Perspectives on Foreign Universities Bill by Tim Gore

This is the guest entry by Tim Gore, Director of the Centre for Indian Business at The University of Greenwich. He shares his perspectives on the Foreign Universities Bill 2010. Also see his earlier interview on this blog.

The progress of this Bill has been regarded with great interest over the last few years as it could significantly affect the dynamic between India and her foreign educational partners. The recent impetus and direction given to the development of the Bill by the current HRD Minister Shri Kapil Sibal is laudable. Although the bill was opposed by one member of Parliament when it was tabled for Parliament there is evidence of substantial shifts in perceptions since the last time it was introduced. Part of this is an increasing sense of purpose in Indian Higher Education with the stated ambition of increasing the gross enrolment ration to 30% by 2020 as well as increasing the quantity and quality of higher education institutions in parallel. There is a recognition that this cannot be done on public funds alone and therefore there is interest in a developing private sector provision as well as foreign education providers playing a role. In online discussions with various stakeholders most have been very positive about the development and look forward to an increasingly vitalised and globally connected higher education sector in India.

The Bill (Foreign Education Bill 2010) is more positive than its predecessor avoiding emotive terminology on ‘fraud and cheating’ and ‘commercialisation’ as well as ‘fly-by-night operators’ (Lawton 2010). It is clear that the spirit of the Bill is to attract genuine higher education institutions to work in partnership with India. Over and above this positive tone, there are many changes that have been made that I see as very welcome developments. Firstly, there is a commitment to transparent and time-bound processes for the regulatory processes. Secondly quality is to be ‘comparable’ with similar programmes taught in the home institution rather than the old requirement of being ‘identical’. This allows for ‘foreign’ programmes to be enriched with local context and contributions from Indian partners or academics.

However, there are still aspects that foreign institutions will want to see clarified before they make the type of long-term investments and commitments needed to establish sustainable partnerships in India. The main ones of these are the financial requirements. The Bill is positive in establishing mechanisms to repatriate appropriate expenses to the home institution: 5.3 No part of the surplus in revenue generated in India by such Foreign Education Provider, after meeting all expenditure in regard to its operations in India, shall be invested for any purpose other than for the growth and development of the educational institutions established by it in India.
Institutions will want to know if the ‘all expenditure’ is to be expenditure at full costs (FEC in the UK) and will want to feel confident that there will not be tax complications. Then there is the issue of the 50 Crore (£7 million) corpus fund that needs to be deposited. Apparently, the intention is to levy this only on full campuses rather than on other types of partnership. My Centre’s research indicates that there are currently a few hundred small scale collaborative programmes in India where programmes are taught that end with a foreign or dual qualification. These normally register a small number of students – a few hundred at the most. A 50 Crorecorpus fund imposed on these would immediately lead to the vast majority of these programmes withdrawing from India. Many universities use these small scale collaborations to gain experience and would be happy to scale up over the longer term but this investment would be a powerful disincentive to follow this route. Finally, if the corpus fund is to be imposed on campuses but can be waived for institutions of ‘reputation and international standing’ by the Advisory Board set up by the Government, what then are the conditions under which this requirement will be waived? Indeed, all reputable higher education institutions already have mechanisms in place to protect their students wherever they may be so if the Bill only allows reputable institutions to enter India then they will have their own mechanisms for student protection which will render the corpus unnecessary.

Tim Gore
25th June 2010

References
(Foreign Education Bill 2010). The Indian Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operation) Bill 2010. Government of India
Lawton, W. (2010). The FEP Bill: a brief analysis International Focus. London. 58.

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