To an Indian student, there is nothing more prestigious than an international qualification. While statistics and common belief may show that US and UK as education hubs are drying up, there is popular demand for qualifications from these two countries. For a country with a population of 1.2 billion, who aspire an international degree without leaving their homeland, the University Grants Commission's (UGC) ordinance on the Foreign Education Regulatory Bill comes as a ray of hope.
According to the ordinance, unlike as proposed in the Bill, foreign universities will be allowed to operate independently, set up campuses and offer degrees as well without partnering with any Indian partner institution. "Pursuing higher education abroad comes with an exhorbitant price, if foreign universities open campuses in India, fees will be paid in rupees and not dollars proving beneficial for Indian students, says Debashish Sanyal, dean, Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies. Suresh Advani, chairperson, international operations, SP Jain Institute of Management and Research agrees. "If grade A institutions set up campuses in the country, it will only prove to be beneficial to all—students and faculty members." He believes that this will give an opportunity to first class faculty members to up their talent and find lucrative options.
However, there is a strong debate on whether foreign educational institutions will finally be allowed to operate. There is a belief that the ordinance will usher in a new competitive era of quality education there are opponents who argue that this will lead to commercialisation and limit the access of quality education to those few who can afford it.
The PRS Lesgislative Research website which discusses the 2010 Bill questions whether there are as many foreign educational institutions willing to collaborate with universities in Indian given the strict guidelines. Advani points out that education sector in India functions very differently from its international counterparts. "Most of our education institutes have politicians as decision makers and so whether this will ever see light is doubtful," he says. The PRS website also discusses that, these foreign education providers will have to maintain a corpus fund of about Rs 50 crore. And that upto 75 per cent of any income generated has to be utilised in developing the institute's Indian campus and the rest has to be invested back in the fund.
Though educationists welcome the proposed Foreign Education Regulatory Bill they have reservations. "Why would any institution want to set up campuses, invest in infrastructure and faculty when they are not allowed to pass on any income to their home campus?," questions Sanyal. According to Advani, even educational institutes though in the noble profession of teaching are looking at profitable business opportunities.
About the few international institutes who run capsule programmes in India he says, "They are here for their non-profitable modules, for faculties which are not necessarily money generating." He points out that 65 per cent of our graduates are not fit for employment many still cannot afford basic higher education leave alone the quality programmes offered by the world's best. "It is too early to celebrate and believe that we are such a huge market that everyone will run to our country," he cautions.
Indian students make up to 13.1 per cent of total foreign students population studying in US. There is no doubt that international exposure is critical and has a better impact. "Just as much as we need good institutes to cater to our young population, international institutions as well need good students," says Sanyal. However, with so many restrictions there is doubt as to how many will finally offer their programmes in India? Academicians are hopeful as we inch closer to a new government offering new policies. "What was discussed five years ago will hopefully materalise in the future," hopes Advani.
A study conducted by the Association of Indian Universities (AIU) says there are...
631 Foreign Education Providers were operating in the country
440 were functioning from their respective home campuses
5 had opened their own campus in India
60 had programmatic collaboration with local institutions
49 were operating under twinning arrangements and
77 had arrangements other than twinning or programmatic collaboration