The government is mulling allowing overseas students to pursue higher education or apply for public jobs in India without an evaluation of their foreign educational certificates, provided the issuing country has a reciprocal recognition agreement with India.
An HRD ministry-appointed committee has recommended that certificates from non-professional colleges abroad be recognised on “principle of academic sovereignty”, whereby India will recognise all qualifications offered by a country provided it too recognises credentials by Indian institutions “without any ifs and buts for higher education”.
This principle of reciprocity on equating foreign learning systems suggests that India enter into agreement with countries that have “a rigorous, robust and credible” system.
“Under the agreement, both countries shall unconditionally recognise all qualifications awarded by recognised/accredited higher educational institutions in the respective countries and shall treat all such qualifications as equivalent to their qualifications level by level,” the committee said.
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Where two countries are unable to sign the agreement because of education being a provincial subject or due to autonomous status of the institutions, the agreement may be signed between the Association of Indian Universities (AIU) and a similar body of the foreign nation. In that case, only those certificates awarded by the association member institute would be recognised as an equivalent.
The committee, headed by University Grants Commission chairman Ved Prakash, had ministry’s Joint Secretary (International Co-Operation Cell) as member secretary. It was appointed last May to relook a plan to fulfil India’s promise two years ago to bring UK degrees on a par with domestic ones.
It has also proposed the reciprocity principle for school leaving certificates awarded by boards/systems of both countries “irrespective of the duration”. In cases where the 12-year duration matches, it suggests removal of “additional eligibility conditions prescribed by AIU for certain minimum credit or grade requirements or the requirement of studying English up to certain levels of schooling”.
However, on professional qualification which entitles a student to practise engineering, architecture, law, medicine, nursing and pharmacy etc, the committee is clear that the present process of seeking approval from respective professional councils for recognition and equivalence of degree/diploma should continue.
It has also excluded foreign qualifications awarded through correspondence/ distance/open/online/ virtual learning from the reciprocal agreement route. While deferring their recognition “for the time being”, it said that a “well-considered decision” would be taken once Distance/Open Education Council comes into being.
The committee felt that possibilities needed to be explored to equate foreign qualifications that are considered of quality and repute “even if they do not exactly meet the condition of eligibility requirements and programme duration” due to the increased emphasis on mobility of students.
Mostly, Indian students going to the UK, Australia, Russia and western European nations are at the receiving end when they return home and are denied equivalence by AIU because duration of their study is found to be less than the minimum prescribed in India for similar qualification.
AIU norms require courses to be done in full-time regular mode with durations matching those in Indian institutions. That means that high school should be for 12 years, graduate programmes of three years and master’s courses of two years, as in India, with duration measured in months.
In contrast, some foreign universities permit master’s degree of 20 to 22 months, allowing students to study during vacations or take extra courses in a semester. These, however, are not recognised by AIU.