Time is ticking for the entry of foreign universities entry into India with a full-fledged independent campus in India. While the bill to allow their entry has been stalled, the alternative options may not be acceptable to the institutes.
While the Plan B was to allow University Grants Commission (UGC) to decide rules on the entry, a special economic zone (SEZ) plan may not be acceptable to all the players.
“Being made to get a campus in an SEZ may not be attractive from a location perspective. We want a level-playing field with Indian institutes,” said the director of a South-East Asian educational institution.
The Foreign Educational (Regulations of Entry and Operations) Bill 2010 proposed to allow international institutes to enter India and set up campuses in the country. However, this bill has been stalled since the lawmakers could not come to a consensus on the model.
Currently, foreign universities are allowed to open campuses in India only through a joint venture with a local entity. Here, the real estate and permissions are taken by the Indian entity while the foreign institute provides the academic input.
However, foreign institutes are of the view that the brand gets diluted if they are made to partner with an Indian entity. Hence, they sought permission to have 100 percent owned campuses in India.
On the other hand, the merger of UGC and AICTE is in the final stages. If these entities are merged to create the National Higher Education Regulatory Authority (NHERA) for the higher education sector, the foreign university entry proposal will fall into a limbo.
"UGC is still to finalise the guidelines on this matter. It is likely that they may be merged in the next three-four months. This means that the entry proposal will have to be re-looked," said an official.
The human resource development ministry, nevertheless, is keen to allow foreign institutes to enter India as part of the ‘Study in India’ programme. This is to enable Indian students to have better access to world-class facilities, save costs and also make India an attractive education destination.
This is in the midst of Indian institutes failing to feature among the top global universities for the past few years. For the first time in seven years, no Indian educational institute featured among the Top 300 institutes in Times Higher Education’s 2020 rankings.
“MHRD wanted Indian students to get closer access to foreign institutes. There is also a belief that once campuses of reputed global schools is set up in India, Indian educational institutes will also benefit in the form of entering into collaborations and improving research output,” said a senior official.
Across global rankings, Indian institutes feature lower due to inadequate research output. The more an institute contributes to international research papers, the better is the ranking performance.