By DAVID MYTON

A quiet revolution has been taking place organised by dedicated teams in the backrooms of universities across Australia and New Zealand. Largely unnoticed, its impact nevertheless will be deep and lasting.

It is the My eQuals project: a new online platform that gives Australian and New Zealand students access to a secure, digital record of their academic records including transcripts, certificates and official letters, when they want and wherever they may be in the world.

They can digitally share them with employers, universities, accreditation agencies and other parties.

It will also allow universities to confirm digital qualifications of students from China, Europe and America seeking admission to their courses.

Kicking off in October last year, My eQuals is being rolled out in stages over the next two years across 45 universities in Australia and New Zealand.

The project is being managed by Higher Ed Services, which says most Australian universities and all in New Zealand are participating “in this groundbreaking initiative which represents unprecedented collaboration across the university sector”:

“My eQuals will enhance global student mobility and employability by ensuring document integrity, cut red tape, streamline admission processes and help to combat qualification fraud.”

Officially launched in Melbourne in April at the Sixth Annual Groningen Declaration Meeting, the project has been praised by Education Minister Simon Birmingham, who says it is a strong example of universities innovating for the benefit of students.

Monash and Melbourne universities and the University of Auckland were among the first to launch the system, with My eQuals going live to Monash students on April 19.

As well as ensuring security, according to Monash’s internal newsletter another aim of My eQuals is efficiency.

It quotes Ashley Keleher, Director, Monash Connect as saying: “My eQuals makes photocopying and verifying documents a thing of the past, improving the speed of transfer by streamlining the administration process and saving time for the student, employers and the University.”

It also reduces the environmental burden saving on “an estimated 184,000 pieces of paper” in academic record hard copies and other printed graduation documents.

In a presentation to the April Groningen meeting Higher Ed Services’ Dr Andrew Trnacek and Melbourne’s Neil Robinson said the successful implementation of My eQuals was because “people committed time and effort outside of their day job to make this happen because they believed in the concept …

“When called on for support key individuals and institutions backed the program.”

The Australian National University has been offering digital transcripts, graduation statements and testamurs via Digitary since 2010, but will also utilise My eQuals.

In her regular blog the ANU’s DVC Academic Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington gives an idea of the work involved:

“The My eQuals project … means connecting [up to] at least eight student system arrangements: in house or bespoke constructed; Jade; Tribal; a combination of Tribal and Callista; Callista; Ellucian; Student One and PeopleSoft.

“As those of you who work in IT or student administration know, student systems have big personalities and they don’t always play nicely with other applications, particularly their databases. You also have to manage 45 university legal departments for contracts …

“It is complex, but worth it.”

Here’s a thought to finish with: Assuming all student records and testamurs go digital in the next several years – what will happen to student graduation ceremonies?

Further reading:

2012 Groningen Declaration

About My eQuals

Higher Ed Services information

My Equals Launches, Monash University newsletter