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Master’s in UK, misstep in India - Study recommends parity for 1-year course but panel to probe deeper

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  • Published 17.07.12

New Delhi, July 16: Ani Daniel did a master’s in advanced manufacturing technology from the University of Liverpool last year hoping to teach in Indian colleges.

Daniel is in a fix now. His degree has hardly any value in India.

The Association of Indian Universities (AIU), the body responsible for deciding the equivalence of foreign degrees, does not recognise UK master’s degrees that are of a year’s duration. They are not considered equivalent to Indian master’s degrees that are completed over two years.

“I am absolutely shocked to hear that it is not valid in India. I joined the master’s program after resigning my job in L&T and I took a loan of almost Rs 10 lakh from State Bank to meet my education expenses. I don’t know, what I should do now by looking at the certificate I got from Liverpool,” Daniel posted on education agent Ravi Lochan Singh’s blog.

Singh, a Calcutta-based agent, said Indian students spent a lot of money doing their master’s in the UK. But if these degrees were not valid in India, the fact should have been publicised widely so that the students could have taken informed decisions.

“I have been counselling students going to leading UK institutions for years. They say the UK expects them to return to India after the course (with tighter post-study visa provisions), so they are not able to gain work experience,” he said. “However, AIU guidelines clearly say any degree (completed in) less than two years at the master’s level is not valid in India. So, the students feel unwelcome to work both in the UK and in India.”

At present, about 26,000 Indian students are doing their master’s in the UK. Since the degrees are not recognised in India, they cannot do an MPhil or a PhD when they return. Nor can they get government jobs with the degree.

The issue has been raised by the UK, which wants the one-year degrees to be recognised in India. It has compared the degrees offered by Indian and UK universities and concluded that UK degrees should be considered valid.

Last November, UK minister for universities and science David Willetts and HRD minister Kapil Sibal set up a joint task force headed by the higher education secretary to consider mutual recognition of qualifications.

Subsequently, the National Recognition Information Centre (NARIC), the British advisory agency on education qualifications worldwide, was commissioned by the UK Higher Education International Unit and the UK-India Education and Research Initiative to examine the recognition and acceptance of one-year master’s degrees in India.

The task force met today to review the issue. Joanna Newman, the UK Higher Education International Unit director, made a presentation on the findings of the NARIC study on the UK-India master’s degree mapping project.

“We have done a detailed study by comparing the one-year master’s degree in the UK and the two-year master’s degree in India. We considered criteria like learning outcomes, course duration, course content, progression routes, research requirements, occupational outcomes, assessment method and rigour and quality assurance,” Newman told The Telegraph.

“We found that the one-year master’s degrees from UK universities can be compared with the two-year master’s degrees offered by Indian universities. Our degrees should be considered valid.”

She said UK master’s degrees were not recognised by government-funded universities or by public sector employers but were accepted by private sector employers in India. However, some universities in the UK offer two-years’ master’s programmes and those students do not face any difficulties in India.

She said the UK’s one-year master’s degrees were recognised in the US, Australia and Canada where most universities offered two-year degrees. Quoting the NARIC study, she said Indian students attached great value to their UK master’s degrees, which were rigorous despite their duration.

Indian degrees typically cover a broader curriculum, including a greater number of core subject areas. In contrast, the UK programmes are more specialised and have elective courses. But there is a close similarity in the depth of knowledge and understanding attained by students doing the one-year UK master’s degree and those doing the two-year Indian one, she said.

“Based on the findings of this benchmarking study, this study would recommend that the one-year UK master’s degree be considered comparable in terms of educational level to the two-year Indian master’s programmes,” the NARIC study concluded.

However, the joint task force has decided to further examine the NARIC study. It will set up a committee of representatives from the University Grants Commission, All India Council of Technical Education, National Assessment and Accreditation Council and the AIU to examine the report and suggest further action.

“We have to see whether recognising their one-year degree will have any adverse impact on our master’s degree system. A decision will be taken after a thorough examination of these issues,” an HRD ministry official said.