Under the memorandum of understanding, British A-levels and equivalent courses, undergraduate and postgraduate degrees will be recognised in India, meaning graduates of UK institutions will be able to apply for postgraduate qualifications, or embark on government careers, in the South Asian country.
In 2020/21, the UK welcomed 84,555 Indian students. In the five years leading up to that academic year, HESA highlighted a “notable increase” of 67,660 students from the country.
Additionally, latest UCAS application data has identified a 20% rise in applications from India for the next academic year.
The move adds to the “fantastic reputation” UK universities have around the globe, according to the UK’s International Trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan. Each non-EU student in the UK is estimated by industry to be worth some £109,000 to the economy.
“Now, we are delighted to deliver on our promise to unblock barriers to trade between our two nations and make UK higher education even easier to access and more appealing to Indian students,” she said.
James Cleverly, who was appointed UK education minister on 7 July, said that the agreement builds on the UK-India partnership and indicated that it “removes barriers so even more of the best and brightest students from India can study here, boosting our economy and enriching our campuses and communities”.
“UK universities are rightly the envy of the world and international education is one of our finest exports,” he said.
“This is a landmark, historic agreement which has been many years in the making”
The MoU is part of the UK-India Enhanced Trade Partnership agreed by prime minister Boris Johnson and prime minister Narendra Modi last year.
The 2021 “dynamic” strategic partnership for education featured plans for enhanced short-term bilateral mobility and the mutual recognition of qualifications.
“This is a landmark, historic agreement which has been many years in the making,” said Vivienne Stern, chief executive of Universities UK International.
“Qualifications students receive will be recognised on both sides, making it easier for students to progress in education and move into jobs.”
The recognition of UK masters programs is a “particularly important development”, Stern – who was recently in India as part of a delegation exploring UK transnational education opportunities – continued.
“It means that Indian graduates of the UK’s outstanding universities will receive formal recognition of their outstanding achievements and full access to jobs in the public sector in India,” Stern added.
The mutual recognition of qualifications was expected by the end of 2021, with TNE expert Eduardo Ramos last year suggesting recognition could be a “significant step” towards the development of dual and joint degrees and twinning agreements between UK and Indian universities.
A 2021 Harvard Kennedy School/ Policy Institute at King’s College London report found that mutual recognition of credits and qualifications would simplify movement between institutions in the UK and India.
“This [agreement] is excellent news for Indian students coming to the UK to study, helping to ensure that the education they receive here will be fully recognised and enable them to continue to progress when they return to India,” UKCISA chief executive Anne Marie Graham told The PIE News.
Founder and chairperson of the National Indian Students and Alumni Union UK, Sanam Arora, also praised the “truly landmark, long-awaited and impactful achievement in UK-India relations”.
“It will enable significantly smoother movement of students between the two countries and broaden the nature and extent of joint collaborations between individual universities in the two countries,” she said.
“NISAU has been long campaigning for mutual recognition of qualifications and this agreement is therefore a most welcome development.”
“The agreement will support even greater collaboration between our higher education sectors”
The UK government also said that the agreement will allow more students to travel to India to study. The country is a “popular destination” for UK students participating in the Turing Scheme, it noted.
“It creates more opportunities for UK students to study in India, and paves the way for our world-beating universities to deliver more degree programs in one of the fastest-growing and most dynamic nations on earth,” Cleverly added.
In the first year of the Turing program, India was the ninth most popular destination among UK university students, ahead of Germany, South Korea and Italy, with over 1,000 HE students gaining funding.
For Barbara Wickham, director for India at the British Council, the agreement is a “significant moment of celebration in the India-UK education relationship [which] will benefit thousands of young people and talented students in both countries”.
“The agreement will support even greater collaboration between our higher education sectors, nurture globally ready graduates through an increasingly internationalised education, and further enable joint education, research and innovation initiatives to explore solutions for shared global challenges.
“We are also delighted the agreement has been finalised during our ongoing India/UK Together Season of Culture – our landmark program that marks India’s 75th anniversary and celebrates the deep connections between India and the UK.”