Engineers with undergraduate degrees will find it easier to seek jobs and opportunities for higher studies abroad from 2013, if India's bid to join the elite Washington Accord for international accreditation is accepted.
If it comes through, undergraduate engineering degrees from India will be brought on a par with those of the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Singapore, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa and six other nations, easing mobility for Indian undergraduate engineers.
The National Board of Accreditation, under the aegis of All India Council for Technical Education, plans to bid to become a permanent member of the Washington Accord in June 2013.
Said G Prabhakar, an NBA member and president, Andhra Pradesh chapter of Institution of Engineers (India), "In 2013, NBA will be a full member of the Washington Accord. The accord recommends that the graduates of programs accredited by any of the signatory bodies be recognized by other members as having met academic requirements for entry to engineering." India was granted the status of a provisional member in 2007.
India is yet to invite the Washington Accord to audit its accreditation system, a crucial process for becoming a full member, despite the country being granted a provisional status in 2007.
Hu Hanrahan, the chair of the Washington Accord, who is in India for the first World Summit on Accreditation 2012, refused to commit to a timeline for India becoming a permanent member, saying the process was under way.
Even if India is granted membership of the accord, only about 20% of the 4,000-odd engineering institutes in the country are likely to make the cut.
India's mentor for the accreditation, past president of Singapore's Institution of Engineers Lock Kai Sang, said, "India's bid to receive permanent membership in 2013 will be very challenging. There is still a lot of implementation work that needs to be carried out based on outcome assessment and accreditation."
Around 140 institutes have applied for accreditation under the new framework.
National Board of Accreditation (NBA) officials said that India could be looking at a two-tier system of accreditation - creating international benchmarks for some institutes and settling for lower standards in other colleges.
The HRD ministry has already proposed a legislation to make every higher educational institution mandatorily accredited in the country. "I hope in this session of Parliament we will carry through (the bill)," HRD minister Kapil Sibal said.
The National Accreditation Regulatory Authority for Higher Educational Institutions Bill has provisions under which assessment of such accreditation has to be made before the institution starts the process of admission to the programs, while the existing educational institutions will have to get their accreditation within three years.
The bill also seeks establishment of National Accreditation Regulatory Authority for Higher Education, which shall register and monitor accreditation agencies.