Foreign Universities in India: Collaborate and Get Future Ready

BBC quoted me on a story on interest of foreign universities in India. Also, the Chronicle of Higher Education quoted me from the two sessions I co-presented at the Association of International Education Administrators (AIEA) annual conference in San Francisco. The sessions were entitled as–1) Demystifying India’s Foreign Universities Bill: Opportunities & Challenges and 2) Higher Ed in America, China and India: the “New Normal” across the Pacific. Overall, it was an excellent conference, attended by more than 700 leaders in international higher education.

One of the key messages I conveyed was that foreign universities bill had been under discussion for more than five years and politics of Indian higher education has made it ineffective and irrelevant. The stringent requirements of foreign universities bill are similar to a life guard who instead of providing confidence and support is simply not allowing any tourists to swim. However, one way to circumvent the requirements is to get a “guest invitation” from the member. This is precisely how various forms of existing collaborations between foreign and Indian universities are evolving–by circumventing the requirements. For example, Lancaster University has partnered with GD Goenka to offer Lancaster’s degree in India. While, this is a high quality offering and exemplifies Lancaster’s entrepreneurial approach of not waiting for foreign universities bill, there are many more poor quality institutions are ignoring regulatory requirements.

Today, I saw two additional developments related to AICTE and foreign education institutions:
1) AICTE has issued show-cause notices to foreign institutions including Leeds Met India, Bhopal and Centum Learning, Delhi, University of London.

2) AICTE issued a notification for allowing foreign universities to register as not-for-profit organisations and affiliate with Indian universities to offer Indian degree and not foreign degree.

The ugly truth of the proposed foreign university bill is that many good universities will continue to face incoherence, risk and uncertainty, while poor quality institutions will continue to ignore regulatory requirements. The Tri Valley University situation has given more ammunition to opponents to ask for even stricter norms. Even if it gets passed, it is yet to be seen how many takers will be there.

On the one hand, Indian regulatory environment is slow and incoherent and on the other hand, the opportunity for foreign universities in India is immense. This calls for entrepreneurial but cautious engagement with India. This could be low-intensity collaborative research project to high-involvement joint-degree program, however, the key is to start the engagement so that one is future ready.

Dr. Rahul Choudaha

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