Mutual Recognition Of Qualifications Will Pave Way For Bridge Of Skills

The landmark move will enable smoother movement of students and broaden the nature and extent of joint collaborations between India and UK

Prime Minister Modi certainly hit the mark when he coined the phrase 'the Living Bridge' to describe the close, deep and wide people-to-people connections between India and the UK. In recent days, we have seen both its symbolic manifestation when Rishi Sunak entered the run-off to become the UK Prime Minister and a practical measure taken by our governments that will enlarge and strengthen it.

Building on India's transformative National Education Policy 2020 and the UK Government’s decision to allow Indian students to work in the UK post-graduation, the Mutual Recognition of Qualifications Agreement signed by the Indian and UK Governments is a huge achievement with very tangible, positive consequences. Not only will MRQs help to strengthen linkages between British and Indian universities, but it is also a pivotal reform for students, graduates and employers. All the brilliant officials from both countries that negotiated this agreement deserve huge credit.

Students and graduates will be able to seamlessly transition between our countries for studies and then access a broader range of jobs. The bridge of skills between our countries will grow as a result and universities and higher education institutions will cement new partnerships and research collaborations. The benefits go beyond education links; Professor Daniel J Rycroft, Chair of the University of East Anglia’s India Dialogue described the Agreement as a “far-sighted commitment from each party to the process of taking India-UK relations onto a new level.” Indeed, we at the UKIBC believe that MRQ will spur bilateral trade, investment flows and the movement of people, resulting in more jobs and prosperity in both countries.

The agreement will not only support the sharing of students, staff, knowledge and best practice but also result in better education for students. Prospective Indian students now have the confidence and assurance to take up studies abroad before returning for employment or further study, in India. And it increases incentives for young people from the UK to study in India.

MRQ has been an objective for businesses, students and universities for a long time. The UKIBC, through our government connections, have advocated for this reform for several years, including in our 2019 UKIBC report, ‘Higher Education Collaboration: Futureproofing the UK India Partnership’, which collated the findings of a survey of leading UK universities keen to engage more effectively with India and identified the reforms needed to enable them to do so. A Mutual Recognition of Qualifications Agreement emerged as the single most desired reform, chosen by more than 70 per cent respondents.

Not surprisingly, therefore, news of the agreement was warmly welcomed by leading UK universities. Professor Moyra Boland of the University of Glasgow said, “The University is delighted. There have been lots of exciting conversations and developments around partnership with universities in India and we are looking forward to creating joint degrees in several different disciplines with thriving Indian Universities. As well as strengthening our existing flourishing partnerships in India.”

We have already seen significant growth in the number of Indian students coming to the UK in recent years. In 2020/2021, the UK welcomed 84,555 Indian students to the UK (the second most of any nationality) and MRQs will do much to sustain the positive momentum. This point has been recognised by Dr Athulya Aravind, Regional Director, South Asia at the University of Edinburgh, who described the MRQ Agreement as a “significant enabler for mobility and joint study programmes for institutions in both countries".

Recognition of qualifications will also help employers in India to find graduates with the necessary skills to support their business. India is undoubtedly endowed with amazing human resources and yet there have been repeated calls from business for the enhanced expertise in addressing skills gaps. The mutual recognition of qualifications will play a key role in enhancing the supply of these demanded skills.

Despite the huge value and importance of this landmark agreement, it should just be a steppingstone to the mutual recognition of professional qualifications that would enable, for example, architects and lawyers to practice in both countries. This would certainly further deepen business collaboration and increase investment in India.

The increasing number of students and workers crossing the Living Bridge is very much welcomed - as well as the trade and investment statistics, there are immeasurable intangible benefits that result from lifelong friendships and connections. The Bridge is a well-trodden route for Indian students coming to the UK and long may this continue and expand. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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