The Telegraph
Wednesday , July 30 , 2014
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Smriti lines up study battle with Britain

Smriti Irani

New Delhi, July 29: India plans to intensify its campaign against Britain’s tough post-study work visa norms and the policies of some of its institutions, such as non-recognition of school-leaving certificates, that pose “barriers” to student movement to that country.

HRD minister Smriti Irani, who took up these issues with high commissioner James David Bevan last month, is likely to raise them again when universities and science minister David Willets visits India later this year.

Irani told Bevan these barriers were discouraging Indian students from going for higher studies to the UK.

Many top institutions, like the London School of Economics, prefer the General Certificate of Education (GCE) Advanced Levels or the International Baccalaureate certification. They ask Indian students who have cleared the CBSE exam or the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination to do an add-on course to be eligible for admission to undergraduate courses. The argument given is that school education in India is of 12 years, a year less than the British system.

The CBSE has been protesting this practice and had taken up the matter with Universities UK, the organisation that represents British universities. Of late, however, many universities, including Oxford, Warwick and Durham, have been recognising CBSE and CISCE certification as equivalent to UK school board certificates.

Irani has also claimed that British universities have been treating the IELTS scores, which indicate a student’s proficiency in English and are asked for by all universities while giving admission, as valid for just one year. Education firms that recruit students for foreign universities say the IELTS score is valid for two years.

The third issue Irani raised was about the post-study work visa norms — introduced with effect from April 6, 2012 — that allow students to work with a minimum salary threshold of 20,000 a year. For foreign students who have just completed their education, it’s tough landing a job that pays such a package, making it difficult for them to stay back and work.

Naveen Chopra, chairman of education overseas consulting firm The Chopras, said the earlier visa policy was misused by foreign students. It prompted the British government to introduce the tough norms, discouraging Indians from choosing Britain as a higher-study destination. “If the salary threshold norm is relaxed, many Indian students will prefer to study in the UK,” Chopra said.

Ravi Lochan Singh, MD, Global Reach, a Calcutta-based student recruitment firm, said another factor affecting student mobility was that master’s degrees given in the UK were not recognised in India. Most UK universities offer one-year master’s courses and three-year BTech programmes. Indian institutions offer two-year master’s courses and four-year BTech programmes.

The University Grants Commission has decided to allow postgraduates from Britain to do a six-month bridge course but no mechanism has been worked out for recognising the three-year BTech degrees UK universities offer.