How WES Evaluates the Three-Year Bachelor’s Degree from India
By WES Staff
World Education Services (WES) has revised its assessment of the three-year bachelor’s degree awarded by Indian universities and now considers selected three-year degrees from India to be equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s degree. The decision was made following research and review of fundamental changes to the quality assurance process in Indian higher education.
The Traditional Assessment of Degrees from India
The three-year bachelor’s degree from India has traditionally been viewed in the U.S. as comparable to the completion of three years of undergraduate study, and holders of the degree have generally not been eligible for admission to U.S. graduate schools.
This assessment is based on information on education in India from the 1970s through the mid-1980s. Since then, the education system has undergone fundamental reforms that have given rise to a uniform system of education. By the mid 1980s the Standard XII award had been fully implemented across India and almost all universities had adopted the three-year bachelor’s degree.
Despite the reforms, the university sector continued to struggle with high rates of failure in university entrance examinations, as well as with a high dropout rate. The rapid growth in the number of students enrolling at postsecondary institutions has impacted quality standards at Indian universities, particularly in the social sciences and humanities. In the 1990s alone, the number of students attending universities almost doubled from 4.9 million to 9.4 million. Still, Indian higher education continues to include several centers of educational excellence.
Quality Assurance and Accreditation
To help raise the quality of higher education, the University Grants Commission/UGC founded the National Assessment and Accreditation Council/NAAC in 1994. The mission of the NAAC is to evaluate and accredit higher education institutions on the basis of clearly defined criteria that include curriculum; teaching and student assessment; infrastructure and resources; student support; and institutional management. Institutions that complete the process successfully and qualify for accreditation are graded as follows:
(upper limit exclusive)
The grading scale is heavily weighted (70%) toward teaching and learning resources with the remaining 30 points given for student support and institutional management. Accreditation is voluntary and there are currently 144 universities listed as accredited on the NAAC website out of 342, and 3,492 out of 5,386 colleges under the purview of the NAAC have also been accredited. In January 2006, by comparison, 122 universities and 2,558 colleges had been accredited by the NAAC.
Issues Affecting Degree Equivalency
Quality Assurance — By instituting a quality assurance and accreditation mechanism, Indian higher education has started addressing a major impediment that prevented the recognition of most university degrees. It is important to note that major British universities have taken note of the recent developments in Indian higher education and updated their admission policies accordingly. Major universities including the Universities of Bath, Exeter, Manchester, Reading, Sheffield, Southampton, Sussex, to name a few, now admit very strong candidates with three-year bachelor’s degrees from India directly into master’s degree programs.
General Education — General education at the undergraduate level is unique to U.S. higher education and does not exist in most other countries regardless of the length of undergraduate degree programs. Although the absence of general education is often given as a reason for not recognizing three-year degrees for graduate admission, U.S. universities readily admit students from those very systems if they complete at least four (4) years of study. This essentially contradicts the argument that the absence of general education renders a degree inadequate preparation for graduate studies because the fourth year is spent on further specialization.
New WES Evaluation of the Three-Year Degree
The key criteria that WES considers when assessing a degree are the level, structure, scope and intent of the program. These factors are expressed in terms of: requirements for admission to the program; its contents and structure; and the function that the credential is designed to serve in the home system, respectively. While the number of years of study is one of the elements that define an academic qualification, it is only one of several criteria that WES considers when evaluating foreign academic credentials.
Having considered all the relevant factors, and especially the changes that have taken place in Indian higher education over the past two decades, WES has determined that selected three-year degrees from India are functionally equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s degree. This new assessment is based on the relative standing of a university as reflected by its NAAC grade and the individual degree holder’s performance as indicated by the classification of the degree.
- Three-year bachelor’s degrees earned in Division or Class I and II at universities accredited by the NAAC with a grade of A will be evaluated as equivalent to the U.S. bachelor’s degree.
As of June 2014, this policy has been updated and WES will only consider first class degrees for full undergraduate equivalency. Please see the official, updated policy paper here
- All other three-year degrees will continue to be evaluated as equivalent to three years of undergraduate study.