After more than 76 years of independence and decades of aborted attempts amid political storms coupled with half-baked bravados of allowing foreign Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) nee foreign universities a foothold in India, on November 7, the country finally notified the University Grants Commission (Setting up and Operation of Campuses of Foreign Higher Educational Institutions in India) Regulations, 2023, which effectively allows entry of foreign HEIs to set feet on Indian soil for the first time ever.
India’s higher education regulator, the University Grants Commission (UGC) gave its approval to these regulations (drafted early this year and circulated for public feedback) on October 16. Under these regulations UGC will also be the de facto approving and regulating authority, besides the contact office on various implementation issues.
Top 500 in the overall category of global rankings at the time of application or having secured a position within the top five hundred in the subject-wise category of global rankings at the time of application or possessing outstanding expertise in a particular area will be eligible to set up their campuses in India under these new regulations. Online or in Open and Distance Learning modes are not permitted under these regulations. However, lectures in online mode not exceeding 10% of the programme requirements may be allowed.
Foreign HEIs under these regulations are required to have the physical, academic and research infrastructure and facilities required to conduct its academic and research programmes in its campus in India. They have to make sure not to offer any such programme of study which is contrary to the standards of higher education in India. And importantly anything contrary to the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency, or morality will not be allowed.
Foreign HEIs can acquire properties, set up joint ventures but all will have to be in the ambit of India’s laws namely, the Foreign Exchange Management Act,1999 (42 of 1999) or the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 (42 of 2010). Also, they can set up campus on its own or in collaborations, if they are meeting the criteria.
The new regulations are categorical on the applicant HEIs providing qualifications equivalent to the corresponding qualifications awarded by them in the main campus located in their country of origin as these emphasize on equivalence and unhindered mobility of students between parental and Indian campuses. These regulations assure student protection and states that the education imparted in Indian campuses is in a similar manner in aspects like curricula, pedagogy, assessment and other aspects, as that of the main campus in the country of origin. The qualifications awarded to the students in the Indian campus shall enjoy the same recognition and status as if they were conducted in its home jurisdiction, that is, they shall be recognised in the country of origin and the degree/certificates have to be awarded under the name and seal of the Foreign Higher Educational Institution in the country of origin. There shall be no further requirement of seeking equivalence from any authority and the degree shall have all benefits, rights, and privileges as obtained in the case of a degree awarded by an Indian Higher Educational Institution ordinarily.
The regulations on the important aspect of fee puts ‘reasonable’ cap on fees through these would be decided by the FHEI itself. Under the regulations the Foreign Higher Educational Institution shall make available the prospectus on its website at least sixty days before the commencement of admissions, including fees tructure, refund policy, number of seats in a programme, eligibility qualifications, and admission process. Foreign HEIs have also been given freedom to provide full or partial merit-based or need-based scholarships from funds such as endowment funds, alumni donations, tuition revenues and other sources.
These regulations also provide for the autonomy to recruit faculty and staff from India and abroad as per its recruitment norms. However, the Foreign Higher Educational Institution shall ensure that the qualifications of the faculty appointed shall be at par with the main campus in the country of origin and shall ensure that the international faculty appointed to teach at the Indian campus shall stay in India for at least a semester.
Interested applicant foreign HEIs will need a letter of permission by the Governing Body or Board, by whatever name called, for establishing campuses in India; information on the proposed location, infrastructural facilities, fee structure, academic programmes, courses, curricula, availability of faculty and financial resources for setting up and operations of campuses in India, and any other details that may be sought.
The online application process in next stage will be examined by a Standing Committee appointed by the UGC to assess each application on merit, including the credibility of the educational institutions, the programmes to be offered, their potential to strengthen educational opportunities in India, and the proposed academic infrastructure, and make recommendations thereof. The recommendations of the Standing Committee shall be placed before the Commission and based on these, the UGC will issue a Letter of Intent to the Foreign Higher Educational Institution to set up campuses in India within two years from the date of approval.
More details are available on UGC’ newly launched website: UGC FHEI