India opens its border for foreign universities campuses

“The assumption that top universities will be willing to open campuses in India in highly regulated atmosphere is wishful thinking”

India has a total of 1,072 universities as of 22 November 2022. There are 54 central universities, 460 state universities, 430 private universities and 128 deemed to be universities. But there is no university within top 150 universities of the world in QS ranking of 2023.

The National Education policy 2020 envisions India as a global study destination that provides affordable and excellent education to all. It also allows foreign universities to open campuses in India.

The purpose of opening foreign campuses is to provide potential collaboration with world class institutions and make available wider choice for courses and innovative pedagogical approaches. This will allow Indian students desirous to gain foreign universities degree by studying in India.

This will make the cost of education relatively less than studying in foreign countries.

The draft resolution released by UGC has made some significant changes from NEP 2020.

In NEP 2020 only the top 100 QS ranking were supposed to open their campuses in India. Finding that no top university having rank within 100 showing any interest in opening campuses in India, the draft regulation 2023 has relaxed this criterion to allow top 500 universities and the ranking will be decided by UGC.

The UGC has also set another criterion for selection which is quite ambiguous . It is “the applicant should be a reputed institution in its home jurisdiction”. How it will be decided is not known. The UGC chairman professor Jagadesh Kumar has lauded the regulations, claiming it to be win-win for students and education institutes.

But is it really a revolution in higher education in India as claimed by the UGC chairman?

First of all the assumption that top universities of the world will be willing to open their campuses in India in highly regulated atmosphere is wishful thinking.

A look at the database of American universities having their campuses abroad as compiled by C-BERT shows a comprehensive list of international campuses and also tracks other aspects of cross-border higher education.

There are 306 international campuses in 2020 as compiled by C–BERT and a look at the list barely a handful are top tier institutions. The reputed institutions have established their campuses only on those countries that have provided high subsidy. The Indian government is not in a position to provide subsidy and is not mentioned in draft.

However, the foreign universities will be allowed to have their own admission criteria to admit Indian and foreign students. They are also free to decide the fee structure which should be transparent and reasonable. The universities will also be allowed to repatriate profit to their home institutions. But the problem is the investment which required to build a top class university which is supposed to create facilities for not only teaching but for research also.

In this case it will be extremely difficult to get profit as money is required to maintain the research facilities even after the establishment. The amount of money required to create infrastructure in India is very high. Will foreign universities be willing to spend so much of money in such a highly regulated system?

Also the government of India will initially allow only 10 years which will be reviewed thereafter. This itself will be a deterrent to spend huge amount of money in establishing the campus in India.

The draft regulations restrict the type of curriculum the foreign universities can offer. It says, “The foreign higher education institutions shall not offer any such program of study which jeopardises the National interest of India or the standards of higher education in India.”

The UGC also requires from foreign universities to maintain the same standard of faculty and the degree should be at par with the home university. This is almost impossible to satisfy in real terms. If any faculty member wants to come to India from developed countries he will like to have same salary and facilities available to him if not better than in his home country. This will make the cost of higher education in these campuses prohibitive.

There are many more problems for foreign universities to open campuses in India. Anyone who will be following the working of UGC will know that it has almost completely made Indian universities having any autonomy. From admission to teaching syllabus everything is decided by the UGC.

In such an atmosphere it will be difficult to assume that UGC will allow these campuses to have full autonomy. Then comes the problem of enrolment of students willing to take admission in these campuses. Large number of students who go to foreign countries for higher studies are not so much interested in getting degree alone as in getting immigration to these countries. It can not be made sure from these campuses will have same facility.

By opening the campuses in India the policy of the government to cater large section of society that includes socio economically backward for higher education will be also negated. Overall this scheme is likely to fail as so many other schemes provided in NEP 2000.

About the author: Mukhtar Ahmad is former professor of Electrical Engineering Aligarh Muslim University Aligarh, India.