Academic journal article College and University

The Myth of the "Big Book": Foreign Credentials Evaluation Resources

Academic journal article College and University

The Myth of the "Big Book": Foreign Credentials Evaluation Resources

Article excerpt

In this day and age of ever-shrinking college and university budgets, international admissions officers are often forced to be choosy about what resources they purchase for foreign credentials evaluation. Hence the oft-heard request for "The Big Book," that mythical foreign credentials evaluation manual that describes not only every country's educational system, but gives quality indicators and placement recommendations as well.

Unfortunately, since 1952, when Martena Tenney Sasnett's 838-page behemoth Educational Systems of the World was published by University of Southern California Press, there has been no one volume capable of effectively summarizing the world's educational systems. Rapidly-changing secondary and postsecondary systems, shifting national borders, and the sheer volume of information generated by quickly expanding educational opportunities world-wide ensure that a "Big Book" publication would be hopelessly out-of-date long before the ink dries.

However, even on a tight budget, it isn't impossible to assemble a library of resources that ensure that you evaluate your international students' credentials accurately, consistently, and in a way that makes sense for your institution. Here are some suggestions for what resources to purchase, how to best use those resources, and where to go for further information:

The Basics

"Start big and slowly get smaller." Not your typical advice, unless you're talking about foreign credentials evaluation resources. To get the most bang for your buck, choose a recent, comprehensive resource that depicts many educational systems with their secondary and tertiary benchmark credentials and grading scales. NAFSA!s A Guide to Educational Systems Around the World is just such a book. The 1999 volume covers the secondary and higher education systems of 156 countries. Although you won't find placement recommendations here, use this book for its educational ladders, its extensive benchmark credential information, for background information on the methodology of credential evaluation, and for useful Internet tools. At just $65 for NAFSA members and $90 for non-members, A Guide to Educational Systems Around the World will become the cornerstone of your library and is a bargain to boot. It can be ordered online at or by calling (800) 836-4994 or (412) 741-1142.

Another important resource can be found in AACRAO's Foreign Educational Credentials Required for Consideration of Admission to Universities and Colleges in the United States, 4th edition, 1994. Listing the foreign credentials awarded by more than 210 educational systems world-wide, this volume is a handy desk-reference for you, but is even more useful for your front-line staff receptionists, student workers, and other support staff who deal with the public on a regular basis. Purchase this through the AACRAO Distribution Center at PO. Box 231, Annapolis Junction, MD 20702, by calling (301) 4907651, online at, or via e-mail at pubs* It sells for $40 for AACRAO members and $60 for non-members. Ask for Item #4002.

Don't have much bookshelf space? For searchable information on the recognition status of nearly 14,000 higher education institutions in over 180 countries, the World Higher Education Database (WHED) 2000, available on CD-ROM for PC can't be beat. It combines data found in the World List of Universities and the International Handbook of Universities, plus additional information not found in either of the print directories, yet costs less than the combined cost of the two bulky volumes. The Database is available to AACRAO members at $370, or at the $450 list price for non-members. To order, contact the AACRAO Distribution Center at PO. Box 231, Annapolis Junction, MD 20702, by calling (301) 490-7651, online at, or via e-mail at pubs* Request Item #1501.

For a look at what real academic credentials look like from chosen countries, go with AACRAO's International Credentials Handbooks, Volumes I-III. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.