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India, UK bridge degree gap

New Delhi, Feb. 18: India and Britain have agreed on a compromise formula for the recognition of the one-year master’s degree from UK universities by introducing a bridge course.

According to the proposal, Indians holding the one-year degree from Britain will have to pursue a one-year bridge course at an Indian university.

Once the bridge course is complete, the student can pursue higher education in India or sit for the National Eligibility Test (NET), the examination conducted by the University Grants Commission to select candidates eligible to be assistant professors in universities and colleges.

The agreement could be mentioned in the joint statement to be issued tomorrow after the meeting between visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, The Telegraph has learnt.

Britain has been raising the issue of equivalence of its master’s degrees in India for several years. Since Indian universities offer two-year master’s degree courses, the one-year courses offered by many universities in the UK are not accepted here. Nearly 26,000 Indian students are pursuing a master’s degree in the UK and most of them have taken up the one-year course.

The National Recognition Information Centre, the British agency responsible for advising on educational qualifications worldwide, was commissioned by the UK Higher Education International Unit and the UK-India Education and Research Initiative to undertake a study to examine the recognition of the one-year master’s degree in India.

Considering criteria like learning outcomes, course duration, course content, progression routes, research requirements, occupational outcomes, assessment method and rigour and quality assurance, the British agency suggested that the one-year degree from universities in the UK can be compared with the two-year master’s degrees offered in India. The British degrees should be considered valid, it said.

However, a committee set up by Union human resource development ministry rejected the study’s findings last month. The panel said Indian degrees cover a wider curriculum.

But UGC chairman Ved Prakash suggested that students with a one-year master’s degree be allowed to take NET without the bridge course, sources said. Prakash, who was part of a delegation HRD minister M.M. Pallam Raju led to London last month, is learnt to have said at an interaction with British authorities that the students could complete the bridge course later.

However, this suggestion was strongly opposed by the Association of Indian Universities, which grants equivalence of certificates. The association said this would set a bad precedent.