A Harvard branch in India, prospects and challenges

News: In Budget 2022, Finance Minister announced that “world-class foreign universities and institutions would be allowed in the planned business district in Gujarat’s GIFT City”. These institutions would be free from domestic regulations to facilitate availability of high-end human resources.

And the British Prime Minister during his visit to India wished to strengthen the United Kingdom-India academic collaboration.


The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 promises higher education reforms in many areas, and internationalisation is prominent among them.

The NEP 2020 recommended allowing foreign universities ranked in the “top 100” category to operate in India.

Arguments in favour of establishment of the foreign branches in India

India is an emerging higher education power. It is the world’s second largestexporter” of students and holder of the world’s second largest higher education system. Foreign countries and universities will be eager to establish a “beachhead” in India.

India’s higher education collaboration with other countries will augment India’s soft power, bringing new ideas and institutions from abroad and to show “best practice” in India.

International branch campuses could function as a structurally different variant of India’s private university sector. They would encourage competition mainly between existing private universities and foreign branch institutions.

The branches could bring new ideas about curriculum, pedagogy, and governance to Indian higher education.

What are the issues in India’s international higher education collaborations?

Indian Side

There are many regulatory hurdles with regard to international academic partnerships, which includes the operation of international branch campuses. Before NEP 2020, India did not allow the entry and the operation of foreign university branch campuses.

The FM budget speech marked departure from the NEP 2020 recommendations that allow only the “top 100” category to operate in India.

The Minister of State for Education reply in the Lok Sabha in March also marked departure from the NEP 2020 recommendations. For example, two foreign institutions, from France and Italy, which are not universities, had expressed interest in setting up campuses in India.

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has formed a committee to draft regulations to allow foreign institutions in the “top 500” category to establish campuses in India.

Foreign Side

There are issues over practicality. The overseas universities are highly unlikely to invest significant funds up front.

The global branches would be aimed at making money for the sponsoring university which is not in India’s interests.

International collaborations have failed. For example, the Yale University and the National University of Singapore partnership ( the Yale-NUS) College came to an end recently.

Way Forward

The top universities that are already engaged overseas would require incentives to set up in India. For example, building facilities and providing necessary infrastructure.

There are smaller but highly regarded universities outside the ‘top 500’ category that might be more interested.

Universities around the world that have academic specialisations focusing on India, or that have NRI in senior management positions etc. may be easier to attract for India.

India should prevent profit-seekers from entering the Indian market. Instead, the foreign institutions having innovative educational ideas and a long-term commitment should be encouraged.

The bureaucratic hurdles should be drastically cut to ensure success in attracting branch campuses.

A new accreditation mechanism, flexible visa rules for foreign students and faculty, and financial incentives to offer programmes should be considered as priority areas.

Source: The post is based on an article “A Harvard branch in India, prospects and challenges” published in the “The Hindu” on 24th May 2022.

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