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Internationalization of Higher Education
News: The University Grants Commission (UGC) released the draft UGC (Setting up and Operation of Campuses of Foreign Higher Educational Institutions in India) Regulations 2023.
Key Proposals of Draft:
• It will allow Foreign universities to – Set up their campus in India, decide their admission process, fee structure (to be reasonable), and shall also allow to repatriate funds (to be governed by the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999) to their parent campuses.
• Top 500 global rankings or “reputed” universities are eligible to apply and will be granted approval to operate for 10 years.
• The regulations provide foreign institutions complete autonomy to hire faculty and other staff members either from abroad or in India.
• The regulations underline that foreign faculty appointed to teach at the Indian campus shall stay for a reasonable period. This was aimed at ensuring that institutes do not make them serve like visiting faculty.
• The UGC will have the right to inspect the campuses at any time and such campuses will not be outside the purview of anti-ragging and other criminal laws.
• The operation of Foreign Higher Educational Institutions shall not be contrary to the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency, or morality.
How will it help improve Higher education in India?
• By fixing a benchmark of allowing only the top 500 foreign universities in India, the draft UGC regulations have an in-built mechanism to ensure the entry of only the highest-quality institutions.
• Foreign Higher Education Institutions (FHEIs) are backed with robust financial resources, integrity and expertise. They will bring diverse courses with them such as in fields of urban design and fashion design.
• The draft regulations empower the positioning of India as an affordable value player in the global education sector. Campuses of foreign HEIs will attract students from the Global South.
• The draft regulations will give more viable options to the four lakh or so Indian students who head overseas each year for transnational education.
• FHEIs will provide opportunities for students who do not wish to immigrate to stay in India and study at a foreign university. This can be a win-win situation because Indian students will be able to access high-quality education living in India while foreign universities can cater to huge numbers.
• The National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration recently conducted a study. In the report, several universities ranking in the top 200 have expressed their interest in considering India as a destination.
• Additionally, such campuses will foster healthy competition among Indian institutions to better their standards and establish world-class institutions.
• The Institutions of Eminence (IoE) have made progress in multidisciplinary teaching and research and promoting internationalization of higher education. IoEs and other institutions in India can make joint efforts with FHEI’s for research collaborations in cutting edge-areas.
However, there is a different school of thought which advocates against the recent UGC draft proposal. What do they have to say?
• They say that tuition fees of such institutes alone would be about 15 times more expensive than Indian private universities and over a hundred times costlier than most Indian public universities. Prohibitive costs will prevent education in any foreign university campus for most aspirants. The new proposal vitiates the NEP’s vision of equity and inclusion as it envisages higher education only for the super-rich.
• The quality and excellence in teaching and research on overseas campuses cannot match those in their primary location.
• They argue that instead of enabling the creation of international campuses of universities from developed countries, we need to focus on becoming a global higher education destination in our own right.
What should we do to become a Global leader in International education?
• Firstly, we must provide greater autonomy to Indian universities, including the Institutions of Eminence (IoE). Indian universities, both public and private, are generally highly regulated and poorly governed.
• We must provide more resources to Indian universities and not focus only on select centrally established institutions. Indian universities face acute resource scarcity.
• Government must encourage CSR and philanthropic initiatives with more tax incentives to enable private sector contributions to public and private universities.
• We must do away with institutionalized hierarchy approach that is evident in Indian higher education system. For example, IIT’s/IIM’s are highest in pecking order followed by central resources then leading to state public universities. It is only after exhausting every other type of publicly-funded institution that private universities come into the reckoning. These deep-rooted biases and prejudice have fostered discrimination against private universities.
• Lastly, there must be a significant improvement in the quality of infrastructure and hostels on university campuses. The safety, security and well-being of the students, especially women, must be ensured.
• Having said that, The UGC’s reforms should not be read in silos. Rather, the cumulative effects of the enabling provisions must be seen as a catalyst for transforming higher education in India.