The University Grants Commission is a statutory body to govern higher education in India.
The University Grants Commission (UGC) has formulated new criteria for assessing equivalence and accrediting degrees acquired from international universities. According to the latest directives, the higher education regulator has placed restrictions on degrees obtained through distance and online learning modes, along with those acquired through franchise agreements.
These criteria are being implemented at a time when foreign universities are making headway in setting up campuses within Indian cities, and there is a growing trend of Indian universities partnering with international institutions to provide dual or joint degree programmes.
The commission has additionally formulated standards for acknowledging qualifications obtained from schools associated with foreign boards, along with qualifications earned from offshore campuses of foreign higher education institutions.
The UGC, in its draft Recognition and Grant of Equivalence to Qualifications obtained from Foreign Educational Institutions) Regulations, 2023, has covered internationally relevant curricula, academic and research collaboration with foreign universities, and credit recognition under twinning arrangements.
It has also outlined the conditions for recognition and the grant of equivalence to qualifications obtained from foreign educational institutions.
Conditions for equivalence
- Qualifications obtained from a foreign higher educational institution shall be recognised and granted equivalence, provided the qualification has been awarded by a foreign higher education institution that is duly recognised in its home country.
- The student should have pursued the programme through regular, in-person instruction (and not through online or distance learning). The entry-level requirements for admission to the programme should be similar to those of a corresponding programme in India.
- Similarity of entry criteria will be determined through due process by the Standing Committee set up for the purpose based on similarity of the minimum duration of the programme in India and the foreign country; minimum credit requirements, and evaluation processes.
- Credits in different categories of courses may be examined and similarity established (such as basic background courses, disciplinary core courses, disciplinary elective courses, cross-disciplinary courses, laboratory courses etc), so that the equivalence also reflects the similarity in 'flavour' of the offerings in India and abroad.
- The minimum duration of the programme should be similar to that of a corresponding programme in India, in case the duration varies, the UGC will consider minimum credit requirements that should be the same in both institutions.
- The University Grants Commission will examine and grant equivalence to the definition of credit (number of contact hours per week, number of self-study hours, quantum of experiential learning, etc.) first before the equivalence between the programmes is established. Up to 10 percent variation of total normalised credit requirements may be given equivalence.
- The UGC will maintain a dedicated online portal to receive applications to grant equivalence to qualifications obtained from foreign educational institutions.
Application Process for Equivalence:
- To apply for equivalence certificates, individuals should utilize the forthcoming online portal, which will serve as the exclusive platform for submission. Applicants are required to provide pertinent documents along with a specified fee. The UGC will communicate its decision within 15 days after receiving the application.
- If the application is approved, an equivalence certificate will be made available on the portal. Additionally, an appellate committee will be established by the commission for instances where applicants are dissatisfied with the UGC's decision. In such cases, students can request a review within 30 days.
The importance of the equivalence certificate
- The equivalence certificate will certify the "parity of a qualification" between a foreign qualification and the qualification awarded by an Indian Board or university at the same level.
- According to the UGC regulations, the equivalence certificate will also be accepted by the universities in India for the purposes of admission or employment.
- Currently, the evaluation division of the All India Universities (AIU), an apex inter-university organisation, issues an "equivalence certificate" to students with foreign qualifications to facilitate their admission to Indian Universities. With the guidelines coming into effect, the UGC will also assume the responsibility of granting equivalence to foreign degrees.
Joint Degrees/off-shore campuses
- Qualifications obtained from off-shore campuses under dual degree or joint degree programmes will only be recognised if the academic programmes satisfy the accreditation requirements in the country where the offshore campus is located and in the country of origin.
- Qualifications obtained on the offshore campus of a foreign higher educational institution shall be recognised provided the campus is duly approved by the competent authorities in India as well as in the country of origin.
- The academic programmes of the campus must also satisfy the accreditation requirements in the country where the offshore campus is located, as well as any such requirements in the country of origin.
Qualifications obtained through a franchise arrangement shall not be considered for recognition or grant of equivalence.
Qualifications obtained at the school level
Qualifications obtained at the school level from schools affiliated with foreign boards and offering a foreign system of education in foreign countries shall be recognised and granted equivalence provided that the school education has been pursued through regular mode only.
A minimum of 12 years of regular schooling has been prescribed by the concerned foreign system of education; the school from which the applicant has pursued education should be affiliated with a board that has been approved and recognised in the concerned foreign country; the school leaving certificate of the applicant should be issued by the board that has been approved, recognised or accredited in the foreign country concerned. The commission has sought suggestions from stakeholders on the draft UGC guidelines till September 16.