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Author Archives: Ravi Lochan Singh

Oh No!!! India is to reverse the earlier decision of a bridging course for UK 1-year Masters. Shorter degrees will remain un-recognised in India. Another messed up “education” decision by Smriti Irani’s Ministry…

Minister Irani has been in controversies over her disputed academic qualifications and false declarations. By continuing to un-recognise shorter UK Master degrees, she can now get back at Rahul Gandhi (to whom she lost in the elections). Rahul earned his MPhil from Cambridge in 1995 and the duration of the same was 1 year.

The BJP Government is reversing the UPA Government’s decision to offer a “Bridge” solution for shorter UK degrees.

The Telegraph reports today (Delhi Tit for Tat)

India is rethinking its commitment to recognise the one-year master’s degrees awarded in Britain because British universities do not universally accept Indian Class XII certificates, sources told The Telegraph.

Education minister Smriti Irani has told high commissioner James David Bevan that all British campuses must start admitting Indian undergraduates on the strength of their Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) certificates, officials said.

During a visit by British Prime Minister David Cameron in February last year, the Manmohan Singh government had agreed to recognise the one-year degrees so their holders could pursue further education or secure government jobs in India.

This was to be done through a bridge course —whose duration was tentatively fixed at six months in November — to be designed by the University Grants Commission (UGC).

However, sources said, the Narendra Modi government is not keen to go ahead with its predecessor’s commitment without a quid pro quo on undergraduate admissions in Britain.

Although several British universities — including Oxford, Warwick and Durham — have of late begun recognising CBSE certificates, some like Cambridge and the London School of Economics are holding out.

I am often accused of being the shadow opposition to Ministry of HRD and have aired my views on the their various reversals to the decisions of UPA’s HRD Minister (even if they were progressive). However this particular topic is very close to my heart and trade and even with the previous regime, I was an active proponent for giving equivalence to well-earned foreign qualifications.

Background:

In April 2012, I did a blog titled Shocker: India states that UK Master Degrees as NOT Master equivalent; British Council “helpless”!!!

This was the first piece of writing in the public domain highlighting the issue and was quickly followed up by various newspaper/magazine articles and some of my subsequent blogs. (Please do a Google to see the history of the issue.)

Non-equivalence of the shorter UK (primarily English) degrees both at the Undergraduate (Engineering) and Postgraduate (almost all Masters) means that the students even from leading Universities and after obtaining some of the most sought after degrees were deemed in-valid in India. A linked situation is also of those who undertake the various pathway lead diploma to degrees in UK where the first year of the Bachelors is undertaken within the University but at a pathway provider (often Study Group, Kaplan or Navitas). This means that students who have such qualifications are restricted to work in the family businesses or private sector in India and are only able to undertake the further education with lowly “newly setup” private Universities in India. They are not able to join academia (work as Professors etc…) in India and in some cases, even undertake business ventures such as setting up a petrol pump as that requires a 4 year Engineering Degree.

Several UK returned students took out online petitions (backed by me) and raised the issue with the then Minister for HRD, Mr Shashi Tharoor. Efforts were mobilised even in UK by the Universities and that led to Prime Minister Cameron raising the issue with the Indian Government during his visit.

When the bridging solution was proposed, I had pointed out the shortcomings and had predicted that it will fail. (see link). However, I expected improvements and plugging of the shortcomings and certainly not a full reversal of the proposal altogether and return of the Ministry’s stand that any Masters of less than 2 years will be invalid in India. For it to have greater take-up it would need to be a solution for all returning students with shorter programs and from around the world. I also believe that the differences of systems and new developments in course durations and delivery of such programs need to be better understood on part of AIU.

What I am even more concerned with is that such students and their genuine problem is being ignored and an attempt is being made to negotiate the full equivalence to Indian CBSE Year 12 with the A Level so that CBSE graduating students are able to seek admission in all UK Universities. Once again, the reality is that almost all Universities (barring Cambridge and possibly LSE) are accepting CBSE Year 12 for direct entry already. Further India is not going to recognise the degrees, why is even trying to ask for admission equivalence for Indian Year 12. And in any-case, while India can continue to negotiate, they don’t need to put the issue of equivalence of UK degrees on the bargaining table since it is going to affect over thousands of Indian students who go to UK each year. On the other hand the total number of Indian students who are disqualified from apply to Cambridge of LSE just because their Year 12 was from CBSE is miniscule.

Post Script:

While I don’t’ want to analyse The Telegraph article for its factual accuracy, I do wish to point out two small but important errors:

  • The Indian student numbers going out to UK on an annual basis from India is much lower than what has been reported in the article. The data presented is of the “Indian students studying in UK in that year” and not “Indian students who travelled to UK “in” that year”. The actual HESA statistics for Indian students going to UK in each of the year on their first visa of Higher Education is as follows:
    2008/09: 18480
    2009/10: 18195
    2010/11: 18535
    2011/12: 13250
    2012/13: 10235
    Actual HESA downloaded stats is attached 280607_student_sfr197_1213_table_6a-2-1.
  • The article mentions that Oxford, Cambridge and LSE offer two year degrees. This is half-correct. LSE has several 1 year Master degrees and those students are also affected. In-fact the petition that was taken out to Ministry last year was by an LSE graduate. Cambridge MPhil degrees that can be the first step to academic career in India are also 1 year long. Hence the students from LSE and Cambridge are also affected.
 
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Posted by on September 15, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Indian Medical Screening tests seem designed to keep Chinese Medicos out…

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Posted by on August 25, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Despite less Indian students reaching its Universities, UK announces further tightening… WHY?

Mirror Mirror on the wall, Who is the most “unwelcoming” of them all !!!

The answer actually is known to all but the policy makers in the UK seem to be under an illusion that they can continue to “tighten” the policies and still be seen as “welcoming”. Indian student numbers have been falling dramatically over the last few years and if we go by the reports, it could be well below the 10,000 students for 2014. Britain, which briefly in 2010, even became the No.1 destination for Indian students has now moved to No.4 place after the US, Australia and Canada… and may even slide below NZ in the coming year… unless the policy makers think hard and in the right direction.

But this “thinking hard and thinking in right direction” is not going to happen… The policy makers are in a bid to woo voters and it is all politics at play in the UK.

News-reports indicate that after November of this year, UK is pushing with more tightening with the student-visas and institutions with more than 10% visa refusals may be restricted from recruiting in overseas markets. This is actually crazy and defies all logic. At this time the institutions have to aim to encourage even the fence-sitters to consider UK and hence the aim should be to aggressively sell the salient highlights of the British education… But what the policy makers seem to be doing successfully is creating more media noise on how unwelcoming they are going to be in the future.

Data revealed by the Higher Education Funding Council for England shows that the number of Indian students fell from 18,535 in 2010-11 to 13,250 in 2011-12 and further to 10,235 in 2012-13. (source: TOI report… UK set to toughen student visa rules further from Nov )

  • There is no likelihood of the Post-Study-Work being reinstated in UK for overseas students. At-least not in the near future. Subject to the outcome of the Scottish referendum, there is a possibility of Scotland re-introducing a variant of the same in the coming year and the hope is that England/Wales may have to have a similar policy to remain competitive.
  • There is little likelihood of UK changing its degree structures to meet internationally recognised formats. Even the quality Master degrees from quality institutions in UK continue to be for one year, which is a sticky point with its recognition in India (and possibly in some other countries). AIU, India’s peak equivalence granting body, clearly has stated that the less than two year degrees are not-equal. The proposed bridging programs are also non-starters and remain restricted anyways.

Hence, while UK will not grant post-study-work; India will not give post-study-work as it will not award equivalence to the UK degrees such as the Masters…

Now with further tightening being announced and publicised, is UK simply telling students… don’t come near us.

Feeling sorry indeed… for UK and our students… There was just no need for this at this time…

VINASH KALE VIPRIT BUDDHI

 

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

India’s becoming a permanent member of Washington Accord is great news but Minister Irani probably misread that all Engineering degrees will now be at par globally…

After years of effort and several failures, India finally became the 17th member of the exclusive Washington Accord on Friday. It will help create equivalence of engineering degree programmes and allow Indians to practice engineering in other member countries.

The credit for making India a member of Washington Accord goes to many individuals who worked behind the scenes for years. Among them are Raman Menon Unnikrishnan of California State University, Fullerton, who pleaded India’s case along with former National Board of Accreditation (NBA) member secretary Dinesh K Paliwal and education secretary Ashok Thakur.

Paliwal was responsible for organizing the World Summit on Accreditation in 2012 that was used for backroom diplomacy to allay fears about the Indian system. The process of accreditation had started during late Arjun Singh’s tenure as HRD minister. During Kapil Sibal’s time, India was made a temporary member. In January, a comprehensive audit of NBA was undertaken by the Washington Accord team.

Washington Accord will, however, not be valid for IT engineers. India will have to sign the Seoul Accord to create similar equivalence of programmes. Becoming part of Washington Accord also does not necessarily mean that all engineering degrees by all Indian colleges will get equivalence with those of other member countries. NBA has shortlisted 220-odd engineering colleges as Tier-I institutes whose undergraduate engineering programme is in tune with what is required under the Accord.

But even Tier-I institutes which include IITs/NITs/BITS Pilani besides many autonomous and deemed universities will now have to apply afresh to NBA and only after extensive verification of their programmes will they be declared fit to be part of Washington Accord institutions. A massive redesigning of course will take place with emphasis on outcomes and letting students explore and innovate.

For the crowded list of Tier-II institutions, NBA has given a roadmap so that they are well prepared to become members of Washington Accord. NBA has asked universities to allow affiliated engineering colleges to design at least 50% of the course. For instance, Washington Accord lays emphasis on teaching social sciences along with engineering.

“Engineers should have knowledge of the environment so that they know how their work is going to have an impact on the ecosystem. They also need understanding of society, management and communication skills,” an HRD ministry official said.

Source for the above is an article from Times of India (see link)

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Best News for Indian Education: India included as a “permanent member” of Washington Accord.

The Washington Accord is an International Agreement among bodies responsible for accrediting undergraduate engineering degree programs. It recognizes the substantial equivalency of programs accredited by those bodies and recommends that graduates of programs accredited by any of the signatory bodies be recognized by the other bodies as having met the academic requirements for entry to the practice of engineering in the area of their jurisdiction.

The membership of Washington Accord is an international recognition of the quality of undergraduate engineering education offered by the member country and is an avenue to bring it into the world class category. It encourages and facilitates the mobility of engineering graduates and professionals at international level.

(See more at: http://www.nbaind.org/En/1033-washington-accord.aspx#sthash.MxcmjHyO.dpuf)

India has been a provisional member of the WA for a few years now and there has been a concerted effort on part of the Ministry of HRD over several years towards the goal of securing a “permanent membership”.

Now that India has been granted the “permanent” membership, its a very good news for Indian Engineers seeking employment and migration world-wide.

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Posted by on June 13, 2014 in washington accord

 

SOL 2014-15 finalised: Accounting, IT stays on; Chefs added… I win the bet…

In February, I had blogged that …

…would “wager my bet” on Accountant and also the various IT professions continuing in the SOL when it is released.

( http://ravilochansingh.com/2014/02/18/will-accountant-make-it-to-aussie-sol-in-2014-again-time-to-wager-a-bet/ )

Now that the Minister has issued the press release confirming that “No existing occupations are being removed from the SOL“, It is time to blush a little with the thought that the arguments put forth in February at the time when students and potential migrants in Australia were frothing with the thought of their occupation being moved out of the list based on AWPA recommendation. Even the education providers who “lived” on the international student’s attraction to these programs were keeping their finger’s crossed. That anxiety is now over… and rightly so. In-fact the addition of “Chefs” is welcome.

The media release from the Minister states…

Joint media statement with Andrew Robb – Minister for Trade and Investment, and Michaelia Cash – Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection.

Chefs, bricklayers and wall and floor tilers will be added to the Skilled Occupation List (SOL) from July 1 to help meet the skills needs of the Australian economy, as announced today by the Minister for Trade and Investment, the Hon. Andrew Robb, and the Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Senator the Hon. Michaelia Cash.

Minister Robb said the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (AWPA) works independently of government to provide annual recommendations on the composition of the SOL to ensure it responds to Australia’s changing skill needs.

‘The AWPA analyses evidence such as the labour market, education and training, migration and general economic and demographic data to make sure we get the balance right,’ Minister Robb said.

‘In this case, bricklayers and tilers have been added to the list because of an increase in demand predicted for these occupations as well as a decrease in apprenticeship completions.’

Minister Cash said the addition of chefs to the SOL reflects that the occupation is in short supply, coupled with strong growth projected in the café and restaurant sector.

‘Including chefs on the SOL will provide greater flexibility for businesses to recruit skilled chefs from overseas when they cannot source these skills locally,’ Minister Cash said.

‘The addition of these occupations will be especially welcomed in regional areas, where there is a known deficit of skilled workers in the hospitality and construction industries.’

The SOL is used for people applying for the independent or family sponsored points tested visa or temporary graduate (subclass 485) work stream. Before prospective migrants can apply for independent skilled migration, they must submit an expression of interest via SkillSelect.

No existing occupations are being removed from the SOL, which currently lists 188 occupations that Australia needs.

 

If the Minister “hastily” scraps Delhi University’s FOUR YEAR DEGREE format, it will be her first mistake…

If Smriti Irani, India’s “fresh” HRD minister goes ahead with BJP’s promised agenda item of scrapping the 4 year format, it will be her first mistake. The four year format has faults which can be corrected. The four year format has some uniqueness too which can be explained better. The four year format was also thrust forth by the VC without much deliberations, is also possibly true. But to now scrap it will be even a bigger negative. It will undermine the autonomy of the University. Ms Irani has had meetings with ABVP (which is the BJP patronised student Union) and also sections of the staff unions that have allegiance to the BJP. This is not sufficient. The University should be allowed to run the “already introduced format” for a few years and should also be allowed to correct any inadequacies in the format.

When Delhi University introduced the 4 year degree format, I had aired my views. I had found some merits in the model in place though had felt that the the VC and the promoters of the concept had made an error in quickly equating it to the US 4 year degree. US too offers a 4 year degree but it differs to the Delhi University model in several ways. There are no exit points or the concept of “Honours” in the US format. Except for the duration, there are two totally different formats.

Last year’s blog: Delhi University to offer 4 year degrees. The criticism doesn’t make sense….

However, I want to stress on the following from that article…

The Delhi University proposal hence is not a copying exercise of the American structure primarily since Delhi would allow exit after two years with a diploma, after the third with a bachelors and one additional fourth year will take it to honours qualification.

While I am appreciative of this structure, I have a feeling that Delhi intends to have all students in the four year mode and allow an exit earlier if they so want. This will make the  non-honours degrees to be inferior. This will disadvantage Delhi too as students may opt for three year full degrees offered by other Indian Universities. The ideal strategy should be to enrol all in a three year General Bachelors degree and only encourage those who wish to go on to academia or a research career later to undertake the honours year. Most Indian Masters qualifications should be able to admit the graduating students of non-honours degrees too and so after the third year itself. Holding an honours is not a requirement at all for coursework driven Master degrees such as an MBA or MSc. Even Mumbai University’s Bachelor degrees are non-honours degrees. Most Indian students who study in Australia or some other countries too enrol in non-honours Bachelors and have no issues in studying for a Masters thereafter. They opt for an honours only if they intend to undertake research or move on to Masters by research or PhD as then the honours vastly helps in readiness of the student.

Lets encourage the development but at the same time, structure it in a way that the fourth year remains optional for “most” students.

 

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2014 in Government of India, HRD, Indian students, MoHRD, Uncategorized

 
 
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