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Only top 500 universities can enter India

Only universities in the world top 500 of the Times Higher Education or Shanghai Jiaotong University rankings may run joint courses in India, according to a new ruling designed to maintain quality in the country’s “twinning” market.

The move follows criticism that foreign operators have failed to ensure quality

All collaborations between foreign and Indian educational institutions must now be approved by the University Grants Commission (UGC), while Indian varsities who work with these institutions must be quality assured to the highest level. Worrying some, the 631 foreign operators already in the country must also apply for UGC approval within six months.

Professor Ved Prakash, UGC acting chairman, said: ”We would like only quality academic institutions to establish programmes here to protect students’ interests. We will issue a public notice and also put up a list on our website detailing approved institutions so that students are not duped.”

“We would like only quality academic institutions to establish programmes here to protect students’ interests”

The move follows criticism that foreign operators have failed to ensure quality as twinning colleges bearing their name have surged in popularity, offering students lower cost degrees and providers lower risk profits.

Meanwhile, foreign providers have bemoaned the lack of regulation over operating in India – something the new bill could remedy – although many within the country will be concerned about their immediate future. Public institutes engaged in twinning have already been told they will have their grants stopped if they fail to meet the new guidelines.

On his Dr Education blog, international education expert Dr Rahul Choudaha welcomed the move as a boost for quality in India and said foreign operators should be cautiously optimistic. “Most foreign institutions which are currently engaged with collaborations in India follow an approach similar to traffic rules in India – ignoring them is easier and faster, but not safer or better,” he wrote.

“So, foreign institutions which are truly interested in collaborations should be cautiously optimistic about this announcement…they should not ignore it but remain cautious to re-evaluate their engagement approach with India.”

“Foreign institutions which are truly interested in collaborations should be cautiously optimistic”

While welcoming the greater quality assurance, The Institute of International Education, USA, lamented the lack of opportunity for non-elite foreign colleges to operate in India.

“Institutions representing the full range of US higher education – from community colleges to liberal arts institutions to public and private research universities – have unique strengths and specific degree programmes that fit more closely the wide range of Indian institutions seeking partners abroad,” Daniel Obst, deputy vice president, said.

However, Choudaha said: “The use of the ranking of top-500 foreign institutions may also exclude many other well-meaning institutions which do not figure in the rankings. However, given the vulnerability of quality assurance in India, this dual filer of accreditation and ranking is still relevant in the current context.”

Movement around the operation of foreign universities in India has been slow. The Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations) bill, which would allow foreign branch campuses in the country, is still pending before parliament after two years. The act, if passed, promises to create a huge new market for foreign universities with priority given to leading brands such as the University of Oxford and Harvard.

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