12 March 2015
Last week saw the signing of an agreement between the UK Government and the Mexican Government on the mutual recognition of higher education awards, titles, diplomas and academic degrees. Our Director of Higher Education for the Americas, John Bramwell, tells us what this treaty will mean in practice for UK higher education.
What is the Mutual Recognition treaty about?
This agreement ensures that qualifications earned in one country are properly recognised in the other.
At the moment if a Mexican student studies a degree in a UK university that qualification is not recognised back in Mexico – and similarly if a UK student studies in Mexico they can’t then use their qualification here when they get back.
This agreement means that they and future students will be able to do so.
How will this benefit the UK?
There are an estimated 150,000 students who currently can’t use their award in their home country.
Clearly if they can now have this recognised they become available to do follow on study and research here (and vice versa). This means that we should expect increased numbers of students coming here, and going across to Mexico to study too.
Universities will now be able to establish wider Trans National Education agreements, new scholarship and mobility schemes and new research transfer agreements.
That’s more knowledge and value coming in and working with the UK.
Also Mexican students are more likely to study here if they know that their qualification will have value when they go back.
Mexico is the first of the Latin American countries to get its agreement with the UK in place, but other key countries will follow – such as Chile and Brazil.
It is helpful that 2015 is the dual year of Mexico in the UK and UK in Mexico. This has given a focus to this work, and the State Visit of the President of Mexico to the UK following the visit of the Prince of Wales to Mexico last November has helped us to get this in place quickly.
The processes for implementing the treaty will be designed over the next six to nine months by a joint UK and Mexico commission. The UK sector will be involved in this through Universities UK International Unit (UUK IU).
The mechanisms for new liaison, as well as transnational education and joint research collaboration will then be clear.
The British Council will be working with UK NARIC, UUK IU and others on support meetings and communication following the commission to ensure UK universities are well informed and able to respond effectively.
So what happens next?
The two countries have set up a joint commission and this will meet over the next six months to define exactly how this treaty will work.
The UK side of the commission will include UUK IU, UK NARIC, QAA, BIS and others. In Mexico the ministries of Foreign Affairs, Education, and similar representative university bodies will meet.
BIS will chair the UK side of the commission, and the Ministry of Foreign affairs the Mexican side. The British Council will convene and support the commission overall.
How can the UK Universities get involved?
UUK IU will be representing the sector in the commission, and helping to keep universities well informed as this progresses.
Additionally, following the commission, the British Council and UK NARIC, along with UUK IU, will be working on meetings and communication sessions to answer questions and provide secure guidance to universities on how to work with the new liaison and mobility opportunities.
When will the UK start to see the benefits of the treaty?
Perhaps as early as the winter of 2015.
The commission is expected to complete its design work by October 2015, and some of the early discussions around new structures for collaboration and joint research etc could start immediately.
The approval of qualifications will apply immediately that the commission has completed its work, and we can expect that over the subsequent two to three years significant growth in recruitment and mobility opportunities will develop, reaching into the backlog of currently blocked students.
..and in the longer term?
We look forward to getting all the Latin American countries into the same position, and indeed other key countries around the world.
The UK university sector can then work with a consistent, quality assured confidence in student mobility, trans national education, joint research and researcher exchanges that will enrich our knowledge and engage the UK internationally on an unprecedented scale.
Lots to play for – and lots to gain.