Experts say that though the changed norms of granting equivalence to degrees from select academic institutes have helped students, there is still a need for an improved policy on this. “A committee had been set up to look into some of the issues of equivalence of degrees by the human resource development ministry,” says Professor Furqan Qamar, secretary general, AIU and member secretary of the committee.
According to Rahul Choudaha, principal researcher at DrEducation, a US-based global higher education research firm, “It is very critical to understand the implications of the trend of increasing student mobility to foreign institutions on the recognition of degrees so that Indian students do not end up wasting their investments or spoiling their careers. The efforts from the government in updating the policies and procedures to make them student-friendly and at the same time relevant to the external changes in international higher education is in the right direction. However, lot more needs to be done to increase the pace of implementation and dissemination of information to students.”
The Unesco principles of recognition of qualifications also ask for “the development of transparent, coherent and reliable procedures and granting recognition unless substantial differences are identified,” he adds.
These global principles are critical for understanding the importance of recognition as a tool for enhancing mobility and not creating barriers. “For example, online and distance learning course are not yet recognised while the demand from student side is growing at a clipping rate. Also, nearly 40,000 Indian students are enrolled in UK higher education institutions. Majority of them are pursuing one-year master’s degrees. The challenges of degree recognition have been most severe for the students who come back to India and seek further education or government jobs. While the rider for bridge course had been proposed, it seems not much has progressed in terms of concrete plan,” he says.
However, despite the AIU giving equivalence, there are other challenges. The AIU policy for granting equivalence to such foreign degrees that have been awarded for studies undertaken in India, requires the educational institution to adhere to the UGC regulation or the All-India Council for Technical Education guidelines. “Each university is autonomous in deciding its own criteria of equivalence. AIU guidelines are not mandatory unless equally endorsed by the University Grants Commission. In fact, within India also, a university may or may not recognize the degree of another university. It may not say it but does it in practice,” says Professor BB Bhattacharya, former vice chancellor, Jawaharlal Nehru University.