India will track all foreign students entering the country from April 2013, keeping tabs on them and their academic performance through the universities where they will study, following models used by the US and UK.
Universities that want to admit foreign students will need to register with the new home ministry mechanism - to be called the Foreign Student Information System (FSIS) — and will need to provide regular updates on these students.
The move is aimed at balancing India's drive to attract more and more international students to its universities with security concerns. About 25,000 foreign students come to India each year for higher studies. Most students come from Iran, Ethiopia, the UAE, Nepal, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.
“We’re just doing what the world does,” a senior government official said. “It’s about balancing the promotion of our education system with security needs.”
Under an initiative headed by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), India has over the past few years tried to market its soft power through its universities, cheaper than western counterparts and offering better quality than varsities in most developing countries.
But the experience of the US, which found that some of the 9/11 attackers had entered its borders on student visas to attend flying schools, has also chastened the world, including India.
Unlike the US and the UK, India does not currently track students through a dedicated immigration regulation system. The FSIS — like the Student Exchange and Visitor Information System (SEVIS) used by the US department of homeland security — will give each foreign student a unique ID number that will be used to then identify her.
Every three months, universities will need to provide details of every foreign student enrolled with them.
These will include details of their academic performance, general conduct, and any change in academic course.
The university will also have to alert the home ministry through the FSIS if a student quits or completes her programme.