Establishing Campuses of Foreign Universities in India – Explained, pointwise

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Introduction

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. The UGC has sought comments and feedback from the public. The regulations are expected to be notified by end of January 2023. The move has been welcomed, with expectations that campuses of foreign universities in India will help in enhancing the quality and standards of higher education in India. However, many experts have opined that previous such moves have failed to achieve desired results. The result of these regulations will depend on several factors including the autonomy granted to foreign universities.

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 panel will look at each application based on merits, including the credibility of the educational institutions, the programmes to be offered, their potential to improve educational opportunities in India, and the proposed academic infrastructure. 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. The fee structure should be transparent and reasonable. The institution will have to put the prospectus on its website at least 60 days before the start of admissions. The prospectus will include information about fees, refunds, number of seats in a program, eligibility criteria and admission process etc. Based on an evaluation, the FHEI may give full or partial need-based scholarships from funds like endowment funds, donations from the alumni, tuition, and other sources.

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. The FHEI has to ensure that the faculty hired have the same qualifications as the main campus in the home country. It shall ensure that the foreign faculty appointed to teach at the Indian campus shall stay at the campus in India for a reasonable period.

Protecting the Interests of Students: FHEI cannot stop a course or programme or close the campus without first getting permission from the Commission. If a course or programme is interrupted or stopped, it is the FHEI’s responsibility to find an alternative for the affected students. FHEI shall have a mechanism to address students’ grievances. However, the students may appeal to UGC if the Institution does not redress their grievances.

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. The qualifications given out under the rules will be the same as any similar degree given out by an Indian higher education institutions.

Securing National Interest: FHEIs must not offer any programme or course that puts India’s national interest or higher education standards at risk. The way FEHIs work can’t go against India’s sovereignty and integrity, the State’s security, good relations with other countries, public order, decency, or morality.

Working of Finances: The Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), 1999 and its rules must be followed for movement of money across borders, keeping foreign currency accounts and making payments etc. FHEI must submit an annual report with information about the programmes it offers, the number of students enrolled, and the qualifications they receive etc.

What are the benefits of establishing Foreign University Campuses in India?

Internationalisation of Higher Education: Allowing foreign universities to establish campuses in India would aid in the 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: Due to competition between FHEIs and Indian institutions, there will be an enhancement in the quality of education and the overall talent pool.

Beneficial for Students: The Government recently told the Rajya Sabha that 11.3 lakh Indian students were studying abroad. Various reports estimate the annual spending to be between US$ 13-30 billion every year. 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. It will prove beneficial to Indian students helping them to develop a more holistic outlook with global perspectives.

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.

Low enrolment of PhDs Campus of Foreign University in India UPSC

Source: Business Standard

What are the concerns with the UGC Regulations?

First, 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. However, any aggrieved party will have the right to approach the Judiciary.

Second, 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.

Third, 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.

Fourth, 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).

Fifth, the 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.

What are the challenges in establishing Campuses of Foreign Universities in India?

Affordability: FHEIs may prefer to hire foreign faculty. Also they have autonomy in deciding the tuition fee. This may impact the affordability, making access to these institutions limited to the elite. Students from non-affluent families may have to rely on education loans.

Infrastructure Funding: The FHEIs may be reluctant to acquire real estate to establish big campuses. Acquisition of land is anyway a contentious issue in India with several instances of prolonged delays and litigations. The Government may have to step-in to facilitate land acquisition.

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: FHEIs will set up campuses only if they find it as a lucrative option. Very few top ranked FHEIs have foreign campuses (e.g., very few US Universities have campuses in the EU) 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. It will need to be ensured that FHEIs do not face such issues in India.

Expertise: Some critics argue that UGC Officials lack the experience and expertise in dealing with FHEIs. Issues of yearly review, campus visits, and other forms of monitoring and intervention may pose some challenges.

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.

What should be done to improve quality of Higher education in India?

First, 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 FHEIs in regard to autonomy, favourable regulations, taxation etc.

Third, Political interference in Universities must be checked. UGC regulations may be relaxed to grant greater academic autonomy to Universities.

Fourth, There is an urgent need for increased funding, along with establishing dedicated funding streams for infrastructure grants/loans and financial aid. Universities can also be freed up to utilise other revenue streams such as start-up royalties and advertising.

Fifth, Funding for research needs to rise significantly, with institutions like the NRF supplementing existing schemes (including those from the Ministry of Science). Funding should also be allocated to enable course-based research experiences for undergraduates

Conclusion

The UGC Regulations on establishing Campuses by Foreign Universities in India is a welcome move. If regulations are successful in attracting FHEIs, it will have several benefits like increased competition, quality and improving R&D ecosystem. However, the real challenge is getting the FHEIs establish campuses in India. Several such initiatives in the past have failed to achieve desired results. India’s position (especially in terms of economy) globally has changed a lot in recent times. So FHEIs may find India more favorable than 2 decades ago. However, only time will tell the success or failure of UGC initiative in attracting FHEIs to India.

Syllabus: GS II, Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Education.

Source: Indian Express, Indian Express, The Hindu, Business Standard,

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