.in) have equal access to the NAD and can issue and verify electronic records that are stored in the registry.
- If the state board or institution of study is registered with the NAD, students can request CDSL or NSDL to have their records released.
- In the instance of CDSL, an email notification is sent to the designated recipient with a link to the portal.
- To view a particular student’s records, one must select his/her name in the portal. Afterwards, a one-time password is sent to your email.
- The one-time password must be used within 30 minutes. Once this numeric code is entered, the electronic records become available for download and viewing as a PDF.
- It should be noted that the PDF may reflect that the digital signature is not verified or valid. In such instances, it is because the digital certificate used by the issuer is not present in Adobe’s trusted identities stored on your specific computer. When this happens, one must “change the settings,” informing the Adobe Acrobat Reader program that the source is a trusted one and validate the signature.
Truecopy is another service that works with numerous universities and educational providers in India (www.truecopy.in). It is helpful to have an account set up, so that you can easily receive and manage the electronic records you receive.
- At the request of the student, an email notification will be sent, indicating that his/her records are available for access.
- The email will include the student’s file number for reference, if provided by the applicant.
- Go into the portal and log in with your ID and password.
- Retrieve and download the student records (PDF).
The Diplome service, implemented by CIMEA and fully operational since April 2019, represents the first use case of blockchain technology applied to credential evaluation. It aims to provide a “Wallet” for people, where it is possible to store certified qualifications with blockchain technology, creating a decentralized, transparent, certified, and unchangeable qualification management system. The qualifications and the certificates are uploaded to blockchain by certified authorities (universities, ENIC-NARIC centers, national administrations, etc.), and the source of the information is always linked to the information itself. In this way the certified qualification becomes easily shareable and portable, reducing the risk of falsification. The evaluation statement is also issued on the blockchain, ensuring fast and secure delivery.
Diplome is built as an open ecosystem, which institutions, awarding authorities, and certifying authorities can join without any change in their existing technologies, according to the concept of interoperability. This is possible since Diplome represents an example of private permissioned blockchain. It utilizes a standard Ethereum blockchain and can run on any Ethereum-based variants. The holder of the qualification is the only owner of the information and of the crypto key that constitutes the only way to access the user’s data, being fully compliant with the principles expressed by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) implemented in May 2018.
The implementation of this new system represents a cultural shift from analogic to fully digital credentials where only the most necessary information is shared. Paper can still be used according to national legislation and academic culture but at the same time the relevant information is kept secure on blockchain and can be shared in a simple, secure, and certified way. Blockchain is an example of a technology to exchange student data, and not a data format in itself. In a blockchain, data are no longer centrally stored (i.e. in a database), but a footprint of the data (i.e. a diploma) is stored. This can be done in different formats, from PDFs to structured data. The blocks can be accessible to third parties if given a “key” by the owner of these data to access the record.
The fully digital workflow and the implementation of blockchain in the assessment procedures and in issuing statements of comparability have been an element of resilience for CIMEA after the outbreak of the Covid-19, and the staff has been able to continue working from home since the lockdown measures to fight the spread of the pandemic. CIMEA is glad to share the Diplome system for free with other credential evaluation services, ENIC-NARIC centers, and Higher Education Institutions that need to deploy smart working during this period. It is time to share our tools, to be cooperative and inclusive, and not interrupt our services.
There are currently eight Council of Europe member states that have fully operational online verification services, one of which is Norway. In 2017 they launched the Norwegian Diploma Registry Vitnemålsportalen. The service is connected to a student data repository that contains data from the mid‐nineties and forward. Most of the country’s higher education institutions are connected to this multilingual service, which will gradually also include secondary educational credentials. The service is in accordance with Norwegian privacy laws and the student decides with whom the student data is shared. In simple terms, the authenticity of most Norwegian credentials can be verified by institutions and employers all over the world and for free.
Information from the NDR regarding electronic transcripts via Vitnemålsportalen:
Information for the sender
- Only you can decide who you want to share your results with.
- All transmissions are encrypted.
Information for the recipient
- The results are collected directly from the educational institutions’ databases.
- There are multiple things you can look for to check that the results are coming from the Diploma Registry:
- Emails with links from the Diploma Registry will have email@example.com as the sender.
- The link address (the URL) will start with https://vitnemalsportalen.no….
- After clicking the link, an icon showing a padlock will appear next to the link address.
What does it mean that the PDF of the results is digitally signed?
Shared results can be downloaded as a PDF file. This PDF is digitally signed. This means that if someone tries to change the content of the PDF, the digital signature will immediately be invalid. To check if the signature is valid, we recommend using Adobe Acrobat Reader. A “ribbon” with information about the signature’s validity will then appear at the top of the screen. Note that it is only possible to verify the PDF in its original electronic form. If the document is printed, it is no longer possible to verify the signature.
In order to share their results from higher education with you, the learners need to log in to the registry, select which results to share, whether they should be presented in Norwegian or English, which e-mail address they should be sent to, and when the link should expire. Then you receive an e-mail from the registry with a link giving you time limited access to the records of the person.
For more information on the registry see: http://www.vitnemalsportalen.no/english/
No one can log in to the registry without either being affiliated with one of the higher education institutions (through work or studies) or having a Norwegian personal number, bank ID, etc. An employer or credential evaluator can only access someone’s records if that person shares them directly.
Note that it is the registry, not the student, that sends the recipient the link to follow. If somebody shares their academic results with you, you will receive an e-mail from the registry similar to this:
To: [Your e-mail address]
This is an automatically generated e-mail sent from the Diploma registry. You have received this e-mail because [applicant]wants to share his/her results from higher education with you.
By following the link below, you will access the results (use the code ******): <LINK>
This link expires 25/11/2017 [NB the European order: day/month/year]
Additionally, the Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education (NOKUT) will soon be able to receive structured data directly to its processing system from EMREX and Digitary Core. There will be more information on these services in upcoming articles.
A student from Singapore recently applied for an evaluation of his secondary credentials. We requested that he submit official Certifying Statements of Marks for his Singapore-Cambridge GCE-O Level Examinations.
The student emailed our office in reply; the email included forwarded instructions and an attachment. The attachment was an “opencert” file, and the instructions were:
- Save the .opencert document found in this email’s attachment
- Visit https://opencerts.io
- Drop the .opencert file into the dropzone to verify the certificate
- If the .opencert file is verified, the certificate will load in a new page
The following information was included:
“OpenCerts is a blockchain-based platform for issuing and validating certs. It is developed by the Singapore Government Technology Agency (GovTech).
Various education institutes work together to issue certificates that employers can easily verify. Using OpenCerts, you can view a certificate sent to you and validate it originates from the correct institution or if the certificate has been tampered with.
To find out more, visit https://opencerts.io/”
Dragging and dropping the attached opencert file into the website showed us the full examination results for the student in a downloadable format (note that you do not “open” the file itself). As part of the best practices protocol, we confirmed with the issuing institution or board (in this case Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board) that the third party (OpenCerts) is authorized to issue or verify credentials on their behalf. On their website, SEAB confirms that OpenCerts has been adopted by the Singapore government.
Students can share their file either through the “share” button on the OpenCerts website, or they can email the OpenCerts files.
For now, this process seems to work better as a system of quick verification rather than a way to obtain official documents, however, we will continue to monitor it and hopefully will be able to retrieve documents this way.
Additional resources: https://www.ssg.gov.sg/opencerts.html
The digitalization of the Swedish Council for Higher Education’s (UHR) workflow started in 2007 by introducing an electronic processing system. In 2014 an electronic application system was launched. This was followed by the introduction of digital evaluation statements as of April 2019. Thus, the whole evaluation process from the application to the final product is now digital:
- The applicant applies for an evaluation through UHR’s portal and uploads all necessary documents (usually PDFs, or, in some cases, the document is sent from the issuing institution);
- The application is digitally processed;
- The applicant receives a digital evaluation statement.
The Swedish higher education institutions are digitalizing as well. In December 2017 Linnaeus University started to award digital degree certificates (they now only issue digital degrees, which are legally the only official documents). This was followed by the University of Gothenburg in November 2018, and now twelve Swedish HEIs have introduced, or are in the process of introducing, digital credentials. In most cases the credentials have digital signatures. In the case of Linnaeus University, the “degree certificates” include the courses completed in the degree program, and credits, grades, and dates of completion for each course. They are bilingual, in Swedish and English.
The process for the sender is to apply for the degree certificate through Ladok, the national student registration system (https://www.student.ladok.se/student/loggain). When the degree has been issued, it can be sent to an email address designated by the student. Future plans include having a portal for students to log into and share credentials with a third party via a URL and password.
Other institutions who have followed suit are the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Linköping University, Södertörn University College and Stockholm University.
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