UK and India agree ‘historic’ deal to recognise qualifications

Flow of students in both directions likely to increase as undergraduate and postgraduate degrees recognised by institutions and employers

July 22, 2022
Flags of India and the UK
Source: iStock

The UK and India have signed an agreement recognising each other’s higher education qualifications, in a move that is expected to strengthen the flow of students in both directions.

The deal covers mutual recognition of A levels and their equivalents as well as undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, and will allow Indian students who graduate from British universities to apply for postgraduate qualifications, or embark on government careers that require university qualifications, wh­en they return home. 

It comes as India is set to overtake China as the UK’s main source of overseas students, with almost 100,000 study visas issued to Indian nationals last year.

Vivienne Stern, chief executive of Universities UK International, said that the “landmark, historic agreement” would make it easier for students to progress and find jobs, granting “full access” to employment in India’s elephantine public sector. “The recognition of UK master’s is a particularly important development,” she said.

Educational links between Indian and UK institutions have grown in recent months, with the Indian Institute of Technology Madras and the University of Birmingham set to offer the first Anglo-Indian joint degree from 2023.

Recognising each other’s qualifications would allow more joint courses and make UK universities “even more appealing” to Indian applicants, bringing about £109,000 per student to the UK economy, according to the Westminster government.

Education secretary James Cleverly said it would help UK universities “deliver more degree programmes in one of the fastest-growing and most dynamic nations on earth”.

It will also broaden the “academic and educational horizons” of UK nationals in India, the government said, adding that the country was a popular destination for UK students to study abroad as part of the recently launched Turing Scheme.

The recognition agreement was signed alongside other post-Brexit deals between New Delhi and Westminster, with the others covering help for Indian nurses to train and work in the NHS and mutual recognition of maritime qualifications.

While the change is likely to increase student flows, some have warned against UK universities becoming overdependent on international students from a single country.

Former universities minister Lord Johnson of Marylebone told Times Higher Education that there was “an obvious danger in simply replacing dependence on China with over-reliance on India”.

A former chief scientific adviser to the Indian government said earlier this year that the UK and India should learn from the US on researcher mobility.

“The UK needs to, in my opinion, do this on a scale and in a manner which is distinct from its general policy on immigration,” said Vijay Raghavan, referring to fast-tracked talent visas and adding that India “has to do this 100 times more”.

Currently, international students seeking a graduate visa must pay £715 to apply to work in the UK for two years after completing their course. Overseas researchers need to pay a similar amount to apply for a Global Talent Visa to work for up to five years.

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