In the international education world, credentials from India are often pretty straightforward to evaluate. Students typically follow the 10+2 pattern for secondary education, and then 3+2 for undergraduate and graduate education with a few deviations, such as diploma programs or the Bachelor of Education degree.
At Scholaro, we recently came across a credential that did not fit into the typical education mold for India. At first glance, it appeared to be a standard Master of Science degree issued by Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani. However, upon further research, we determined that this degree is actually an integrated first-degree program, and students can be admitted to this program directly after completing the 10+2 secondary education. The typical program length is four years, although students can complete the Master of Science degree in only two or three years if they were given advanced standing based on a previous undergraduate degree.
Interestingly, students at this institute often choose to enroll in a dual degree program. With the particular credential that was submitted to Scholaro, the student was enrolled in a dual degree program in which they completed a Bachelor of Engineering degree in conjunction with the Master of Science degree. They completed 10 semesters of coursework overall, and were awarded the Bachelor of Engineering degree and the Master of Science degree.
For credential evaluation agencies and university admissions offices, this type of integrated degree program can be tricky. The applicant was awarded a Master of Science degree from a UGC-accredited institution, and these seem to be recognized in India as Master’s degrees despite their lower admission requirements. It also grants all the rights to access further education programs in India. However, it remains the decision of educational institutions to determine if these programs contain sufficient preparation for US graduate or doctoral programs. This also begs the question of whether their Master of Science degree could even be equivalent to a US Master’s degree since it was only four years in length. The problem is further compounded by the fact that the applicant was awarded both the B.Ed. degree and the M.Sc. degree.
Integrated programs also exist in the United States. For example, Illinois State University offers integrated Bachelor’s/Master’s programs that take five to six years to complete. Even selective universities like University of Texas Austin offer integrated STEM degrees with a standard five-year duration, which is at least one year faster than earning both degrees through the traditional pattern. Even though integrated degree programs are not just an foreign phenomenon, they exemplify the need for a thoroughly researched credential evaluation report such as a Course by Course evaluation from Scholaro.
Like most cases in credential evaluation, there is probably no cut-and-dry answer for this scenario. By preparing a Course-by-Course evaluation report, the details of the program are accurately represented, including duration of study, credit total, and further education rights. This serves as a good reminder that we must always be vigilant when researching credentials, even those that we see on an almost daily basis. It would be tempting to look at the degree certificate for this program and assume that it is a standard Indian Master’s degree, but as credential evaluators, we have to take that extra step and dig a little deeper.