By Abhinav Mital
Home to ambitious and academically gifted students, India has captured the attention of foreign universities that are keen to establish their campuses in the country. International universities and educational institutions are associated with supreme education and advanced research facilities. The establishment of their campuses in India can lead to the enhancement of the education system in India and a boost to the workforce development objectives. As per industry experts, the presence of foreign academic institutions in India will instigate healthy competition with local universities, which ultimately will benefit students by driving up the quality of education and research. At the same time, foreign universities can also collaborate with Indian universities to share knowledge and resources, which can be advantageous for both sets of institutions.
As per the 2023 legislation proposed by the University Grants Commission (UGC), foreign universities will be allowed to establish campuses in India with their own admissions procedure and fee structure provided that the policies are reasonable and open to government scrutiny. However, such universities will not be permitted to offer online courses. The legislative draft further states that, a foreign university may open a campus in India under the two conditions. As per the first requirement, the university must have secured a position within the top 500 of overall/subject-wise global rankings, as decided by the commission. The second condition states that the specific international university should be a prestigious institution in its home country.
India as an emerging market for foreign universities: India as an emerging market for foreign universities: It is evident that India is perceived as an attractive destination for overseas academic institutions given the heightened presence of numerous universities over the last few years. Many of these are reaching the Indian student through a plethora of online programs most of which are short-term in nature. The new legislation opens the door for traditional undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. A glimpse of this can be seen in special projects like the GIFT City (Gujarat International Finance Tec-City). A foreign university or educational institution ranked among the top 500 universities in the world is now permitted to establish a campus in the GIFT city and offer courses in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). With the proposed legislation, the coverage will expand pan-India across program types and hence help universities to establish a full-scale presence in the country.
Australia is one of the eminent countries that are keen to launch their university campuses in India. The University of Wollongong, a leading Australian university has already signed up for this project. It is noteworthy that Australia’s Deakin University will become the first foreign university to establish an independent campus in Gujarat’s GIFT City. Deakin is ranked 266th in the QS World University Rankings and features among the top 50 young universities in the world. The honourable education minister of Australia, Jason Clare has just announced that Australian universities could soon establish offshore campuses in India. The agreement that the Australian minister of education is anticipated to sign in India during the scheduled diplomatic visit will define the terms for mutual recognition to access education in the two friendly nations. It must be highlighted that applications from Indian students almost doubled in 2019 at the Australian Technological Network of Universities, whereas applications from Chinese students stood at 75% showing a nominal increment of 7% between 2022 and 2023. The Australian minister for education has deemed the official trip to India as an opportunity to sign the ‘most significant’ agreement of its kind in Australian history which will allow both nations to thrive amiably in the education sector.
Diverse outlooks: A specific strata of the students nationwide are excited by the prospects of earning foreign education while staying in India. Numerous authorities from the education industry in India have cited the UGC bill as a catalyst that will improve the standard of education in the country by providing students with quality alternatives to pursue higher education. However, the impact of the mentioned legislation on those who aspire to study abroad might be minimal as such students choose to move overseas because of the enticing professional avenues and high standard of living that can be availed by relocating to countries like the UK, USA, Australia, Canada etc.
Having said that, students could avail the benefits of a hybrid model of foreign education, where students can save a substantial amount of money by pursuing the first academic year of the specific courses from India before flying abroad to complete the remainder of the courses on-campus. The mentioned aspect can be substantiated by the recent academic migration pattern that has been observed in China, where more than 300 reputed foreign universities offer a variety of advanced courses and degrees and still the country continues to be the pivotal source for international students which is expanding at a rate similar to India.
The outstanding question: On the face of it, the new legislation seems like a boon for universities and students alike but how easy will it be to implement? This is not the first time that the government has talked about inviting foreign universities to India. A similar bill was introduced by the UPA government which was eventually deprioritised amongst lukewarm response from top tier universities. This time, the government is aiming for a broader audience but universities need to assess the sustainability of operating in India where fee levels are a tenth of what they are used to in home countries. With universities still scratching their heads around the maths, while figuring the regulatory obligations in India and abroad, students may still have to wait a while before the first campus opens its doors.
In conclusion, the proposed legislation has stirred up an important conversation in the sector raising the positives and challenges at the same time. No matter what the outcome, this would be a space to watch over the coming months.
The author is founder of The WorldGrad. Views are personal.
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