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Global door opens for tech graduates

New Delhi, June 13: The door was today opened for lakhs of budding Indian engineers to be able to work or pursue higher studies in countries such as America and Britain without having to undergo fresh assessment.

But only a minority of them will gain immediately. The rest must wait till their engineering colleges can get themselves accredited by the National Board of Accreditation (NBA), which recently upgraded to a set of stricter criteria.

India today became the 16th member of an elite grouping, the Washington Accord, which recognises graduation-level engineering degrees awarded by one another’s accredited institutions as equivalent.

Graduates in traditional engineering programmes —such as civil and electrical engineering or architecture — that have NBA accreditation will now be spared the mandatory entrance test before taking up jobs or university courses in the 15 other member countries.

But BTech degree holders in non-traditional courses such as information technology or computer science will not get the benefit, because the Washington Accord does not cover these.

Till now, only IIT graduates among young Indian engineers were exempt from the entrance tests.

The catch is that among India’s nearly 8,000 engineering colleges, just about 200 now have NBA accreditation. These are mostly state government colleges with a few leading private tech schools.

Even the National Institutes of Technology — central government-run engineering institutes that are a rung below the IITs — lack the NBA stamp.

With today’s development, tech colleges will be under pressure to gain the status to attract the best students. But any overnight change is unlikely because it’s become tougher to get NBA accreditation because of a shift of focus away from infrastructure “inputs”, which money can possibly buy, to academic “outputs” that it can’t.

Rajeev Kumar, an IIT Kharagpur professor who headed the committee that revised the accreditation guidelines, explained the difference.

“Earlier, the NBA focused on factors like infrastructure, funds, the teacher-student ratio, number of labs and the campus area. Under the revised guidelines, the NBA examines the research output, patent generation, publications, etc,” Kumar said.

The upgrade was part of seven years of efforts by the NBA to improve its system since India received provisional membership of the Washington Accord in 2007.

The International Engineering Alliance, an arm of the Washington Accord, sent a team in December-January to review the NBA’s latest system and practices. The team handed in its report in March.

This morning, the Alliance met in Wellington, New Zealand, and gave India the signatory status with effect from today, a government statement said.

“BTech degree holders going to Washington Accord member countries will not be questioned about the credibility of their degrees (any more),” said D.K. Palliwal, former NBA member secretary. It was during his tenure that the NBA changed its accreditation system.

These 15 countries are: America, Britain, Australia, Canada, Russia, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Turkey.

Palliwal spelt out another advantage: “Now, many foreign students will come to India to study engineering because the degrees would be recognised in the developed countries.”