Monday, August 11, 2014

India Became the 17th Member of the Exclusive Washington Accord

After years of effort and several failures, India finally became the 17th member of the exclusive Washington Accord on Friday, 13th June, 2014. It will help to create equivalence of engineering degree programmes and allow Indians to practice engineering in other member countries. There are six international agreements governing mutual recognition of engineering qualifications and professional competence. In each of these agreements countries/economies who wish to participate may apply for membership, and if accepted become members or signatories to the agreement. In broad principle, each country/economy must meet its own costs, and the body making application must verify that it is the appropriate representative body for that country/economy. The credit for making India a member of Washington Accord goes to many individuals who worked behind the scenes for years.

The World Summit on Accreditation in 2012 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. During Kapil Sibal's time, India was made a temporary member. In January, 2014, a comprehensive audit of NBA was undertaken by the Washington Accord team.The oldest such agreement is the APEC Engineer agreement which commenced in 1999. This has Government support in the participating APEC economies.  The formal rules and procedures were developed for a six-year peer-review of signatories and for admission of new signatories, following a period in provisional status. For the crowded list of Tier-II institutions, NBA has given a roadmap so that they are well prepared to become members of Washington Accord. NBA has asked universities to allow affiliated engineering colleges to design at least 50% of the course. For instance, Washington Accord lays emphasis on teaching social sciences along with engineering.

The representative organization in each economy creates a "register" of those engineers wishing to be recognised as meeting the generic international standard. Other economies should give credit when such an engineer seeks to have his or her competence recognised. The Agreement is largely administered between engineering bodies, but there can be Government representation and substantive changes need to be signed off at governmental APEC Agreement level. Washington Accord will, however, not be valid for IT engineers. India will have to sign the Seoul Accord to create similar equivalence of programmes. Becoming part of Washington Accord also does not necessarily mean that all engineering degrees by all Indian colleges will get equivalence with those of other member countries.

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. But even Tier-I institutes which include IITs/NITs/BITS Pilani besides many autonomous and deemed universities will now have to apply afresh to NBA and only after extensive verification of their programmes will they be declared fit to be part of Washington Accord institutions.

A massive redesigning of course will take place with emphasis on outcomes and letting students explore and innovate. The admission to the Washington Accord of the accreditation organisations in Hong Kong China and South Africa in the late 1990s and Japan, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Korea and Malaysia took the number of signatories to 11 by 2009. Since that year, the accrediting organisations in Turkey and Russia have become signatories. Currently there are also five organisations with provisional status. Many of the new and provisional signatories were mentored by established ones as they developed their systems.

Engineers should have knowledge of the environment so that they know how their work is going to have an impact on the ecosystem. They also need understanding of society, management and communication skills. Agreements covering tertiary qualifications in engineering. There are three agreements covering mutual recognition in respect of tertiary-level qualifications in engineering: The Washington Accord signed in 1989 was the first - it recognises substantial equivalence in the accreditation of qualifications in professional engineering, normally of four years duration.

The Sydney Accord commenced in 2001 and recognises substantial equivalence in the accreditation of qualifications in engineering technology, normally of three years duration. The Dublin Accord is an agreement for substantial equivalence in the accreditation of tertiary qualifications in technician engineering, normally of two years duration. The signatories committed to continue to share relevant information; allow their representatives to participate in each other’s accreditation processes and attend relevant meetings of their organisations; and to make reference to this agreement in publications listing accredited programmes. Agreements covering competence standards for practising engineers The other three agreements cover recognition of equivalence at the practising engineer level i.e. it is individual people, not qualifications that are seen to meet the benchmark standard. The concept of these agreements is that a person recognised in one country as reaching the agreed international standard of competence should only be minimally assessed (primarily for local knowledge) prior to obtaining registration in another country that is party to the agreement.

The Sydney and Dublin Accords for engineering technologists and engineering technicians were initiated in 2001 and 2002, respectively. Together with the three agreements for engineering practitioners, the IEA was formed in 2007, and the IEA Secretariat was created to assist with the administration of the accords and agreements and their development. The following organisations hold provisional status; Bangladesh Board of Accreditation for Engineering and Technical Education;  China China Association for Science and Technology; Pakistan Pakistan Engineering Council; Philippines Philippine Technological Council and Sri Lanka Institution of Engineers Sri Lanka

The International Professional Engineers agreement commenced in 2001. It operates the same competence standard as the APEC Engineer agreement but any country/economy may join. The parties to the agreement are largely engineering bodies. There are intentions to draw IPEA and APEC closer together. Whilst accord recognition strictly applies only to education programmes offered within a signatory’s territorial boundaries, the need to accommodate developments in crossborder education has required development of rules for out-of-territory accreditation and recognition. The rules agreed to in 2008 also allow for assistance to emerging economies that may be too small to operate their own accreditation system. The rules are currently under review.

The International Engineering Technologist agreement was signed by participating economies/countries in 2003. The parties to the Agreement have agreed to commence establishing a mutual recognition scheme for engineering technologists. In 1989 the six foundation signatory organisations from Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and United States observed that their individual processes, policies, criteria and requirements for granting accreditation to university level programmes were substantially equivalent. They agreed to grant (or recommend to registering bodies, if different) the same rights and privileges to graduates of programmes accredited by other signatories as they grant to their own accredited programmes.

The adoption of graduate outcome specifications in tertiary education was paralleled by the development of the specification of consensus graduate attributes for the accords. Version 3 was adopted by the accords in 2013 as the exemplar of the educational requirements to be met by signatories. The signatory for each jurisdiction is the recognised organisation for accreditation of professional engineering qualifications. They are listed by jurisdiction, in order of admission to the Accord, with the current operating name of the accrediting organisation. 

1989 Australia Engineers Australia
Canada Engineers Canada
Ireland Engineers Ireland
New Zealand Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand
United Kingdom Engineering Council United Kingdom
United States Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology
1995 Hong Kong China The Hong Kong Institution of Engineers
1999 South Africa Engineering Council of South Africa
2005 Japan Japan Accreditation Board for Engineering Education
2006 Singapore Institution of Engineers Singapore
2007 Korea Accreditation Board for Engineering Education of Korea
Chinese Taipei Institute of Engineering Education Taiwan
2009 Malaysia Board of Engineers Malaysia
2011 Turkey MUDEK (Association for Evaluation and Accreditation of Engineering Programs)
2012 Russia Association for Engineering Education of Russia

The Accord recognises that the members of the European Network for Accreditation of Engineering Education (ENAEE) operate similar accreditation processes to similar standards within Europe, and its authorised members provide the Eur-ACE label to accredited programmes. Four of the Accord members are also authorised members of ENAEE. There is a formal mechanism between the IEA and ENAEE to maximise mutual understanding and potential benefits of the two organisations.

The current signatories to the Washington Accord that together deliver over 7,000 programmes. The Accord requires a body that wishes to become a signatory to first apply for provisional status. The body must demonstrate it has an accreditation system that meets basic requirements. To proceed to signatory status the body must demonstrate substantial equivalence of its standards and processes in a review by a team drawn from the signatories, and be approved by unanimous agreement of the signatories.

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