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My friend Greg recently applied for a position in an United Nations specialized agency (I won’t give the name). As you remember, Greg has lots of diplomas in his field of expertise, from Bachelor to PhD. He also has several years of experience in the same field. These things would definitely get him a similar job (as the one he applied for) in any international organization, corporation, iNGO or research institute.

But there is a catch (again). After he applied, Greg saw a small paragraph in the job posting under “Additional information”. It said: “Please note that this UN agency will only consider academic credentials or degrees obtained from an educational institution recognized in the IAU/UNESCO list”. IAU stands for International Association of Universities. UNESCO, well, you know what it stands for (the culture and education part of the UN).download

He found this weird as his university is over 100 years old, recognized by all national and European authorities and has several “branches of knowledge” that the UN agency he applied for is specialized in.

Greg checked other UN documents like the description of the application process on the UN Careers page and the “Reference checks in UN system organizations” (elaborated by the UN Joint Inspection Unit). These said almost the same thing. You must have graduated from an university on the IAU/UNESCO list to take your application into account.

Going in-depth with his research, Greg found (at last) his university in the IAU`s Worldwide Database of Higher Education Institutions, Systems and Credentials (WHED). He`s not sure if this is good or bad for his application, but all he can do is wait.

I checked out for him the IAU website and the status of IAU members. It seems that the majority of universities in the world fit the profile and, if they would like to join, they would simply send in an application form, pay the fee and wait for approval. It sounds simpler than getting a job at the UNJ.

Some UN system institutions get their reference checks from the WHED, others from the IAU`s International Handbook of Universities. What happens if your university isn`t in one of these? Does that mean that the UN doesn’t take your application into consideration because your diploma is worthless for them? It remains to be seen as Greg`s application goes further.

A quick Google search (check out this Wikipedia page) will show a few hundred recognized higher education accreditation organizations worldwide. If the UN takes one into account, a company takes another and the government another, does this mean that you should start your career planning earlier than you would have wanted?

Because, if you are thinking of a career in the FAO for example, you shouldn’t apply to a university of agricultural sciences before you check and make sure it is on the right list.

My advice: after you start your higher education studies, start checking your career options based on who recognizes your university. If you want to work somewhere else, get another degree from another university, like a Masters after your Bachelor.

I`ll keep in touch with Greg (obviously) and let you know if the IAU/UNESCO list is a “make or break” deal with the UN specialized agency where he applied. I`ll give you the name of the institution after the process is complete (security/privacy purposes).

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