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Open Access Debate

Transportability of tertiary qualifications and CPD: A continuing challenge for the global health workforce

Deborah C Saltman12, Michael R Kidd3, Debra Jackson1 and Michelle Cleary45*

Author Affiliations

1 Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery and Health, University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Sydney, Australia

2 Discipline of General Practice, Central Clinical School, Sydney Medical School, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia

3 Faculty of Health Sciences, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia

4 School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Western Sydney, Sydney, Australia

5 Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, Singapore, Singapore

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BMC Medical Education 2012, 12:51  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-12-51

Published: 9 July 2012



In workforces that are traditionally mobile and have long lead times for new supply, such as health, effective global indicators of tertiary education are increasingly essential. Difficulties with transportability of qualifications and cross-accreditation are now recognised as key barriers to meeting the rapidly shifting international demands for health care providers. The plethora of mixed education and service arrangements poses challenges for employers and regulators, let alone patients; in determining equivalence of training and competency between individuals, institutions and geographical locations.


This paper outlines the shortfall of the current indicators in assisting the process of global certification and competency recognition in the health care workforce. Using Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) data we highlight how International standardisation in the tertiary education sector is problematic for the global health workforce. Through a series of case studies, we then describe a model which enables institutions to compare themselves internally and with others internationally using bespoke or prioritised parameters rather than standards.


The mobility of the global health workforce means that transportability of qualifications is an increasing area of concern. Valid qualifications based on workplace learning and assessment requires at least some variables to be benchmarked in order to judge performance.

Health workforce; Continuing professional development; Health workforce education discursive paper