The government has said a legislative framework facilitating the entry of foreign institutions will be put in place.

Students celebrate after receiving their degree certificates after the convocation ceremonyPTI representative image
news Education Thursday, July 30, 2020 - 18:09

The new National Education Policy approved by the Union Cabinet on Wednesday ushers in several changes to India’s education policy, one that has remained unchanged for the past 34 years. Among the new decisions taken by the government is allowing foreign universities to set up campuses in India.

According to the government, the step has been taken to promote India as a global education hub. High-performing Indian universities will be encouraged to set up campuses in other countries, and similarly, select universities, like those from among the top 100 universities in the world, will be permitted to operate in India. 

A legislative framework facilitating such entry will be put in place, and all these universities will be given special dispensation for regulatory, governance, and content norms, which will be on par with other autonomous institutions of India. 

The government has also decided that research collaboration and student exchanges between the Indian institutions and global institutions will be promoted. Further, the credits acquired in foreign universities will also be counted for the award of a degree.

Professor MK Sridhar, who is a part of the Kasturirangan Committee that submitted a draft policy for the NEP 2020, said the new policy is to promote internationalisation of higher education while at home.

“We will not be allowing just anybody, only the top 100 institutions will be allowed to come to India. This is the important point. A lot of things will have to be worked out, as to which institutions will be allowed to have campuses here. The other operational details like fees, faculty, etc., the government will decide upon later. And our education [system] can always be sent abroad,” he said.

Interestingly, the idea of allowing foreign universities to open campuses in India is not new. In 2010, the then UPA-II government had brought in the Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations) Bill, 2010 to restrict the entry of international institutes to set up campuses in India. In the Bill, any foreign educational institution intending to operate in India had to be notified as a foreign educational provider in India.

A highlight of the Bill was that foreign educational providers have to maintain a corpus fund of a minimum of Rs 50 crore, and upto 75% of any income generated from the corpus fund shall be utilised for developing its institution in India and rest should be put back in the fund.

The programme of study offered by the foreign education provider was supposed to conform to standards laid down by the statutory authority (such as UGC, AICTE) and the quality in terms of curriculum, methods of teaching and faculty should be comparable to that offered to students in the main campus. The BJP, which was in the opposition then, had opposed the Bill. 

The 2010 Bill and the 2020 Education Policy are more or less the same, experts feel. While this move will open up opportunities for students in India to attend foreign universities without the need to travel abroad, experts say that India should also concentrate on developing and improving the education standards of the universities already existing in India. Foreign universities may not want to establish campuses in India since it may lead to a revenue loss for them, experts add. This may also mean that many foreign universities will try to employ faculty for themselves, which may lead to a loss for the existing public universities in India. 

“This idea has been mulled before and has failed. Why will Harvard or Oxford move here? They may lose their banner, their image and their own business. They will 100% not depend on India for faculty, which means flying in their own faculty from abroad to India may lead to increased costs, which may be added to the students’ fees,” says Dr Paul Chellakumar, Chairman of Campus Abroad.

Educationalist and career consultant Jayaprakash Gandhi feels that this move may marginally reduce the brain drain in the country, as most students go abroad to study a particular field and then get a job in that field there itself. However, the affordability is a big question mark, he says. 

“Students may prefer to go abroad to have that experience. I suggest a foreign university tie up with an existing institution at the initial stages or with an industry so that we can train the students as per the need of the industry here in India. We should not give them 100% freedom to establish campuses here as that may affect the regular, good universities in India. We have our own brand of teaching, of skill development and rural students, we have to accommodate these students as well, and there should be a balance,” he says.

Foreign universities will cater to a small percentage of students and may lead to a divide between those who can afford the higher fees that the universities may levy to make up for the move to a different country and to set up from scratch. 

“Foreign universities should be allowed to come in a phased manner. It cannot be brought in suddenly. There should be some regulation on fees and on the tie up with an Indian institution. We should allow only top 50 universities to come to India and that too for a specific area —  one should be given Science, one engineering and so on — there should be some restrictions so that the Indian universities can exist and can cater to those who cannot opt for a more expensive fee structure,” he adds.

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