India and the United Kingdom on Thursday inked a pact for mutual recognition of educational degrees of students of bachelor, masters and doctoral courses. Indian senior secondary school or pre-university certificates will also be considered for entry into UK’s higher education institutions, enabling mobility of students.
“From today onwards, UK degrees will be recognised as equivalent to Indian degrees. You can take a degree there (in the UK) and will be eligible for employment in India. However, professional degrees such as medicine, pharmacy, engineering, architecture will not be covered under the pact,” commerce secretary BVR Subrahmanyam told reporters. However, India will negotiate for recognition of professional degrees in the UK in the free trade agreement.
Subrahmanyan said the India-UK free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations will be concluded by August 31. After internal approvals on both sides, the agreement will be ready to be signed according to the convenience of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his counterpart who will soon be elected. The trade deal will be signed by Diwali as decided by Modi and UK’s former PM Boris Johnson.
Negotiations for a trade deal between both nations started in January this year. Currently, the fifth round of negotiations is underway, and both sides aim to complete 17-18 chapters of a total of 26 chapters of the agreement. “(For) whatever is left, there will be 31 rounds in 31 days. In August, we will be negotiating every day. The hope is to conclude the deal by August 31 and I am confident that we are on track,” he said.
“They have assured us that irrespective of who will be the Prime Minister (in the UK), there is across the board support for India UK FTA. They assured there will be no delay… Irrespective of the party in power in the UK, the logic of FTA with India is irreversible,” Subhrahmanyam said.
Both sides also signed two memorandums of understandings (MoUs) on mutual recognition of educational qualifications, including maritime education and a framework agreement on healthcare workforce. These agreements are part of the commitments made by both parties under the Enhanced Trade Partnership (ETP) launched in May last year.
“The pact will also speed up the negotiations. It is a message from their side that irrespective of the political turbulence, things are on track,” Subrahmanyam said.
Another MoU on maritime education qualification was signed by Amitabh Kumar, director general of shipping, to pave the way for the two governments to mutually recognise the certificates of maritime education and training, competency and endorsements of seafarers issued by each other. “The MoU will prove beneficial for employment of seafarers of both countries and will make them eligible for employment on ships of either party. India being a seafarer-supplying nation with a large pool of trained seafarers, it is expected to be significantly benefited by the MoU,” an official statement said.
A framework agreement on healthcare workforce was signed by V Hekali Zhimomi, joint secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, which includes cooperation on nursing and allied health professionals, training of health care professionals and measures to bridge the skill gap.
The agreement will facilitate recruitment and training of nurses from India by the UK in a streamlined manner. Given the shortage of nurses in the UK, the agreement is expected to benefit both sides.