(GS II, Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Education)
- The regulator for higher education in India, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has released draft regulations to allow foreign universities to establish campuses in India.
What are the salient features of UGC Regulations on Foreign University Campuses in India?
- Eligibility: Two types of Foreign Higher Education Institutions (FHEIs) can apply to establish campuses in India: (a) Universities that are in the top 500 global rankings (either overall or subject-specific rankings); (b) Institutions of repute in their home countries.
- Approvals: The UGC will set up a permanent committee to look into questions about how FHEIs can set up and run campuses in India. The Committee will make recommendations within 45 days. After the approval, the FHEI has to establish campus in India within 2 years.
- Criteria for Admission and Fees: FHEIs will be free to set and change their admissions process and criteria. They can admit both domestic and international students.
- Faculty: FHEI will have the freedom to hire faculty and staff from India and other countries, as long as they follow the rules for hiring. It may decide the qualifications for hiring faculty and staff, their remuneration and other terms of the job.
- Protecting the Interests of Students: FHEI cannot stop a course or programme or close the campus without first getting permission from the Commission.
- Equivalence with degrees given by Indian HEIs: The qualifications given to students on the Indian campus must be the same as the qualifications given by the FEHI on the main campus in the home country.
- Securing National Interest: FHEIs must not offer any programme or course that puts India’s national interest or higher education standards at risk.
- Working of Finances: The Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), 1999 and its rules must be followed for movement of money across borders. FHEI must submit an annual report with information.
- Internationalisation of Higher Education: As stated in the NEP 2020, “A legislative framework will be put in place to facilitate such entry, and such universities will be given special treatment in terms of regulatory, governance, and content norms on par with other autonomous institutions in India”.
- Quality of Education: Will improve due to competition between FHEIs and Indian institutions.
- Beneficial for Students: One report has estimated that Indians would be spending US$ 80 billion annually for studies abroad by 2024-25. Presence of campuses of foreign universities may ease the tendency to shift abroad for higher studies. This will help reduce the need for foreign exchange.
- Attract Foreign Students: Campuses of reputed FHEIs will attract foreign students. This will help in exchange of ideas and cultures.
- Boost Research: The enrolments in M.Phil and PhD courses is very low. It is expected that campuses of reputed FHEIs will improve enrolments in research courses and help improve the ecosystem in India.ISSUES
- Some experts contend that the national security clause is too restrictive in nature. The FHEIs may be reluctant to enter India because it may impact academic autonomy.
- Earlier regulations released by the Government (October 2022) regarding establishing campuses by Foreign Universities in the GIFT City (Gandhinagar) were exempted from the regulations set by the UGC. Two set of regulations may result in confusion.
- According to some education experts, the regulations have not elaborated about certain aspects that are applicable to Indian Universities like academic bank of credits, multiple entry and exit system, up to 40% online delivery along with the issue of reservations in admissions.
- There are multiple ‘global rankings’ like the QS, Times Higher Education, Financial Times Rankings etc. The regulations have not elaborated which rankings shall be considered for eligibility criteria (top 500).
- Regulations will also allow Institutions of repute in their home countries (not in top 500 in Global Rankings). Repute has a subjective interpretation and has not been elaborated.
- Affordability: they can hire foreign faculty and decide tuition fee which may impact the affordability, limiting it to the elite.
- Infrastructure Funding: The FHEIs may be reluctant to acquire real estate to establish big campuses as acquisition of land is anyway a contentious issue in India
- Faculty Restraints: FHEIs have to ensure that the education they impart do not violate India’s national interests including on grounds like sovereignty and integrity, public order, decency, or morality etc. Some of the terms like morality and decency are subjective based on cultural differences. This may make foreign faculty reluctant to join Indian campuses.
- Attracting Top Universities:. Very few top ranked FHEIs have foreign campuses even in countries with relative much liberal standards than in India.
- Political Interference: Higher Educational Institutions in India are vulnerable to political interference including on issue of appointments to senior administrative positions.
- Level Playing Field: FHEIs can be for-profit institutions and they’ll be allowed to repatriate surplus funds abroad. Indian public HEIs are not ‘for-profit’ and have to reinvest the surplus. This will put FHEIs on a different pedestal than Indian HEIs.
- As committed in NEP-2020, the Government should cater to the needs of a large section of Indian society termed ‘Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Groups-SEDGs‘ that include women, transgenders, SCs, STs, OBCs, EWS, differently abled, migrants and geographically disadvantaged groups.
- Second, Many private universities from India have shown great potential to innovate and become renowned globally. Such universities should be given a free hand on par with FHEIsin regard to autonomy, favourable regulations, taxation etc.
- There is an urgent need for increased funding, along with establishing dedicated funding streams for infrastructuregrants/loans and financial aid. Universities can also be freed up to utilise other revenue streams such as start-up royalties and advertising.