Suitability of International Branch Campuses (IBC) in India’s education system

Suitability of International Branch

Context: Before allowing international branch campuses (IBC) to operate in India, their potential role and suitability in Indian Environment should be analysed .

Background:

  • Although National Education Policy 2020 has recommended allowing universities in the top 100 categories of the World University Rankings to operate in India, inadequate focus has been given to the potential role and suitability of international branch campuses (IBC) in the Indian environment.
  • In India, there is general perception that there exists only a single IBC model i.e., foreign universities are self-funded and establish campuses on their own without any major support from the host country. But studies suggest otherwise.
  • However, recent studies have shown that there are various other models of IBCs for example, IBC that is fully or partially funded by the host government or IBC supported by private organisations or an IBC functioning in collaboration with a local partner in the partner’s campus.
  • The example of Australia’s Monash university operating in South Africa from 2001 to 2019, could provide India with useful lessons in this field.

What is an IBC?

  • An IBC is an entity that is owned (completely or partially) and operated by a foreign higher education provider but provides an entire academic program onsite (I.e., In the host country)
  • More than 300 IBCs are functioning in around 80 countries and many of these are operated by universities from the U.S., the U.K., Australia, France and Russia.
  • Indian private institutions also operate IBCs in countries such as Australia, Mauritius, Uzbekistan, Singapore, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
  • Whereas Countries such as China, Malaysia, Qatar and Singapore host most of them.

Case study on the experience of Monash University in South Africa?

  • SA’s regulatory framework:
    • IBCs there were promoted in parallel with the pre-existing higher education system, on a dual track approach.
    • The SA’s regulatory framework permits foreign universities to operate as private entities, but they need to legally register themselves as a company. Though IBC’s can offer accredited degrees and diplomas they cannot use the ‘university’ tag.
  • Structural development of Monash university:
    • Monash obtained registration in 2001 to operate as an IBC in Johannesburg as ‘Monash South Africa (MSA)’ and currently ranks among top 100 universities in the QS World University Ranking. It operates IBCs in China and Malaysia.
    • In 2013, it started operating as a joint venture with U.S.-based majority owner Laureate Education after selling 75% of its shares.
    • In 2018 both transferred the ownership to a South Africa based listed company Independent Institute of Education (IIE), a subsidiary of the ADvTech group.

What India can learn from the South African Experience?

  • First, even a university that is among the top 100 could become a local private institution through mergers and acquisitions.
  • Secondly, it is not necessary that the public nature of a foreign university is also reflected in its branch campus of host country. Nature may change according to the country.
  • Third, ensuring parity of the programs offered at host country with the quality of programmes offered at the home campus would be a challenge.
  • Fourth, domestic market demand influences course offerings, and there is dependence on contract academic staff.
  • Fifth, there are limitations in substituting existing institutions.

The above experience illustrates the big gap between the state’s desired objectives and the actual reality that can be offered through IBC’s. Hence, we need to review the various delivery models existing in different national contexts to help us aid in future policy formulation process.

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