Context: Recently, the University Grants Commission (UGC) released draft regulations to allow foreign universities to enter India.
- The draft regulations of the UGC on Setting up and Operation of Campuses of Foreign Higher Educational Institutions in India 2023 pave the way for the entry of foreign universities into the groves of higher education in the country.
- It is charged with coordination, determination and maintenance of standards of higher education.
- It provides recognition to universities in India, and disburses funds to such recognized universities and colleges.
- Previously, UGC was formed in 1946 to oversee the work of the three Central Universities of Aligarh, Banaras and, Delhi.
- In 1947, the Committee was entrusted with the responsibility of dealing with all the then existing Universities.
- After independence, the University Education Commission was set up in 1948 under the Chairmanship of S. Radhakrishnan and it recommended that the UGC be reconstituted on the general model of the University Grants Commission of the United Kingdom.
- The UGC was however, formally established in November 1956, by an Act of Parliament as a statutory body of the Government of India.
Key highlights of the draft regulations:
- The UGC draft regulations-2023 have “top 500 foreign universities” and the ranking will be decided by the UGC “from time to time”.
- In NEP-2020, only the top-100 QS ranking universities could establish their branch campuses in India to provide quality higher education to Indian students who aspire to gain foreign degrees.
- The draft regulations-2023 set another criterion for a branch campus to be opened up in India that “the applicant should be a reputed institution in its home jurisdiction”.
- The draft regulations-2023 allow foreign higher educational institutions to decide a fee structure that is “transparent and reasonable”.
- Foreign higher educational institutions now have the freedom to decide “qualifications, salary structure, and other conditions of service for appointing faculty and staff”.
- It states that “The Foreign Higher Educational Institutions should arrange for adequate physical infrastructure”.
No Equivalence Requirement:
- All Indian students with foreign degrees are required to get an equivalence certificate from the Association of Indian Universities.
- The draft regulations-2023 waive off equivalence requirement for the degrees granted by the foreign branch campuses in India.
Safeguards for Indian Students:
- The draft states that the UGC will have the right to inspect the campuses at any time.
- Campuses will not be outside the purview of anti-ragging and other criminal laws.
Repatriation of Profits:
- The draft regulations-2023 allow for smooth repatriation of profits earned by the foreign branch campuses under the rules and regulations of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) 1999.
- The draft regulations also require the foreign universities to submit audit reports and annual reports to the UGC “certifying that [their] operations…in India are in compliance with FEMA 1999” and other relevant government policies.
- Foreign Higher Educational Institutions shall not offer any such programme of study which jeopardises the national interest of India or the standards of higher education in India.
- The operation of Foreign Higher Educational Institutions shall not be contrary to the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency, or morality.
- The UGC shall impose a penalty and/ or suspend/ withdraw its approval at any time if the university’s “activities or academic programmes are against the interest of India”.
National Education Policy view about Foreign universities:
- The National Education Policy [NEP], 2020, has envisioned that top universities in the world will be facilitated to operate in India.
- A legislative framework facilitating such entry should be brought by the Government.
- Foreign universities will be given special dispensation regarding regulatory, governance, and content norms on par with other autonomous institutions of India.
Challenges associated with Draft Regulations:
- Vague Criteria for Reputation: It is not clear how the UGC would determine the reputation of such foreign universities that do not appear in any world rankings but are considered “reputed” in their home country.
- Issue of Accessibility: The draft guidelines gives foreign branch campuses in India an upper hand in deciding different fees for different programmes.
- As a result, programmes with higher market value would be more expensive and not accessible to many students.
- Determining Need for Scholarship: Although there is a provision for “full or partial need-based scholarships” to be provided by the FHEI (foreign higher educational institution) from funds such as endowment funds, alumni donations, tuition revenues, and other sources, determining “need” will be a challenging task.
- Investment on Infrastructure: The provision for physical infrastructure would be problematic for foreign higher education institutions reluctant to go for major infrastructural investment and many would prefer to wait and watch for others to take the initiative.
- Attracting Top Universities: It will ultimately depend on whether top universities find the Indian market attractive enough to invest in a branch campus in the country.
- Surely the top 100 universities were not terribly keen to open their campuses in India.
- Removal of Equivalence Certificate: After waiving off equivalence requirements, it would be difficult to ensure that the degrees offered by the foreign branch campuses would be accepted by the employers in the home countries of the campuses.
- Restrictions on Faculty Members: The foreign faculty members may find it difficult to balance state policies, sensibilities and laissez-faire intellectual standpoint.
- In days to come, this is going to be a major issue in the process of knowledge creation and transaction in India.
India is a young nation with an increasing need for higher education and an ever-increasing demand for foreign degrees. As committed in NEP-2020, India 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.
India should provide physical infrastructure to facilitate its strategy of internationalisation of higher education. The guidelines should not open floodgates for such foreign educational institutions whose sole objective is to only earn profit.
Source: Indian Express