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India open for international collaboration, government tells UK universities

India’s recent regulatory changes have opened up a “major platform for collaboration between countries”, the Indian government told UK universities participating in a trade mission this week. 

A delegation of UK universities is visiting India to explore TNE opportunities. Photo: The PIE News.

India has brought in regulatory reforms to strengthen internationalisation

Speaking at the British Council’s India-UK higher education conference in New Delhi, Neeta Prasad, joint secretary at India’s Ministry of Education, said the country’s education ecosystem has “undergone a massive transformation” over the last three years and “that transformation is still going on”. 

India has brought in several regulatory reforms in recent years to strengthen the internationalisation of its education sector, a goal set out in the country’s 2020 National Education Policy

“We have rapid changes in the policies that allow us to collaborate with foreign institutions,” Prasad said. 

“The University Grants Commission has brought out guidelines for joint, dual and twinning degrees, which will allow students to do partial semesters in different countries.

“We have revised our credit frameworks to make it more flexible, to make it more aligned to the global best practices.”

The country has also signed a memorandum of understanding with the UK to mutually recognise one another’s qualifications, the details of which are currently undergoing negotiations. 

Maddalaine Ansell, director of education at the British Council, said this had “removed a fundamental barrier” to education links between the two nations.

India and the UK are also negotiating the terms of a free trade agreement, as set out in the 2030 roadmap for strengthening the partnership between the two countries. 

Alison Barrett, India director at the British Council, said there is a “perfect storm of demand and opportunity” in India and the UK at the moment, alongside an “enabling environment that will help make everything happen”. 

“It means that there’s political will within both systems to really ensure that the collaborations are deep and meaningful and sustained over a long time frame,” she told The PIE News

The conference, held at the British Council’s offices in New Delhi, was organised to tie in with a transnational education trade mission organised by the UK government’s Department for Business and Trade. 

Over 25 representatives from the British university sector will meet with Indian institutions this week to discuss potential partnerships and build links in the country. This is the largest higher education delegation the UK government has taken to any country. 

“With India’s National Education Plan and the UK government’s International Education Strategy, the direction of travel is the same as we both look to greater internationalisation of our sectors,” said Sir Steve Smith, the UK’s international education champion. 

Lucy Mazdon, pro-vice chancellor for international students at Oxford Brookes University, said there is “enormous potential” but also a “significant amount of challenge” when it comes to establishing TNE links with India. 

“I think the opportunities now with the changes in the regulatory environment in India and so on are really exciting and also very complex.

“I think in the UK we are relatively risk averse because of the increasing regulatory environment in our own country. 

“For me, this is really an opportunity to try and get a much better understanding of what the opportunities might be, how to navigate some of those challenges and yes, certainly with the slightly longer term hope that we might be able to develop some really sustainable and meaningful partnerships in India.”

According to analysis by Times Higher Education Consultancy, 83 UK institutions delivered TNE in India in 2021/22 and 13 of those had more than 100 newly enrolled students that year. 

But growth has largely been driven by one UK institution, which had more than 6,000 TNE enrollments. 

“There is a lot of space for growth”

“Higher enrolments is a positive thing but it hasn’t been diversified across the UK sector,” said Ishan Cader, director of consultancy at THE Consultancy. 

“If you look behind the data, a lot of institutes and UK universities in India have either remained the same or come down slightly or experienced just minimal growth.

“There is a lot of space for growth,” he added. 

Some delegates will also visit GIFT city, a special economic zone in Western India, where foreign institutions can set up branch campuses free from the regulations that govern the rest of the country.  

Two Australian universities have already begun setting up offshore operations in the financial hub

Multiple organisations joining the trade mission have existing partnerships with Indian institutions, such as the University of Exeter, which has links to universities including IIT Madras and IIT Delhi. 

Richard Follett, vice-president and deputy vice-chancellor for global engagement at the University of Exeter, said, “Why we’re here is to cement our partnerships and that commitment from British universities towards creating a living bridge with Indian organisations and Indian universities to ensure that we can develop, in a kind of mutually beneficial way, our research and education partnerships.” 

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