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EXCLUSIVE: Govt may soon finalise norms to allow foreign university campuses in India

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The government is in the process of finalising regulations that may soon be released for public comments for foreign universities to set up campuses in India. At present, laws do not allow international educational institutions to set up India campuses without tying up with local players.

“We are considering the bill seriously and are open to views from relevant experts,” said a source close to the development.

Eight years ago, the UPA government had received Cabinet approval for the Foreign Educational Institution (Regulation of Entry and Operation) Bill, 2010. This bill was to look at the entry and India operations of institutions. This nod had also come after stiff opposition for four years. However, it could not be passed due to lack of consensus.

This bill is still pending to be taken up. Once the final draft is released, this may be open to suggestions from relevant stakeholders before it is tabled in the Parliament. The final decision could be taken in the next 3-4 weeks.

Sources said that around 50-60 international educational institutions have expressed their interest to set up a campus in India. However, extant laws do not permit them to do so.

Some institutions are already operating in India by tying up with local partners. For instance, Canada-based Schulich School of Business has an MBA programme in its India campus in Hyderabad being offered in partnership with the GMR School of Business.

Currently, there are more than 700 foreign education providers operating in India providing courses through partnerships, offer blended programmes or offer pure executive education for senior management of companies. There are also a handful who are operating without an All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) go ahead which technically means that they do not have the right to offer degrees or diploma certifications in India.

Early beginnings

The UPA government had made several attempts to enable foreign educational institutions to set up campuses in India by getting the Bill passed. However, there was a lack of consensus that led to this proposal being left hanging.

Later, the University Grants Commission (UGC) had also prepared and notified rules that would allow certain foreign universities (not-for-profit ones) to set up campuses in India. But there were differing views between UGC and the law ministry because they had sought specific laws to be enacted for the same.

Modi government tries again

In mid-2014, former Minister of Human Resource Development Smriti Irani had made an attempt to introduce regulations on allowing foreign university campuses in India. However, no further move was made on this front and the proposal died within a few months.

However, sources said that the current government wants to build a proper structure of guidelines that will guide foreign players on the entry, exit and capital requirements to set up shop in India.

“There have been cases wherein some foreign institutes have a complex structure of having one year of education in India while the second and third year could be in some other location and the degree awarded will be from abroad. These are grey areas that we are looking to resolve so that the student’s future career prospects are not impacted,” said a senior official.

Way forward

Once the norms are finalised, the MHRD will look at the pros and cons of the suggestions. Once this is done, this will be forwarded to the Cabinet. Once it receives a cabinet nod, this can be introduced in the Parliament.

On area to watch out for is if the ministry will look for institutions with at least 20-30 years of minimum history before they can set up an India campus. Institutes may also have to register ‘twinning programmes’ at the very outset to clarify that the courses will be offered across different locations of the world.