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Successful implementation of the UNESCO Qualifications Passport: ensuring access to higher education and employment for refugees under Covid-19 pandemic

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Following the launch of the UNESCO Qualifications Passport (UQP) in Iraq on the 1st February 2021, the implementation of this pilot project has made significant progress, thanks to the major contribution of the Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education (NOKUT) in capacity building, the extraordinary commitment and dedication from the recently trained Iraqi credential evaluators from the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MoHESR), and support from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in collaboration with refugee community-based outreach.

After approximately two months of workshops, the training of Iraqi Credential Evaluators was successfully completed on the 24th March 2021. The workshops were interactive and involved very interesting exchanges among the credential evaluators from NOKUT and MoHESR. These workshops laid the foundations for the success of the UQP Pilot project by strengthening the cadre’s knowledge of advanced methodologies in the field of qualifications recognition.

Through the excellent facilitation provided by the UNHCR in coordination with the refugee community, on the 25th March 2021, 18 UQP credential evaluation interviews took place simultaneously in Baghdad, Mosul, and Basra at the Community Support Centres run by UNHCR. Due to the challenges imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic this was done virtually. This is the first time that UQP interviews have taken place virtually anywhere in the world as well as being the first time they have been carried out in the Middle East, showing the robustness of the methodology.

The main focus for refugees and vulnerable migrants’ education has until now been on basic education. UNESCO is now mandated to invoke projects such as the UQP in the domain of higher education. It is vitally important to create educational pathways for refugees through the education system to assist them to complete their studies and apply their knowledge in a transition to peace, reconstruction and stability.

In the broader mandate of UNESCO as the lead agency for SDG 4 to ensure inclusive quality education and promoting lifelong learning, the UQP will contribute to several targets such as ensuring “equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for vulnerable persons” (SDG 4.5) and to ensure “equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university” (SDG 4.3).

Finally, UNESCO would like to thank the financial contribution provided by Norway and Dubai Cares for this project and invite other actors for collaboration in creating an overall inclusive environment in Education in Iraq and around the globe. Thanks to the tremendous effort provided by the credential evaluators, the result of this round of UQP interviews will be soon communicated and UNESCO is working on the organisation of an award ceremony and an international workshop among all credential evaluators, to reinforce further multilateral international cooperation.