Niti Aayog to devise rules for foreign universities

The Niti Aayog will consult with various stakeholders on new regulations like leaving foreign institutes out of the University Grants Commission (UGC)’s purview

The National Institution for Transforming India (Niti) Aayog has been asked by the Indian government to prepare a framework for foreign universities that will be looking to set up campuses in the country. The initiative is part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” campaign and will draw foreign investment, while revolutionizing the higher education sector.The Niti Aayog will consult with various stakeholders, including the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and state governments. They will deliberate on the new regulations including leaving foreign institutes out of the higher education regulator University Grants Commission (UGC)’s purview.A senior Niti Aayog official stated, “We are working on different models for the government to adopt. Very soon we will submit a report to the Prime Minister’s office.”

The report contains a draft bill for transparent and single-window clearance for foreign education providers. It also has a set of regulations to ensure that their academic and administrative independence is not jeopardized.

Although foreign schools run many programmes in India through local partners, their objection to being governed by the UGC has prevented them from setting up campuses. The proposed legislation will provide a central policy guideline for such institutes and will be a mix of seven models from across the world. One official stated that they will also examine whether for-profit education institutions can be allowed entry or not. The MHRD’s data has revealed that 631 foreign education providers were operating in India in 2010, out of which 440 were functioning from their home campuses and 137  collaborated with Indian institutes. There was a five-fold increase in the number of foreign education providers in India between 2000 and 2010 with 75 per cent of the courses offered by these schools were in business and hotel management.

Prime Minister Modi met officials from the Niti Aayog, MHRD, UGC and Commerce Ministry in early June. They discussed transforming India into an Asian higher education hub with several foreign universities interested in setting up campuses. The Commerce Ministry estimated that foreign universities could bring in an investment of $11 million in the first year. The UPA government has tried on two occasions to allow such institutes to open campuses with minimal government regulation. The first time under UPA-1, a bill was drafted on recommendations of the National Knowledge Commission headed by Sam Pitroda. The initiative failed because the Left parties that were part of the ruling coalition strongly opposed it. The UPA in its second term had former HRD minister Kapil Sibal introduce the Foreign Education Providers Bill in the Lok Sabha allowing foreign universities to set up campuses in partnership with domestic education providers.

Only foreign universities of excellence from across the globe were to be permitted to open independent campuses as per the bill, but the term “excellence” was not defined. The legislation was then amended on the basis of recommendations from a parliamentary standing committee in 2013. It could not be introduced because of the coal and 2G spectrum scams. The NDA government will try to get the bill ratified in Parliament because the Congress is in principle agreeable to the idea of allowing “reputed” foreign universities to set up campuses.


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