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India: 10 states support opening up to foreign HE providers

Ten of India’s states have so far come out in favour of enabling foreign higher education institutions to operate in the country, but any new policy must ensure that foreign providers have something to offer domestic students, they have said. Meanwhile, the British Council has urged UK universities not to wait for new legislation to pass to collaborate with Indian institutions.

Haryana was one of the 10 states to support foreign providers operating in India. Haryana Legislative Assembly's Secretariat Building, Chandigarh. Photo: Wikicommons/Sanyam Bahga.

“Accredited foreign universities should be allowed to set up their universities in India under vigorous guidelines”

There is currently no legislative framework in place to allow foreign universities to operate in India. The 2013 Foreign Education Providers Bill has been blocked from passing on several occasions, but last year Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the government intends to let foreign providers operate campuses in the country.

“Only reputed and time-tested foreign institutions collaborating with reputed Indian institutions should be promoted”

The internationalisation of higher education was among 33 discussion themes opened for public consultation by the Human Resource Development Ministry on the draft New Education Policy last year.

Of the 17 states that have so far submitted feedback, 10 have said foreign providers should be encouraged to operate in the country, under certain conditions.

Delhi’s AAP state government, for example, specified that “Only reputed and time-tested foreign institutions collaborating with reputed Indian institutions should be promoted.”

“Identification of key areas of specialisation which can attract foreign institutions to establish in India should be done,” it added.

Meanwhile, Haryana, which is governed by the BJP, said: “Accredited foreign universities should be allowed to set up their universities in India under vigorous guidelines.”

Maharashtra, Punjab and Jammu, Kashmir, Tripura, Andaman, Andhra Pradesh, Assam and Telangana also threw their support behind opening up the country to foreign universities, provided quality and a worthwhile subject offering can be assured.

However, there are still a number of obstacles the federal government must move past in order to pass legislation that will enable foreign providers to operate. So far in the consultations, seven states have opposed the idea, and Modi’s BJP faces opposition in the upper house, where it does not hold a majority.

“States are being proactive and are holding conferences and events where foreign education providers are being discussed,” commented Lakshmi Iyer, director of market entry specialist Sannam S4. However, she added that there are “stumbling blocks and internal forces that every state government will need to contend with”.

“Education in India is an emotive topic,” she added. “It is also the need of the hour to pull our masses out of poverty. If states start opening their doors and amend their laws, in the next five to 10 years we will see the concept getting traction.”

She predicted that both foreign and domestic providers will be required to meet capacity needs.

“[As the country opens up] we will move into a true consumption culture when it comes to education, which I feel is needed as the quality of large majority of providers in India leaves a lot to be desired,” she said.

Consultation on the National Education Policy has been extended to the end of this month.

“The UK will miss out unless our sector can increasingly engage with India in India”

Because of the political deadlock on the Foreign Education Providers Bill, the British Council has urged UK providers to take advantage of existing opportunities to collaborate with Indian higher education institutions in the interim.

“The Foreign Education Providers bill is unlikely to be passed in the short to medium term,” the Understanding India report states. “There is a need for international partners to take a long term view and build closer, multi-dimensional relationships with Indian HE institutions.”

Opportunities identified in the report include digital learning technologies such as blended learning and MOOCs; entrepreneurship education; and conferences, policy dialogues and networks.

UK to India mobility is another area highlighted in the report.

“Institutions in India want partners which will send students and faculty to India; there is less interest in, and deep frustration over, the one-way movement of students to the UK,” it says.

It also notes that research budgets in top universities are often underspent due to a dearth of high-quality international joint research proposals, and that funding for research collaboration in STEM is likely to increase in future.

“Several big reforms are about to begin to have an effect, and it is clear that the UK’s education providers have a great opportunity to work with Indian providers and establish long term partnerships for mutual benefit,” commented Lynne Heslop, the British Council’s senior education advisor in India.

Noting that India will have the world’s largest tertiary enrolment by 2020, she urged: “Other countries are also looking to capitalise on these new opportunities, and the UK will miss out unless our sector can increasingly engage with India in India.”

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