In a move to internationalise education and enhance job opportunities, the University Grants Commission (UGC) on Tuesday (April 19), has simplified the rules for students undertaking joint degrees with foreign universities.
One of the key amendments introduced by the UGC is to curb its own supervisory role in facilitating such collaborations with foreign academic institutions. Indian universities that meet a minimum academic standard will no longer require UGC’s permission to offer such programmes.
These “entitled institutions” will be allowed to sign MoUs for such collaborations without having to get a nod from the UGC, as long as the Indian partner institution is accredited by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) with a minimum score of 3.01 on a 4-point scale or figures among the the top 100 universities in the National Institutional Ranking Framework.
Earlier, if an Indian and foreign higher education institution planned to collaborate, the UGC had to be “satisfied” about the arrangement after an elaborate vetting process, which involved examining MoUs between institutes to issuing letters of approvals or rejections.
The foreign partner institutions must be among the world’s top 1,000 in the QS World University Rankings. Earlier, the foreign institution needed to be among the world’s top 500. However, professional disciplines such as engineering, medicine and law, statutory councils or bodies like the AICTE, National Medical Commission and Bar Council of India will have to give their approval to joint academic collaborations between Indian education institutes and foreign ones.
These new regulations, however, are not applicable to programmes offered online and in the open and distance learning mode.
The dual degree programme
The UGC has brought in a “dual degree programme”, under which both the Indian and foreign institutions will give separate and simultaneous degrees for a course of the same discipline, and at the same level. At least 30 per cent of their course credit will be completed by the student at the foreign institution under this programme and the degrees awarded by both the Indian and foreign institutions will show the credits earned at the respective institutions.
A student enrolled in a BA History programme in an Indian university, however, can pursue a part of the same course at a foreign institution. When the student completes the course, they will be awarded two degrees, separately and simultaneously, by the Indian and foreign institution.
Twinning and Joint degrees
The other two programmes offered under this Indian and foreign academic collaboration are twinning and joint degrees. These programmes have existed before but the student is not required to get admission separately in the foreign institution to do the course. But the students enrolling for these programmes will have to go abroad to earn credits.
In the twinning course, a student can do the programme partly in a foreign university, a minimum of 30 per cent of the course’s credits and the rest can be completed in India. But the diploma or degree will be awarded just by the Indian university. The same will be applicable to foreign students enrolling in a similar programme.
In this arrangement, credits earned at a foreign institution will be counted toward the degree/ diploma awarded by the Indian institution.
In the joint degree course, the curriculum is designed together by the collaborating institutions, but the degree is awarded by the Indian university. The collaborating foreign university, meanwhile, will offer a certificate bearing the logo of both institutions upon completing the programme. Both the partner institutions will have to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for developing course content jointly. Students from India will be required to complete more than 30 per cent of their course credit at the foreign institution.
The new regulations were adopted by the UGC on April 19 at its 557th commission meeting and the amended regulations — titled University Grants Commission (Academic Collaboration between Indian and Foreign Higher Education Institutions to offer Joint Degree, Dual Degree, and Twinning Programmes) Regulations, 2022 — will be notified soon.
UGC chairperson M Jagadesh Kumar, told the media through an online interaction that currently there are about 4 crore students in Indian higher educational institutions, but this number is expected to increase with time. “We believe that the regulations will lead to the internationalisation of our higher education and will also provide a great opportunity for our Indian students to acquire multidisciplinary education for an internationally relevant career,” said Kumar.
Moreover, Kumar said that provisions have been made for an “exit pathway” in case the student decides that they cannot continue with the programme. “We have provided for a lot of flexibility in these provisions. These are in line with the National Education Policy (NEP) which aims to make education affordable, multidisciplinary and to provide high quality education through collaboration… It will also enhance the employability of Indian students and attract foreign students to India,”he added.