Is your foreign degree valid in India?
SAFETY CHECK Be careful while selecting degree courses abroad which are of shorter duration than the ones in India or are in distance learning mode
Do you do your due diligence before selecting a programme or institution abroad for higher studies, especially in the UK, Australia, West Europe, China or Russia? If not, then you must start the process now to check if your qualification or course would be given the equivalence (considered at par with a course) in India for higher studies, professional practice and jobs.
Though t he Association of Indian Universities (AIU), which grants equivalence to t hese courses, had relaxed certain norms on recognition of certain foreign university qualifications a few months ago, some courses are still not treated with parity in India.
For instance, students getting degrees from foreign universities for programmes of a shorter duration than similar programmes in India will find it easier to get equivalence and recognition in India. However, degrees for medicine and law get equivalence only f rom professional bodies.
Till mid-2015, programmes in foreign institutions were required to be completed in full-time regular mode as those of Indian universities as per AIU rules. Just like in India, t he duration of bachelor’s programmes in the foreign university had to be of three years and master’s courses of two years.
A number of foreign universities allow students to complete their postgraduate degree quickly ( compared to Indian institutes) as acceptance of credits and credit transfer is common in a number of foreign and Indian universities. These courses were not given equivalence in India, but the AIU later changed its policy to accommo- date programmes shortened on account of credits accepted by foreign universities.
“While AIU does not relax the requirements of the minimum duration of degrees, the duration instead is measured in terms of precise number of months/years and completion of the number of semesters/trimesters. Professional degrees awarded by foreign universities which also entitle the student to practice a profession in India in disciplines such as medicine, nursing, pharmacy, law and architecture are given equivalence by the respective professional councils,” says an AIU official.
Initially, equivalence was accorded by t he AIU on a course to course basis only after the proposal for equivalence of foreign qualification was received from an Indian mission abroad or from the university concerned, adds the official.
Other problem areas that need t o be a ddressed a r e vocational degrees and nondegree qualifications such as proficiency, certificate or diploma- l evel examination conducted either by universities or by non-university level bodies which are not given equivalence.
Two-year (fast track) degrees awarded by foreign accredited universities are also not recognised.
Degrees granted for courses pursued on offshore campuses of foreign universities are only valid in India if the offshore campus is duly approved by the competent authorities in that country.
Foreign degrees awarded to students through pathway or diploma-level institutions are not given recognition as well by the AIU.
Open distance l ear ning, online degrees and those in the virtual mode from foreign institutions are also not treated equally. Experts say that though the changed norms of granting equivalence for degrees from select academic institutes have helped students, there is still need for an improved policy on this. “A committee had been set up to look into some of issues of equivalence of degrees by the human resource development ministry,” says Professor Furqan Qamar, secretary general, AIU and member secretary of the committee.
According to Rahul Choudaha, principal researcher at DrEducation, a US-based global higher education research firm, “It is very critical to understand the implications of the trend of increasing student mobility to foreign institutions on the recognition of degrees so that Indian students do not end up wasting their investments or spoiling their careers. The efforts from the government in updating the policies to make them student-friendly and relevant to the external changes in international higher education is in the right direction. However, lot more needs to be done to increase the pace of implementation and dissemination of information to students.”
The Unesco principles of recognition of qualifications also ask for “the development of transparent, coherent and reliable procedures and granting recognition unless substantial differences are identified,” he adds. These global principles are critical for understanding the importance of recognition as a tool for enhancing mobility and not creating barriers. “For example, online and distance learning courses are not yet recognised while the demand from student side is growing at a clipping rate. Also, nearly 40,000 Indian students are enrolled in UK higher education institutions. A majority of them are pursuing one-year master’s degrees. The challenges of degree recognition have been most severe for students who come back to India and go for higher studies or government jobs. While the rider for bridge course had been proposed, not much has progressed in terms of concrete plan,” he says.
However, despite the AIU giving equivalence, there are other challenges. The AIU policy for granting equivalence to such foreign degrees that have been awarded for studies undertaken in India, requires the educational institution to adhere to the UGC regulation or the AICTE guidelines. “Each university is autonomous in deciding its own criteria of equivalence. AIU guidelines are not mandatory unless equally endorsed by the UGC,” says Prof BB Bhattacharya, former vice chancellor, Jawaharlal Nehru University.
– Gauri Kohli