Concerns that China may swamp India's higher education, amid the current diplomatic uneasiness, may delay mutual recognition of academic degrees, a proposal the two countries are to discuss in September, senior government officials have said.
Officials have confirmed that mutual recognition of academic degrees is on Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal's agenda during a visit to China from September 10-16, as was reported by HT first on August 28.
But the pact may not be signed during Sibal's visit, the ministry has now cautioned.
Officially, the government is mum about the reasons why it is treading with caution over the pact — which would benefit thousands of Indian students in China. These students will not need to worry about the recognition of their degrees if the pact is signed.
But sources pointed out that the government — while sensitive to the needs of Indian students — also has to consider other consequences of a pact mutually recognising degrees. "We have to recognise the needs of Indian students in China but also have to be prepared for the larger implications of recognising Chinese degrees," a source said.
Sections within the government are concerned that recognising Chinese degrees at this stage could allow China to possibly swamp the Indian higher education market when it is growing faster than ever. This could hurt Indian higher education institutions — public and private — irreparably, source said.
Several Chinese institutions offer the lure of better facilities than Indian counterparts, with lesser fees than universities in the west or Australia.
Recent diplomatic uneasiness hasn't helped, sources said. "Mutual suspicion and mutual recognition of degrees don't go well together," a former education secretary said.