The Left parties may have blocked the entry route of foreign education providers (FEPs) but the government is considering opening a back door for them, in the form of special economic zones.
The government is considering a proposal of the United States Chief Executive Officers Forum to set up an SEZ for higher and vocational education on trial basis. The CEO Forum has recommended that the SEZ be established on trial basis to bring about liberalization of education.
American universities attract a huge number of Indian students every year, the most from any single country. There are currently about 80,000 Indians studying in US universities with about 50,000 more joining their ranks every year.
The CEO Forum pitched the idea to top government functionaries like Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, Commerce Minister Kamal Nath, Planning Commission Deputy Chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and Commerce Secretary GK Pillai at a meeting in New York on September 24. At the meeting, it was also decided that the US India Education Roundtable would examine the SEZ issue and make appropriate recommendations to the government.
The Commerce Ministry had earlier recommended the setting up of an SEZ for higher education, with the focus on FEPs. It was suggested that these SEZs give education providers huge relaxation.
The roundtable will also prepare proposals for improving linkages between Indian and US varsities. A delegation of heads of US universities had visited India last year and conducted a series of meeting with vice-chancellors here, but none offered to set up campuses in India. The reason: stringent laws.
On its part, the Indian CEO Forum, headed by Ratan Tata, has recommended joint research in the areas of allopathy as well as alternative systems of medicine. The proposal will be considered under the bilateral education initiative, it was decided.