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Foreign Universities are no Panacea

Context:

The University Grants Commission in India has introduced the “Setting up and Operation of Campuses of Foreign Higher Educational Institutions in India” Regulations, 2023. These regulations aim to permit Foreign Higher Educational Institutions to establish campuses in India, offering undergraduate and postgraduate certificates, diplomas, degrees, as well as doctoral and post-doctoral research programs.

Relevance:

GS2- Education

Mains Question:

Highlighting the major provisions of the Setting up and Operation of Campuses of Foreign Higher Educational Institutions in India Regulations, 2023, point out the government’s objectives behind the regulations. Also discuss the challenges that hinder the successful implementation of the regulations. (15 Marks, 250 Words).

Background: Setting up and Operation of Campuses of Foreign Higher Educational Institutions in India Regulations, 2023:

It opens the door for the inclusion of foreign universities in the realm of higher education within the country.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • The UGC draft regulations for 2023 specify that the eligibility of foreign universities is based on being among the “top 500 foreign universities,” with rankings determined periodically by the UGC.
  • In contrast to the NEP-2020, which limited branch campuses to the top-100 QS ranking universities, the draft regulations-2023 introduce an additional criterion, requiring the applicant institution to be considered reputable in its home jurisdiction.

Fee Structure:

  • Under the draft regulations-2023, foreign higher educational institutions have the authority to establish a fee structure that is both “transparent and reasonable.”
  • Furthermore, these institutions now have the autonomy to determine qualifications, salary structures, and other employment conditions for faculty and staff.

Physical Infrastructure:

The regulations stipulate that foreign higher educational institutions must arrange for adequate physical infrastructure.

No Equivalence Requirement:

While Indian students with foreign degrees typically need an equivalence certificate from the Association of Indian Universities, the draft regulations-2023 exempt degrees granted by foreign branch campuses in India from this equivalence requirement.

Safeguards for Indian Students:

The draft emphasizes that the UGC retains the right to inspect foreign campuses at any time. Additionally, foreign campuses are subject to anti-ragging and other criminal laws.

Repatriation of Profits:

  • The draft regulations-2023 facilitate the smooth repatriation of profits earned by foreign branch campuses, following the rules and regulations of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) 1999.
  • Foreign universities must submit audit and annual reports to the UGC, certifying compliance with FEMA 1999 and other relevant government policies.

Restrictive Instructions:

  • Foreign Higher Educational Institutions are prohibited from offering programs that jeopardize India’s national interest or higher education standards.
  • Operations and academic programs must align with the sovereignty, integrity, security, and friendly relations with other states, public order, decency, and morality.
  • The UGC reserves the right to impose penalties or suspend/withdraw approval if a university’s activities or academic programs are deemed against the interest of India.

Need of the Regulations:

  • The regulations aspire to globalize the Indian higher education system, enabling Indian students to study in renowned international universities at an affordable cost without leaving the country.
  • The primary motivation behind allowing Foreign Higher Education Institutions in India is to address the increasing trend of Indian students studying abroad, leading to a ‘brain drain’ and capital outflow.
  • As of January 2023, around 1.5 million Indian students were studying abroad, a number expected to reach 1.8 million by 2024, spending $75-85 billion overseas.
  • The regulations are presented as a significant step to counteract human and capital outflow, making India an attractive global education destination.
  • Foreign universities are seen not only as contributors to academic excellence but also as catalysts for competition, innovation, and excellence in Indian universities.

Concerns Associated with Foreign Universities:

  • Many Indian students studying abroad aim not just for education but for long-term settlement, driven by factors like better employment opportunities, non-prejudicial work environments, and equitable law-governed living conditions.
  • The INTO University Partnerships survey indicates that 76% of Indian students studying abroad plan to settle overseas, while only 20% intend to return to India immediately after their studies.
  • Foreign universities in India may not serve as a strong substitute for studying abroad, as the primary motivation for Indian students is often broader than education alone.
  • The survey also reveals that 41% of Indian students would still prefer studying overseas, even if the same quality of education was offered in India.

Challenges with the Regulations:

  • Education is perceived as more than a classroom exercise; it involves developing skill sets to navigate real-world challenges and exploring diverse environments.
  • While foreign universities in India may expand options for Indian students, they may not provide the same exposure to global opportunities as studying abroad.
  • Without substantial capital investments and administrative reforms, Indian universities may struggle to compete with foreign institutions.
  • The current state of faculty remuneration and funding inadequacies in state universities pose significant challenges.

Conclusion:

While opening up to foreign institutions, India needs comprehensive reforms in teaching, examination, work environment, and funding to strengthen its higher education system. The presence of foreign universities alone cannot be a panacea for the challenges faced by the extensive Indian higher education landscape.


February 2024
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