Students with one-year Master’s degrees obtained from the United Kingdom (UK) can now complete a bridge course of six months in India to make their qualifications valid for further academic pursuits or government jobs here. This was decided by the HRD ministry of India.
An Indian student can take this six month bridge course before applying for any government jobs, appearing for the National Eligibility Test (NET) or pursuing Ph.D.
First the facts:
- UK tends to structure all its Master degrees as less than two years in duration. Often of 1 year only.
- AIU, which is the body to grant equivalence has deemed that all Masters that are of less than 2 years and possibly all Bachelors that are of lesser duration to what is offered in India, are deemed unequal or not valid as a degree.
- If a student is returning after completing a less than equal degree he is only faced with an issue if he is applying for a job that asks for an equivalence certificate. Often in academia or in government jobs. This is when the equivalence gets denied and the student believes that the promotion of the less than equal degree as a globally recognised and respected qualification is only a half-truth in the Indian context.
Now the solution offered by the Indian Government:
- They say that the degree that is of less duration is still not equal to and Indian degree and hence will not be considered as a degree.
- Hence a student wanting to make it equal will have to study for a bridging program in India for six months or so and then will only be able to claim to have reached the Masters level.
- No solution yet offered for non-Humanities students.
- No solution yet offered for the 3 year British Engineering graduates.
- The solution for the British MBA is even more bizarre where the returning student can apply for equivalence after working in India for six months.
- First they say it is not equal and then expect them to get a job as an unequal degree and for the very first time I am hearing that work experience is going to count towards academic assessment of a degree in India.
- No solution offered for degrees that are done at two locations in parts.
I find this unacceptable since this in other ways is an acceptance by the British authorities that…
- Their degrees are inferior to Indian degrees.
- Their appeal to Indian students to study in UK since it offers a recognised degree is misplaced.
- And this could become the beginning of dumbing down of the UK degree by other countries that will look at how India has judged the qualification and how Britain has accepted the same.
- Or it could be a time for UK to do introspection and increase the duration of the degrees in line with the trend around the world.
What would I have done if I was the one negotiating from the British end:
- I would have stuck to the ground that the British degree is differently structured and is accepted as a Masters by several countries around the world where the Masters are generally of two year duration.
- I would have insisted that the load of the program is high and there are pre-requisites that are also applied.
- I would have insisted that if the system works for other countries then why not for India.
- I would have insisted that UK has had issues with quality of output of some of the Indian Universities and has not disadvantaged those students.
- I would have brought into focus that it is not just Indian students studying in UK that are affected but also the fact that Masters in NZ is differently structured too and though Australia is gradually offering only two year Masters, it has had students with lesser than two year Masters too. US which traditionally offered two years Masters has in recent times been offering less than two year degrees.
- I would have insisted that the world is now more and more global and there is a need for growing mutual recognition of degrees.
- I would have insisted that UK and India should have an MOU on the lines that India has with other countries for mutual recognition of the degrees.
At this time, some students desperate for a job in India with the government or to pursue PhD in India will have this new option of the bridging course but over a period of time this bridge course is bound to fail and there will be hardly any interest. A student who wants to study overseas will not want to have spent money on something that will require him to come back and then do a further study just to make their qualification equal, if their intention is to work with the Government or work as lecturers or professors in Indian Universities.
This brings me to the thought that what India has decided as an option for UK degrees is simply because UK lobbied. It should have just made it an option for all the less than two year degrees from around the world and then it would have had more takers. The once it has no takers, the program will be dropped and momentum lost but UK degrees will then remain branded as inferior in content to the Indian degrees. Which is far from the truth, as we all know…
In summary, I believe that both India and UK have only played to the galleries and agreed at something that is just not acceptable and that has hardly any future.
For the bridge – course, 7 Indian universities have been short-listed, which are Jawaharlal Nehru University, Central universities of Hyderbad, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, University of Rajasthan, Kolkata University and Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar.
The details and the duration of the programme were finalised on October 30 in a meeting chaired by the Higher Education Secretary Ashok Thakur and attended by UGC chairman Ved Prakash and senior ministry officials.
India does not recognise one-year degrees. Indian institutions award a Master’s degree only after a two-year course.
The bridge course will be offered at select universities to enable students cover the required course content for validating their foreign degrees, sources in the HRD ministry and the UGC said.
More than 26,000 Indian students are currently pursuing master’s in the UK, most of them one-year courses. Such students face difficulties in getting teaching jobs in government colleges when they return home.
The UK authorities have long demanded equivalence for the one-year degrees in India. The UK Higher Education International Unit and the UK-India Education and Research Initiative had a study conducted on the issue.
The National Recognition Information Centre (NARIC), the British agency which carried out the study, said the one-year master’s degree was like the two-year degrees offered by Indian universities, and should be considered valid.
The study used several criteria such as learning outcomes, course duration, content, research requirements, assessment methods and quality.
The HRD ministry set up another committee to examine the NARIC findings. That committee rejected the suggestions saying Indian degrees covered a wider curriculum, including a larger number of core subject areas.
The matter was discussed during Cameron’s visit earlier this year, and both countries agreed to the bridge course mechanism. The ministry then asked the UGC to suggest modalities for the course.
The Association of Indian Universities, the agency that gives equivalence to foreign degrees, has accepted the UGC formula.
After completing the bridge course, students can pursue further studies or appear for the National Eligibility Test, conducted by the UGC to appoint assistant professors in universities and colleges.
“We are very proud to have Indian master’s students in the UK and we want them to be able to progress to post-graduate study back in India. We are working closely with the HRD (ministry) and the UGC to achieve this and have seen fruitful discussions at the highest level,” said Gemma Townley, head of communications in the UK’s Higher Education International Unit.
The one-year UK master’s degrees are not the only controversial ones. India also does not recognise three-year engineering and one-year MBA degrees of UK universities.
The HRD ministry has also found a way out to recognize one-year management course done in the UK. Students will have to complete a six-month internship in an Indian company.
With inputs from TTI, TNN, PTI