The University Grants Commission released draft regulations for the recognition of foreign degrees as top universities plan to establish branch campuses in India for the first time.
Some are also exploring joint and dual degrees with Indian partners.
“In order to facilitate the mobility of students in a seamless manner, it is necessary to have a robust and transparent mechanism for recognizing foreign qualifications and granting equivalence to such qualifications,” the UGC wrote.
“It is expected that the mobility of students will be greatly enhanced as a result of these reform measures.”
But foreign institutions hoping to offer online or distance degrees to Indians rather than setting up in-person programs will be disappointed, as these, alongside franchise arrangements, will not be recognised under the new guidelines.
“Online education goes against the expected gains of internationalisation,” said Jandhyala Tilak, former vice-chancellor at New Delhi’s National University of Educational Planning and Administration.
“Foreign universities are encouraged to set up campuses in India not only to increase the access of Indian students to foreign education but also to attract foreign students to campuses in India.
“Online education negates this. Foreign universities may get discouraged to set up campuses in India by being not allowed to offer online [or] distance education, but that will not deter high-ranking foreign universities to come to India if they are otherwise interested.
“Online education goes against the expected gains of internationalisation”
“It matters only in the case of mediocre universities which may be interested to come to India and to provide online education.”
Under previous UGC regulations, only institutions in the top 500 in global rankings, either overall or for specific subjects, are eligible to set up branch operations in India.
Qualifications from foreign branch campuses in India will be recognised as long as the campus is approved by both the Indian government and the country of origin.
The academic programs on offer must also satisfy the accreditation requirements in the country where the offshore campus is located, whether that is India or another foreign country, as well the requirements of the country of origin.
Indian institutions have also begun to set up their own offshore campuses, with India’s National Forensic Sciences University becoming the first state institution to launch abroad when it established its Uganda branch in April.
Qualifications from Indian offshore branches will be recognised as long as the campus is approved by Indian authorities and the host country.
The academic programs must also satisfy the accreditation requirements in the foreign country in which the offshore campus is located.
An online portal will be established for students to apply for grants of equivalence for qualifications obtained from foreign institutions. This will be necessary for qualifications from a country where there is no existing agreement with India on recognition.
The commission will also recognise primary and secondary school level qualifications from foreign providers, as long as they are recognised and approved by the provider’s country, which could support India’s efforts to recruit international students to its institutions.
“Indian universities should strive to get more and more foreign students; presently they account hardly for 50,000 altogether in all universities in India,” said Tilak.