The Commerce Ministry's recent proposal at the WTO to open the Indian education sector to foreign education providers has run into opposition from the HRD Ministry. In fact, the HRD Ministry believes the proposal should be withdrawn.
The ministry wants a revised proposal – prepared in consultation with it – to be submitted. The Commerce Ministry is yet to agree to this.
The Commerce Ministry had presented a four-point proposal to allow foreign universities to set up institutes and universities in India. It proposed that foreign universities would be allowed in technical, medical and research courses as per the regulations of the country of their origin.
“They could be granted deemed-to-be-university status, thereby allowing them to issue degrees," said a government official.
On the crucial issue of fee structure, the proposal appeared quite flexible. The foreign institutes could decide their fee structure but the process of determining it would have to be approved by an appropriate authority, the ministry proposed.
Post-entry, the foreign education providers could either tie-up with Indian education providers or start their own campuses, the proposal said. But the Foreign Investment Promotion Board's permission was mandatory for opening campuses.
The HRD Ministry says the proposal was drafted in 'haste' and without its consultation. In the monsoon session, the ministry told the Lok Sabha that no decision could be taken in too much haste and it would have an impact on the domestic education sector.
On the issue of fee structure, the ministry says the government should have overall control on the fee charged to protect domestic education providers.
Recently, the HRD Ministry brought the Foreign Education Providers Regulation Bill before the cabinet.
The bill was referred to a GoM to sort out the differences between the two ministries. HRD Ministry sources say a meeting of the GoM was held in mid-August but no consensus could be reached.
But officials are confident that the issues will be sorted out and a revised bill introduced in Parliament's winter session.