In a significant development, Indian engineering degrees will now be accredited in the United States and will be internationally recognised.
This follows India's induction into the prestigious Washington Accord, an international agreement between registering bodies of member countries accrediting academic engineering programmes, at the university level, leading to the practice of engineering at the full professional level.
Arguing the case successfully on behalf of India at the 8th biennial meeting of the International Engineering Meetings 2007 in Washington, DC last month was a delegation led by Prof Damodar Acharya, chairman of the Delhi-based All India Council for Technical Education, who, on July 1, assumed the directorship of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur; Ravi Mathur, joint secretary (technical), ministry of human resource development; and Prof Prasad Krishna, member secretary, National Board of Accreditation.
They were joined by Kamal Kant Dwivedi, counselor at the Indian Embassy and the government of India's point man for science and technology in Washington.
Comprehensive reviews of the Washington Accord are performed at intervals of not more than six years and in terms of the agreement, each registering body accepts the accrediting processes of the other member countries.
The founding signatories of the Accord in 1989 were: Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology, USA; Canadian Council of Professional Engineers; Engineering Council, EC, UK; Institution of Engineers of Ireland; Institution of Engineers, Australia; and Institution of Professional Engineers, New Zealand.
Currently, the Washington Accord member countries are: The US, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa, Hong Kong, Japan, with Germany, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan being provisional members.
This year India's National Board of Accreditation of the All India Council for Technical Education was elected a provisional member, along with Russia and Sri Lanka.
The Accord recognises substantial equivalence of programmes accredited by those organisations and recommends that the graduates of accredited programmes in any of the signatory countries be recognised by the other countries as having met the academic requirements for entry into the practice of engineering.
The NBA is the only authorised body in India entrusted with the task of undertaking accreditation of technical education programmes and all programmes on technical education, including those offered by university departments are accredited by the NBA.
The NBA, as criteria for such accreditation, evaluates the quality of these programmes offered by educational institutions from diploma to the post-graduate levels in technical education including engineering.
India's entry to the Washington Accord would necessarily facilitate mobility of engineering graduates and professionals at international levels and the graduates from NBA-accredited programmes would be automatically accepted for education and employment purposes in member countries.
A provisional member is given two years to bring its academic programmes, curricula and syllabus, examination and evaluation system to the international level and revise its accreditation system to make it fully outcome based, with credit system for flexibility and continuous evaluation for improved learning being the basis of such programmes.
This will include and increased focus on design, research and innovation that will be supported by signatory member countries with mentoring programmes and the like.
In this regard, the NBA will also participate in the accreditation activities of member countries, and at the end of the two-year period, India will be accorded full signatory status.
Thus, membership in the Washington Accord is considered recognition of the quality of engineering education offered by a member country and hence an avenue to bring it into the world-class category of other member nations.
Dwivedi told rediff.com: "All thanks go to Prof Acharya and his team of experts for making a superb and convincing presentation of the national profile of technical education in India and the process of quality assessment and accreditation by the NBA, which was catalytic to this landmark achievement."
"It is of major significance and a path-breaking development because now all of our engineering degrees will be internationally accredited," he said.
"Hitherto, when an Indian engineer came over to the US or went to any of the Washington Accord member countries, only a course-by-course accreditation is done and the assessment, etc on whether they are equivalent only follow after this protracted and stringent accreditation."
"But now," explained Dwivedi, "what will happen after India's membership to the Washington Accord is that automatically all of our degrees -- and not only those from the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) -- because IIT has become such an internationally renowned brand -- but others like the 20 National Institutes of Technology and the 1,520 other engineering institutions, their degrees will also be recognised."
Thus, he said, the Indian engineering degree from all of these institutions -- and not just from the IITs -- will be held on par with US degree as well as other engineering degrees from the countries that are a party to the Washington Accord "and there would be reciprocity where these degrees are concerned."
"So unlike in the past, all of the protracted and stringent requirements and time-consuming course-by-course accreditation will be done away with," he added.
Dwivedi said, "The really great significance of this is what we call credit transfer and mobility."
"Like in the US, if you do two years at one institution, two other semesters somewhere else and graduate from a different university or college or institution, all of these credits will be accepted by all of the member countries that are a party to this accord."
He acknowledged that "in India, so far, this mobility was not there, but this accord brings into play the mobility and credit transfer."