Court within its rights

August 22, 1997

THE ARTICLE "British Council rubbishes Madras High Court" (THES, August 8), which uses the word "paranoid" when describing the court's interim injunction over foreign degrees, was both inaccurate and misleading.

The council fully recognises the Indian government's and the court's concern and jurisdiction over the unregulated entry of possibly "bogus institutions" into India. Indeed we are working with them, through the Indian National Assessment and Accreditation Council, to bring UK best practice into quality controls in higher education. We have also encouraged and are working with the UK Quality Assurance Agency, which plans to visit India later this year to ensure UK standards are being maintained in "offshore" programmes.

What we did say, however, as you report, was that in a number of ways the court appeared to be poorly informed. The University of Leeds, cited in the petition, delivers no programmes whatsoever, let alone award degrees in India, and others, we maintain neither "collect fees, hold classes nor confer degrees locally" and are not therefore covered by the 1950 UGC Act which predates the growth in distance learning.

The court will, as it has every right to do, decide and clarify what has, for some time, been an ambiguous situation. We very much hope that once a number of fundamental points have been clarified, and we are helping in this process, high-quality British programmes will be allowed to continue. If not, there could be a very damaging reduction in links between Britain and India in education and training.

As India celebrates its 50th anniversary of independence, it is also a time to celebrate the close educational links that Britain enjoys with India. The British Council is taking every step to ensure that these continue to flourish.


Head, education promotion British Council India

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