The Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations) Bill, if passed by Parliament, would have paved the way for foreign universities to enter India. The human resource development (HRD) ministry has, however, found a short-cut. It has sent proposals to the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion and the Department of Economic Affairs to permit foreign universities to open their campuses in the country.
Foreign Educational Institutions (FEIs) can set up campuses in India once they have been notified as Foreign Education Providers by the University Grants Commission.
The FEIs should be ranked among the world’s top 400 universities as per the ranking published by Times Higher Education, Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) or the Academic Ranking of World Universities by Shanghai Jiao Tong University. So now, will the FEIs actually turn up?
According to Philip G Altbach, research professor and director, Centre for International Higher Education, Boston College, “I don’t think there will be a major move by foreign universities to come to India. The preferred mode of operation now seems to be partnering with Indian institutions on various kinds of collaborations, including joint degrees, research, and the like. This is actually a better idea than branch campuses. There is less investment needed by the foreign institution and the Indian partners have more control over what happens.”
As per the HRD ministry’s proposal, these universities should be not-for-profit legal entities and should have been in existence for at least 20 years. Accreditation is also a must. Moreover, they can only set up campuses as non-profit companies governed by the Companies Act.
Some of the biggest factors that will contribute to attracting foreign players to India, says Altbach, is a huge and somewhat underserved market of students. “Some foreign universities may want a beachhead in India for research programmes, collaboration, and the like. Some may want to make money — but that would be difficult under the conditions placed by the Indian authorities — I think that placing conditions on profit-making is a good thing,” he adds.
Commenting on the proposal, Abhijit Banerjee, Ford Foundation International professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says, “It depends a lot on other policies that the government may or may not enact. Right now, the best Indian higher education is in the public sector. It is incredibly scarce and heavily rationed but very cheap for those who get in. For a bright child from a low income background, it is the best shot he or she has, albeit a long shot. The entry of these new universities will make it even harder for these public universities to hold on to their best faculty members. To counter that, the UGC needs to allow merit pay so that they can compete on salary to hold on to their best faculty. Otherwise, the public system may get decimated.”
Banerjee says it’s important to open up opportunities in these new varsities to low income households especially, “if we think that the public system will be weakened by their entry. They should be required to admit, say 50%, of the class on merit rather than based on ability to pay. These merit students should be chosen on the basis of a competitive exam and the fees for them should be on a sliding scale based on family income,” he adds.
Says Rahul Choudaha, director of research and strategic development at World Education Services — a New-York based non-profit specialising in international education, “The intention of attracting foreign universities is laudable, however, the execution remains questionable. It is important to ensure that quality institutions are allowed in India. Some expectations like deposit of `25 crore and ranking of top 400 are still impractical.”
We are looking to increase multiple research collaborations with India and to promote two-way exchanges of students and faculty for mutual benefit ---- Leszek Borysiewicz, vice chancellor, University of Cambridge
India is an exceptional location for universities to offer courses. However, we do not have plans to build brick-and-mortar facilities in India at this time ---- Garth Saloner, dean, Stanford Graduate School of Business, Stanford University