India to allow setting up of foreign university campus

Top-rated foreign universities will soon be able to open their campuses in India.

After several years of dilly-dallying on the proposal, the Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry has finally agreed to allow the opening of the foreign universities' campuses in the country under a regulatory framework.

Enabling provisions for this have been made by the HRD Ministry in a bill which seeks to replace the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) with a single regulator and bring law education also under its ambit.

The Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) Bill, formulated by the ministry, will be placed before the Union Cabinet for its approval this month.

“Foreign universities will be welcomed and encouraged to set up their campuses in India. But only reputed foreign universities will be allowed to set up their campus and operate under a regulatory framework,” official sources in the ministry told DH, confirming the move.

The Union Ministry of Commerce was vociferously pushing for opening the doors for foreign universities' campuses in India since the BJP-led NDA came to power at the Centre in 2014 because it saw an opportunity to attract foreign direct investment (FDI).

In the education sector, 100% foreign direct investment is allowed under the automatic route.

The governments in the past made several attempts to allow the opening of foreign universities' campuses in the country but none of those efforts could materialise.

In first such move, a bill was drafted in 1995 to facilitate foreign varsity entry under a legal framework. But, it could not take off. Another attempt was made in 2005-06 but the bill drafted for it could not even get the approval of the Cabinet.

During the erstwhile regime of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, the HRD Ministry under senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal brought the Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations) Bill, 2010.

The Bill, however, failed to pass muster in Parliament and eventually lapsed in 2014 with the completion of the five-year term of the UPA government.

Interestingly, the BJP had opposed the UPA’s Bill when it was in Opposition. Left parties too had opposed the bill.

At present, the UGC regulations provide for the operation of the foreign universities in the country under a twining arrangement with the Indian higher educational institutions. 

According to a study by the Association of Indian Universities in 2017, over 600 foreign institutions were then operating in India in collaboration with Indian higher education institutions.

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