Home india-news UGC sets ball rolling for foreign varsities in India | Latest News India

UGC sets ball rolling for foreign varsities in India | Latest News India

UGC sets ball rolling for foreign varsities in India | Latest News India


New Delhi: India took a big stride towards allowing foreign universities to operate in the country, with the University Grants Commission (UGC) on Thursday releasing draft regulations that will let them set up campuses in the country. The entry of the universities, which will also have autonomy in terms of admission processes and fee structure, is expected to provide more opportunities to Indian students and increase the depth of the higher-education sector in India. In turn, the universities will be able to tap into a huge and expanding market in one of the fastest growing major economies of the world.

The foreign universities will only be able to offer full-time courses in offline mode,according to the draft guidelines, titled UGC (Setting up and Operation of Campuses of Foreign Higher Educational Institutions in India) Regulations, 2023.

UGC, the higher education regulator, has sought suggestions from stakeholders until January 18. The guidelines are likely to be notified by the end of the month.

The guidelines are in line with the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 that said that “top universities in the world will be facilitated to operate in India”. For this, the policy added, “a legislative framework facilitating such entry will be put in place, and such universities will be given special dispensation regarding regulatory, governance, and content norms on par with other autonomous institutions of India”.

UGC chairperson M Jagadesh Kumar said the regulations will provide access to high-quality international education to Indian students “right in their country”. “There is a huge demand for international education among Indian students. In 2022 alone, nearly 450,000 Indian students have gone abroad for higher education, and that is leading to close to $28-30 billion of outflow of our funds,” he said.

“There must be many more students beyond those 450,000 students who would want to have access to international education but they do not have financial means to go abroad. When you go abroad, there are two kinds of expenses: living cost and tuition fees. And when students study in these institutions in India, they will save on living expenses,” Kumar added.

To be sure, these guidelines are different from those notified by the Centre in October last year for foreign educational institutions to set up campuses in a special enclave in Gujarat, as announced in Union Budget 2022. “Under these UGC guidelines, the foreign higher education institutions will be able to set up campuses anywhere in the country and not just GIFT (Gujarat International Finance Tec-City) city,” Kumar said.

According to the draft regulations, Foreign Higher Educational Institutions (FHEIs) require the approval of UGC to set up campuses in India . Defining the eligibility criteria, the guidelines said that FHEIs should either have secured a position within the top 500 of overall/subject-wise global rankings, as decided by the commission from time to time; or should be reputed institutions in their home jurisdictions.

FHEIs will have autonomy in terms of admission processes and criteria, the draft guidelines said. They can also” decide the fee structure, which should be transparent and reasonable… Based on an evaluation process, full or partial need-based scholarships may be provided by the FHEI from funds such as endowment funds, alumni donations, tuition revenues and other sources,” they added.

The draft guidelines said that FHEIs shall not offer any such programme of study which “jeopardises the national interest of India” or the standards of higher education in India. “The operation of Foreign Higher Educational Institutions shall not be contrary to the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency, or morality,” the draft norms said.

Kumar said UGC has tried to give greater autonomy to FHEIs in terms of deciding their admission process and fee structure. “However, the regulations specify that the fee structure should be transparent and reasonable,” he said.

Experts said that the provision to allow top foreign universities to set up campuses in India will help Indian students willing to access international education. Sakshi Mittal, founder of career counselling agency University Leap, said: “Many students have started going abroad for their higher education because of the limited availability of good colleges in India. If they can get the same superior quality of education, facilities, research opportunities available abroad here, it will both be win-win for them and the economy as it reduces brain-drain and students don’t have to pay the premium on tuition fees.”

“However, UGC should make sure the foreign universities setting up in India should be of high ranking and quality and should not just become another lot of ‘private universities’ that don’t offer good placements even after charging hefty tuition fees. It would be great to see if these new universities can collaborate with industries to make sure students are getting good placements and the worth of the money invested,” she said.

These universities will also have the autonomy to recruit faculty and staff from India and abroad as per their recruitment norms. They “may decide the qualifications, salary structure, and other conditions of service for appointing faculty and staff. However, the FHEI shall ensure that the qualifications of the faculty appointed shall be at par with the main campus of the country of origin. It shall ensure that the foreign faculty appointed to teach at the Indian campus shall stay at the campus in India for a reasonable period,” the guidelines said.

The application process for these universities will be online, and they will submit required information on the UGC portal with their application. The universities will also need to submit an undertaking stating that the quality of education imparted by them in their Indian campus will be at par with that of the main campus in the country of origin, and the qualifications awarded to the students in the Indian campus shall be recognised and treated as equivalent to the corresponding qualifications awarded by the institutions in the main campus.

UGC will then constitute a standing committee to examine the application. “This committee shall assess each application on merits, including the credibility of the educational institutions, the programmes to be offered, their potential to strengthen educational opportunities in India, and the proposed academic infrastructure, and make recommendations before UGC within 45 days from the date of receipt of the application, complete in all respects,” the guidelines said.

The selected universities will get two years’ time to set up campuses in India from the date of approval. “There are different ways FHEIs can set up these campuses in India following Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) 1999 provisions. For example, they can have a joint venture with an existing Indian entity (such as an Indian university) or set up a branch office in India and operate as an independent venture,” Kumar said.

The UGC chairperson said that some universities from Europe have already shown interest in setting up campuses in India. “We will now start reaching out to the Indian embassies abroad and foreign embassies in India to discuss the guidelines. We will also be sending the draft regulations to top foreign universities seeking their inputs,” Kumar said.

Initially, the universities will be granted approval to operate for 10 years. At the end of the ninth year of their operations, they will have to file for renewal of approval. “ FHEIs shall pay the commission an annual fee (second year onwards) as decided by the commission from time to time,” the guidelines said.

FHEIs will be expected to arrange for adequate physical infrastructure in terms of built-up space for their academic programmes, and undergo a quality assurance audit and submit the report to the commission at the time of an extension.

The commission will also keep a close watch on the operations of these universities and will have the right to inspect the campus and its operations at all times to ascertain the infrastructure, academic programmes and overall quality and suitability. In case of violation of norms, the commission can take action in terms of imposing a penalty and/or suspend/withdraw approval at any time, the regulations said.

FHEIs are expected to submit their annual reports giving details of programmes offered, the number of students admitted and graduated, and qualifications awarded with UGC.

The guidelines also said that the cross-border movement of funds and maintenance of Foreign Currency Accounts, mode of payments, remittance, repatriation, and sale of proceeds, if any, shall be as per the FEMA 1999 and its rules.


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