Foreign universities and educational institutions could soon be allowed to set up campuses in India as per the draft regulations made public by the University Grants Commission (UGC).

What has the UGC proposed?

  • The UGC announced the draft regulations for ‘Setting up and Operation of Campuses of Foreign Higher Educational Institutions in India’ and invited feedback from stakeholders.
  • The proposal allows a foreign university among the top 500 global rankings or a foreign educational institution of repute in its home jurisdiction to apply to the UGC to set up a campus in India.
  • Such a campus can evolve their own admission process and criteria to admit domestic and foreign students. It will also have autonomy to decide its fee structure, and will face no caps that are imposed on Indian institutions.
  • The fee should be “reasonable and transparent”. It will also have autonomy to recruit faculty and staff from India and abroad.
  • However, such universities and colleges cannot “offer any such programme of study which jeopardises the national interest of India or the standards of higher education in India.” They will also be allowed cross-border movement of funds.
  • There have been several moves towards bringing in foreign universities in the past. In 2010, the UPA-II government brought the Foreign Educational Institutions Bill, which was not passed as the BJP, the Samajwadi Party and left parties opposed it for multiple reasons including concerns of Western influence on Indian ethos.

What are foreign players saying?

  • “It is still early days, but the UGC move is a good one. They have provided autonomy in admission criteria, fee and have not imposed restrictions on hiring Indian nationals and also allowed repatriation of surplus funds, which are all enabling provisions,” RavneetPawha, Vice-President (Global Alliances) & CEO (South Asia), Deakin University said.
  • But she further added that, “If foreign institutions want to hire foreign faculty to offer students a differential, where will we get them from
  • Secondly, while India wants to be a global destination for higher education what about the infrastructure needed to support that ambition.
  • Thirdly, those Indians who have the aspiration to go abroad to live there will still continue to do so, which means we have to look at those who want a foreign education within the country at a reduced cost and we will need to provide that keeping in mind their paying capacity. ”

What does the NEP say?

  • The National Education Policy (NEP) says that the top 100 universities in the world will be facilitated to operate in India through a legislative framework.
  • According to Fuqran Qamar, a former adviser for education in the erstwhile Planning Commission, “the draft regulations don’t follow the text of the NEP, rather uses it as a pretext.”
  • He explains that while the NEP talks about creating a legislative framework, the government is following the regulatory route. Critically, the NEP also proposes attracting the top 100 universities, while the UGC draft permits universities with top 500 global rankings.
  • The objective in promoting India as a global education destination is apparently aimed at saving loss of foreign exchange.
  • Nearly 13 lakh students were studying abroad in 2022 and as per the RBI, ₹5 billion was lost in foreign exchange due to students going abroad in FY 2021-2022.
  • The larger goal of the NEP is to take the gross enrollment ratio (GER) in colleges and universities to 50% by 2035 from the current 27%. But online education and private institutions will not benefit those who have no access to education; it will merely offer more choices to the upper and middle class who have 100% GER, says Mr. Qamar.



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