The government on Tuesday backed 100 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) in higher education in India, saying that the same national rules will apply to foreign universities wishing to set up bases in the country and hinted that it could also include mandatory reservations for certain sections.
"The government has proposed 100 per cent FDI in higher education in all institutions," Higher Education Secretary RP Agrawal said, while alluding to India's World Trade Organisation commitments made in 2003.
He said this at the Editors' Conference on Social Sector Issues when he was asked to clarify whether the government was considering a cap of 50 per cent FDI in higher education.
The Group of Ministers (GoM), headed by Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh, will be mapping out the rules and regulations that will govern foreign universities setting up their campuses in India. The GoM will submit its recommendations soon.
Although the government has supported 100 per cent FDI, in practice stringent regulations would ensure that foreign universities collaborate with a local partner and only prestigious and well-known universities will be allowed in, reliable sources said.
"They will be given national treatment. What applies to domestic institutions will apply to the foreign institutions," Agrawal said when he was asked whether reservation would apply to the foreign universities seeking to set up bases in the country.
This is a broad hint from the government that foreign universities would also have to meet social obligations like mandatory quotas for deprived sections of society.
Informal talks with some overseas universities have shown that these foreign players do not have problems with quota system.
A separate bill allowing leading foreign universities to set up base in India is also being considered.