Australia’s Deakin University became the first foreign university to announce an India campus, to be set up in the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT City). Vikram Chaudhary takes a look at how India has eased entry of foreign universities and what the setting up of their campuses will mean for students here
Why are foreign universities now interested in India
Attempts made in the past to allow top global universities to operate in India — including by the UPA government — had faced resistance (including from the BJP, that was in the Opposition, and the Left parties). But the National Education Policy, 2020, envisaged a legislative framework to allow them to operate in India. It was only in January 2023 that the University Grants Commission (UGC) released a draft that laid out rules for foreign universities to set up campuses in India, decide their admission process and fee structure, and also repatriate funds to their parent campuses. With many liberalised conditions, foreign universities have evinced interest in setting up campuses here.
How GIFT City is key to India’s appeal for foreign universities
On February 1, 2022, presenting the Union Budget FY23, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said the government will allow setting up of world-class foreign universities in GIFT City. “World-class foreign universities and institutions will be allowed in GIFT City…free from domestic regulations, except those by the IFSCA,” she had said. The International Financial Services Centres Authority (IFSCA) — an off-shore zone like the financial centres in Dubai, London and Singapore — in October 2022 came out with the International Branch Campus Regulations. India campuses will be allowed to repatriate funds without any of the normal restrictions applying. All transactions will be in freely convertible foreign currency. Infrastructure conditions applying to universities in India won’t apply in GIFT City.
Who all are coming
While the Australians have taken the lead in setting up a campus in GIFT City — in addition to Deakin, University of Wollongong will also start classes in 2024 — many universities from other nations are in talks with GIFT City officials. Most of the content on India campuses of the Australian varsities will be the same as mother campuses. Also, academic standards will be aligned with the Australian accreditation body — the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency. Both universities haven’t finalised the fee structure, but experts told FE that they will possibly charge half of what they charge students entering the Australian campuses. As far as the faculty is concerned, Deakin will mostly have Indian staff, but about 20% of overall teaching will be delivered by Australia-based faculty. The Wollongong university will be using faculty from Australia and its Dubai campus to start with, but will also be hiring Indian teachers.
The primer for students: Courses, admissions, scholarships, etc
While the number of students on the two campuses is small — 100-120 at Deakin and 150-odd at Wollongong — it will go up as more courses get added. Deakin will offer only postgraduate programmes —master of cybersecurity and master of business analytics, to start with. Both are two-year programmes, with the first year’s study comprising eight cores. In the second year, students will work with industry partners. Wollongong has decided to offer courses in IT, STEM, business and fintech.
Experts say that the courses have been chosen keeping placements in mind. About 200 companies will be operating in GIFT City and most will need those with cybersecurity, business analytics, fintech and IT skills. Deakin officials told FE that, to be eligible, students must have a good undergraduate degree and work experience will be preferred (it’s not a must). There isn’t much clarity at present, but it is likely students will have to apply directly to Deakin. The aim is to adopt the Australian trimester structure so that exchange between the two campuses is smooth.
No scholarships have been announced, but they can be expected. There will be no post-study work visa (available to those who complete two years of education in Australia).