Draft guidelines on the recognition of degrees from foreign institutions have prompted a row between India’s higher education regulator which issued the guidelines in August and a major university association that is currently doing the job of evaluating degree equivalence.
The row essentially centres on which body is responsible for evaluating degree equivalence going forward.
Establishing equivalence is important for setting up joint and dual degrees with overseas institutions, a major plank of India’s internationalisation drive in higher education.
The spat between the regulator, the University Grants Commission (UGC), and the Association of Indian Universities (AIU) has meant a lack of bureaucratic clarity for foreign universities and possible delays in the setting up of such degrees which have been heavily promoted by universities and the central and state governments.
Establishing equivalence has been a key issue for foreign universities interested in India and many have been eagerly awaiting regulatory clarity.
The New Delhi-based AIU, which includes central and state-funded universities, institutes of national importance and private ‘deemed’ universities, currently evaluates the courses, standards and credits of foreign universities and equates them to various courses offered by Indian universities.
A long track record
AIU Secretary General Dr Pankaj Mittal told University World News: “We [the AIU] have been doing it for 100 years. And we are doing it very well and to the satisfaction of all the stakeholders. So in my view, we should continue doing it.”
On 17 August, the UGC issued draft regulations named Recognition and Grant of Equivalence to Qualifications obtained from Foreign Educational Institutions aimed at managing academic partnerships with foreign universities and covering recognition of credits through joint, dual and twinning arrangements and globally relevant curricula.
The UGC draft stipulated that a “standing committee” will evaluate the similarity of entry criteria based on programme duration, credit demands, and evaluation methodologies. The UGC also emphasised the importance of assessing credits in different course categories to ensure equivalence.
Some university vice-chancellors believe the UGC’s draft guidelines lack clarity as they do not indicate who will carry out the evaluations and neither do they fully explain the procedure for evaluations.
“These regulations look like a threat to us,” said one vice-chancellor speaking anonymously. “They can appoint the AIU as the designated agency on behalf of the UGC to do it.”
UGC chairperson Jagadesh Kumar said in June last year that once the guidelines for foreign degree equivalence were formulated, “the UGC will take over the charge of providing equivalence from now on”.