Eight years ago, foreign educational institutions anticipated the biggest change in the education policy in the country. 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, it has been a long wait since then because the law makers could not come to a consensus on the model.
When the Bill was first formulated, it was anticipated that some of the Ivy League educational institutions from the United States would be keen to set up campuses in India. However, they clarified that they were not interested in setting up campuses outside their home location. Executive education or training senior management professionals was the only off-campus activity that they are keen on.
But several large institutions from Europe and Southeast Asia were keen to enter India. The demographic dividend and the fact that they could provide students with an opportunity to get a degree from abroad were the pitches they gave to real estate developers to get land at a cheap cost. Deals were struck even before an official confirmation was given on the law.
A lot of these institutes had dubious credentials and gave rise to fears that students may end with unaccredited degrees. Also, considering the shortage of teaching staff across higher educational institutions, there was also a fear that existing staff from local institutes would move to international school campuses in India.
But the Bill never saw the light of the day. The government has been unable to get a consensus on this law since some MPs have said that this will lead to students preferring international school campuses as against local institutes.
About 30 foreign institutes that had firmed up plans to enter the country had to change their focus to the other markets. Even after extensive discussions with the then Human Resource Ministry, they had to drop their plans.
"The plan is on track but we cannot give you a definite timeline," the institutes were told in 2012-13. Almost five years have passed and no decision has been taken yet. At least 20 percent of the international institutes have decided to not pursue their India ambitions while the rest are still hoping for a green signal.
The whole idea behind the plan was to enable Indian students to get an international degree at a significantly cheaper cost. The government’s aim was to also encourage students to stay back for employment in India, thereby, preventing a brain-drain.
Considering that 2019 is the year of the general elections, this is not a priority item on the government’s list. Even after the new government is elected, they are unlikely to take it up on an immediate basis. It is only in 2020 that the proposal may be tabled again in the Parliament.
Now the real question is, is it worth for international institutions to wait for a bill for 10 years? Whether it is an incumbent or a new party that comes to power, one fact is clear. Immediate entry relaxations for foreign institutions are not on the agenda. With no roadmap in sight, it is advisable to pursue similar ambitions at other markets.