Foreign Universities Bill, India 2010

Here is a copy of the Foreign Universities Bill 2010 presented in the Indian parliament. Apart from the critique, corpus fund requirement of 50 crore rupees (~US$11m ) has already received, there are two other clauses which I find troublesome:

1. Distant/online learning is not welcome: The bill defines foreign institution as one offering “conventional method…not including distant mode.” Given that Indian higher education needs innovation, cost-effectiveness and accessibility and distance/online learning technologies are well placed to address some of the these issues, this restriction seems out of context. Here it is also important to note that quality of distance education in India is very poor and hence introduction of new foreign partners may help improve the quality. Government need to define measures of quality for assessing good online education providers and not necessarily eliminate the whole channel.

2. Intent to limit institutional autonomy: The bill states that foreign institution need to publish information about “the number of seats approved by the statutory authority in respect of each course or programme of study.” This is again a regressive way to rationing and regulating enrollments and it directly impacts innovation, growth and feasibility of new projects. Current policy structure with AICTE etc. was also having the similar problem of trying to control the demand instead of creating standards of quality and competitiveness in the system.

The current form of bill is taking a parochial view on two primary aspects
1) diversity of global higher education institutions
2) measures of institutional quality
It is encouraging to see that the bill is moving forward, however it needs to evolve significantly to maximize the benefits for stakeholders.

I have also published an article in EDU magazine on the segments of foreign universities seeking to engage with Indian higher education. There are three primary segments and each has different needs, challenges and opportunities for entering India. Policymakers and institutions interested in partnering with foreign universities need to better understand the landscape and segment of foreign institutions to build effective international academic collaborations.

1. Prestige-enhancing (top-50 research universities)
2. Prestige-seeking (next-tier of 100 universities)
3. Revenue/profit maximizing (universities beyond top 150)

Any thoughts/comments?

– Dr. Rahul Choudaha

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