There's good news for Indian engineers. The country is now a permanent member of the Washington Accord. Membership means global recognition of Indian degrees and is likely to increase the mobility of engineers to the USA and other countries for jobs.
Congratulating her ministry's officials, HRD Minister Smriti Irani said that the development will "ensure that highest quality assurance standards (are) implemented in our technical and engineering programmes to provide global mobility to our engineering graduates".
So what is the Washington According? It is an international accreditation agreement for professional engineering academic degrees, between the bodies responsible for accreditation in its signatory countries. In India the body responsible for accrediting the engineering degrees is the National Board of of Accreditation (NBA).
The accord was established in 1989 and the current members include: Australia, Canada, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong China, India, Ireland, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The agreement recognises that the undergrad engineering programs accredited by these signatories are equal in nature and that the graduates of signatory countries are recognised by other signatory countries as having met the academic requirements for entry to practice of engineering.
The road to becoming a permanent member did not come easy for India as it had been working for several years to achieving this goal. India was made a provisional member of Washington Accord in 2007.
This latest breakthrough came at a meeting of the International Engineering Alliance in Wellington, New Zealand when the members voted to induct India as a permanent member of the select group.
According to a Times of India report three men who worked hard to make this possible were "Raman Menon Unnikrishnan of California State University, Fullerton, former National Board of Accreditation (NBA) member secretary Dinesh K Paliwal and education secretary Ashok Thakur."
The report notes that "Paliwal was responsible for organizing the World Summit on Accreditation in 2012 that was used for backroom diplomacy to allay fears about the Indian system. The process of accreditation had started during late Arjun Singh's tenure as HRD minister." Arjun Singh was the HRD Minister is the First UPA government.
So now that India is a member what does it mean for those getting engineering degrees? The recognition would allow for more job options in foreign countries. However as the TOI report notes, this is not be valid for Information Technology engineers and for this India has to sign the Seoul Accord.
Also not all colleges which are accredited by NBA get automatic recognition under Washington Accord. The report in TOI points out that "NBA has shortlisted 220-odd engineering colleges as Tier-I institutes whose undergraduate engineering programme is in tune with what is required under the Accord." However even Tier-I will have to reapply for the accreditation and only post verification will they qualify under the accord, adds the report.
A lot of the credit for this success is also being given to former HRD Minister MM Pallam Raju. "Congratulations to the Ministry, after a seven-year effort by the Ministry, India has gained permanent membership of the Washington Accord!," he tweeted. According to a LiveMint story, it was Raju who "made NBA an autonomous organization, separating it from the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the apex technical education regulator."
Updated Date: Jun 14, 2014 11:01 AM