Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Degree Discrimination?

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Degree Discrimination?

Article excerpt

India's three-year undergraduate degrees seem to provide a solid academic foundation, but there's no consensus among U.S. graduate schools.

LAST FALL, THE AUSTRALIAN EMBASSY IN WASHINGTON, D.C., HOSTED A WORKSHOP ON THE Bologna undergraduate degrees in Europe, which in most cases are completed in three-years. Discussion ensued on whether these degrees will be more acceptable at U.S. graduate schools than India's three-year degrees.

The 2006 Council of Graduate School's survey, "International Graduate Admissions, Phase III: Admissions and Enrollment," touched upon the topic of the Bologna degrees and to what extent institutions in the United States are more open to admitting students from Europe with such degrees than those from other countries. The survey revealed that the acceptance of the Bologna degrees was increasing and wasn't an issue for 56 percent of institutions. On the other hand, 45 percent of all institutions reported that they would accept three-year degrees from universities outside of Europe; 55 percent reported that they would not.

Two reasons are most often cited for the non-acceptability of the three-year Indian undergraduate degrees for admission to American graduate school. The first is the most obvious - the three-year degree versus this country's traditional four-year undergraduate degree. The second most common argument is that three-year degrees afford students little opportunity to take courses in the liberal arts and are more focused on the students' respective disciplines.

I'm going to concentrate on two modes of assessment that U.S. institutions can consider while reviewing applications from recognized and nationally accredited institutions in India.

First, I think it's important to ask what the goal of graduate education in the United States is. Is the ultimate goal to obtain a doctorate and pursue research and teaching? To me, graduate school is an opportunity to major and specialize in a particular discipline, in which case how many courses one takes at the undergraduate level in general/liberal education is moot. I believe, therefore, that India's three-year undergraduate degrees, particularly the honors degrees, should be more sought after in the United States because they provide the students with a solid foundation in a discipline that they ultimately plan to pursue at the graduate level.

Most Indian universities, and I'm not including the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology, which offer four-year degrees, offer two types of bachelor's degrees - the pass and the honors. …

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