The Government of India has opened the doors for Top Foreign Universities to set up campuses in the country and award degrees, giving Indian students the opportunity to study in global institutions without leaving home or spending a fortune in dollars.
Faced with delays in enacting a law to allow foreign universities to set up base in India, the human resource development ministry has decided to allow the top 400 institutions to enter via., an executive order. It is working on regulations under the University Grants Commission Act to let Foreign Institutions begin operations without an Indian partner, which is currently a requirement.
A 2006 study by the Association of Indian Universities found that over 340 institutes in India were offering courses in collaboration with foreign educational institutes. The move has been lauded by industry leaders and many in the education sector. However, there are concerns that allowing only the top 400 institutions to set up campuses is too restrictive while others doubt if the world’s top universities are waiting to rush in. “I do not expect the best universities to be here immediately,” said NR Madhava Menon, founder-director of the National Law School, Bangalore.
The proposed UGC (Establishment & Operation of Campuses of Foreign Educational Institutions) Rules requires that Foreign Education Providers set up the India campuses as Not-for-Profit Companies, that is companies set up under Section 25 of the old Companies Act (Section 8 of the new one).
The proposal has the support of the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) and the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA). “The ministry had sought comments and observations of DIPP and DEA on the rules. Both have supported the proposal,” the HRD ministry spokesperson said.
The decision has cheered private institutions and industry leaders. “It is a wonderful move to allow reputed international universities to freely come to India, set up campuses and offer degrees. Our students will get exposure to best in-class global education and won’t have to leave the country for that. It will offer competition to local universities and offer greater choice to students,” said TV Mohandas Pai, chairman of Manipal Global Education, and former Infosys director.
The new rules will allow foreign institutions that figure among the top 400 universities in the world — according to rankings published by the Times Higher Education, London, Quacquarelli Symonds, a company that specialises in education and studies abroad, or Shanghai Jiao Tong University — will be able to set up campuses as Not-for-Profit firms under the Companies Act.
Foreign institutions will be eligible if they are Not-for-Profit legal entities that have been in existence for at least 20 years and registered by an accrediting agency of the country concerned OR by an internationally accepted system of accreditation.
The foreign education providers will have to offer programmes or courses comparable in quality to those offered to students on their main campuses. Before being notified as a Foreign Education Provider, each such institution will be required to maintain a corpus of not less than Rs 25 crore. The rules also include clauses for penalties ranging from Rs 50 lakh to Rs 1 crore for violating any of the provisions or the UGC Act, besides forfeiture of the corpus.
The degrees awarded by these institutions would be treated as foreign degrees, subject to equivalence accorded by the Association of Indian Universities for further studies or government jobs.
The government had introduced a bill in Parliament in 2007, when Arjun Singh was the HRD minister. However, opposition from the Left, which was then an ally, put paid to that effort. A reworked bill was introduced by Kapil Sibal in 2010, and the bill has been discussed by the standing committee. But there has been little progress in ensuring passage of the bill.
“The move by the government to open entry to quality Foreign Education Providers is indeed a welcome step to meet the country’s demand for higher education. However, the approach to restrict foreign education providers, based on world rankings, may not be appropriate,” said A Didar Singh, secretary general.
CII said the move was in the right direction, but allowing only the top 400 institutions was restrictive. To begin with it may be fine, but it could be subsequently relaxed based on experience, said Naushad Forbes, head of CII’s national higher education committee.