Baba’s Explainer – Foreign Universities in India

  • IASbaba
  • January 10, 2023
  • 0
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  • GS-2: Issues related to Education
  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Context: 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.

What has the UGC proposed?
  • The University Grants Commission (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, which failed.
  • In 2010, the UPA-II government brought the Foreign Educational Institutions Bill, which was not passed as the BJP, the Samajwadi Partyand left parties opposed for multiple reasons including concerns of Western influence on Indian ethos.
Why was the entry of foreign universities opposed?
  • Governments in the past have made several attempts to enact legislation for the entry, operation and regulation of foreign universities in the country.
  • The first was in 1995 when a Bill was introduced but could not go forward. In 2005-06, too, the draft law could only go up to the Cabinet stage.
  • One of the main reservations against foreign universities operating in India was that they would raise the cost of education (high tuition fees, faculty poaching from public universities), rendering it out of reach for a large part of the population.
  • Foreign institutions were also reluctant to open campuses in India because earlier regulations/bills prohibited repatriation of funds to the parent institution abroad.
What are the arguments in favour of having foreign educational institutes operating in India?
  • India’s higher education collaboration with other countries will increase India’s soft power it will also bring new ideas and institutions from abroad to the shores of India.
  • They would encourage competition mainly between existing public and private universities in India and foreign branch institutions and the end result would be better quality of education for the students.
  • The branches could bring new ideas about curriculum, pedagogy, and governance to Indian higher education and contribute to the country’s academic growth.
  • It helps in retaining the best talent within India thus preventing brain drain.
  • It also provides competition to China which is attracting most of the foreign institutes.
  • It might also help in increasing the enrolment rate in Higher education. Currently, just over a quarter of India’s 18-23-year-olds are enrolled in a college or university. This leaves a vast potential market open for foreign education providers.
What does the National Education Policy (NEP) say about allowing foreign campuses and higher education in the country?
  • 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.
  • Critics argue that the draft regulations don’t follow the text of the NEP, rather uses it as a pretext. However, 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 or those considered reputed in their home country. The objective in promoting India as a global education destination is apparently aimed at saving loss offoreign exchange.
  • After Chinese students, Indians are the largest category of foreign students in countries like the U.S., the U.K. and Australia.
  • Nearly 13 lakh students were studying abroad in 2022 according to the Ministry of External Affairs data; and as per the RBI, ₹5 billion was lost in foreign exchange due to students going overseas in FY 2021-2022.
  • The larger goal of the NEP is also to take the gross enrollment ratio (GER) in colleges and universities to 50% by 2035 from the current 27%.
  • But chasing online education and private institutions will not benefit those who have no access to education, and merely offer more choices to the upper and middle class who have 100% GER
What is the way forward?
  • A new accreditation mechanism, flexible visa rules for foreign students and faculty, and financial incentives to offer programmes should be considered as priority areas.
  • It remains to be seen if this, along with operational and financial autonomy (including the freedom to repatriate income) will be enough to attract reputed universities to India.

Main Practice Question: What is your opinion of allowing foreign universities to open their campuses in India?

Note: Write answer his question in the comment section.

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