The Brief Shelf Life of India’s Four-Year Bachelor’s Degree

October 16th, 2014


In India, the bachelor’s degree in arts and sciences has been typically a three-year program patterned after the British system. Here in the U.S. a few international credential evaluation professionals have been recognizing the three-year bachelor’s degree from India as equivalent to the U.S. four-year degree. At ACEI, our position has been less generous. Though some U.S. credential evaluators may have been liberal with their professional judgment on this matter, it seems that many within India’s higher education institutions were not so content with their three-year bachelor degree offerings. In fact, some Indian institutions of higher education had started to champion the idea of expanding the three-year program by another year to include a research component and additional courses at the advanced level, particularly in the sciences. They viewed this move as essential if India intended to be competitive globally in the area of scientific research and development.

However, this push toward the four-year degree has been met with strong resistance from the University Grants Commission (UGC), India’s higher education regulatory and funding body. The battle brewing between some key public universities and the UGC, concerning the four-year bachelor’s degree finally came to a head last month. University of Delhi, the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and several Institutes of Technology (IIT) that had either embarked on offering the four-year bachelor’s degree or were already offering them were ordered by the UGC to scrap the program and revert to the standard three-year programs.

In June of this year, University of Delhi was forced by the UGC to close its four-year undergraduate degree program because it was deemed by the human resource minister Smriti Irani to not have complied with the recommended education pathway. Even the state-run Indian Institute of Science (IISc), considered one of the prestigious institutions of higher learning, had come under the scrutiny of the UGC. IISc has been allowed to retain its four-year bachelor degree programs in physics, biology, chemistry, environmental science, materials and mathematics on the condition it adheres to changes recommended by the UGC. For example, IISc Bangalore, was able to strike a compromise with UGC by agreeing to restructure its four-year BSc to a research degree while also offer the standard three-year BSc degree. However, the same compromise was not afforded to the University of Delhi that was ordered to completely dismantle its four-year program.

It is not just the public, state-run institutions affected by UGC’s rampage, even private institutions such as Shiv Nadar Univesrity, Azim Premij University and OP Jindal Global University which had recently set up American-style four-year undergraduate liberal arts degrees were told to conform with UGC rules. As can be imagined, this move by the UGC has drastically affected the public and private institutions as well as their students who are now required to switch to the three-year program.

The proponents of India’s four-year bachelor degree see the additional year as a more holistic approach to teaching and learning, allowing for broad-based training in the humanities and sciences. The abrupt dismissal of the four-year program by the UGC is seen by many of the educators and the institutions as shortsighted and lacking any serious academic discussion that is supported by convincing facts and arguments. Many foresee that the UGC resistance toward the four-year degree will only push students away from studying sciences, pursuing careers in sciences and stymieing India’s chances in scientific innovation. It will also mean that in evaluating the three-year bachelor’s degree, ACEI will continue with its current position of recognizing the program as equivalent to three years of undergraduate study but not the four-year U.S. bachelor’s degree.

For more on the institutions affected by the UGC directive, please click here:

Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert
Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert
President & CEO, ACEI


1 Comment

Filed under Credentials, Education

One response to “The Brief Shelf Life of India’s Four-Year Bachelor’s Degree

  1. Pingback: Spotlight on the AICE 2017 Minneapolis Symposium -Setting the Standard for Graduation Admissions: Three-year Degrees and Other Challenges | Academic Exchange

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