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Foreign universities will have considerable autonomy in India: UGC Chairman

NewsForeign universities will have considerable autonomy in India: UGC Chairman

NEW DELHI: The University Grants Commission (UGC) has allowed foreign universities to set up campuses in India for the first time ever. This promise was a prominent part of the National Education Policy 2020. The UGC on Thursday released the draft regulations for this, seeking public suggestions. The Sunday Guardian spoke to M. Jagadesh Kumar, the Chairman of UGC, on the concerns and opportunities that this historic step would bring to lakhs of Indian students. Excerpts:
Q: The UGC has given a nod to foreign universities to set up their campuses in India. Can it be termed as perhaps the most revolutionary step in the field of higher education to have taken place since May 2014?
A: The decision to allow foreign universities to set up campuses in India is an important milestone in the transformation of the Indian higher educational milieu in tune with the objectives of the National Education Policy 2020.
Q: Why did this decision take so long to come into effect? Can this be attributed to the domestic educational lobby?
A: India is now holistically reforming its educational system following the roadmap provided by the NEP 2020. That is why introducing a new regulation by UGC for establishing campuses in India by foreign universities is widely acclaimed as a progressive step. In this regulation, campuses of foreign universities are permitted to remit their funds to their parent bodies. Also, UGC does not ask these campuses to maintain a corpus fund. Removing these two major stumbling blocks and the presence of millions of students in India with a strong appetite for high-quality education will encourage foreign universities to come to India.
Q: Do you think this decision will address the issue of a significant number of Indian students moving abroad for studies? Or will it be too premature to imagine this at this stage?
A: While students will continue to go abroad, as it is their free choice, many students will now have an additional choice of staying in India, but studying in a foreign university campus located in India. Financially, it will be less burdensome if they choose to study in a foreign university campus in India over going abroad. Therefore, these campuses are expected to attract many students.
Q: Has the UGC received any proposals from a foreign university to open campuses in India?
A: We have received many queries with suggestions that they would be interested in considering this as an important possibility once the regulations are announced. Some countries from Europe are already in discussions with us. We are hopeful that many foreign universities will take advantage of this opportunity to meet the aspirations of students in the world’s second-largest education system. It would be a win-win situation both for foreign universities and Indian students.
Q: One of the main concerns about the representation of foreign universities is that they might not be able to exercise autonomy and freedom in India which they do back home. Have the norms addressed this concern?
A: UGC will proactively contact foreign universities to create awareness about how this new regulation provides considerable freedom and autonomy in academic affairs, governance, admission policy, recruitment policy, and tuition fees.
Q: The other concern is that these foreign universities will charge exorbitant fees, the ripple effect of which will be felt by the domestic universities. How would you, as the head of UGC, respond to this?
A: If these campuses have to attract many students, they must fix their tuition fees appropriately. Since Indian students are conscious of quality and affordability and will move away if charged exorbitantly, campuses will have to self-regulate the tuition fee structure.
Q: Just like in India, there are multiple scrupulous foreign universities. Has the UGC kept safeguards and checks to keep these universities out from operating campuses in India?
A: A foreign university can only set up a campus in India with UGC’s permission. A standing committee of UGC will examine the applications from foreign universities, considering such parameters as infrastructural facilities, faculty availability, fee structure, academic programmes, courses, curricula, and financial resources for setting up and operating campuses in India. The regulation also has other safeguards to protect students’ interests. UGC will ensure that only reputed foreign universities can set up campuses in India.
Q: Will the foreign universities be allowed to have a joint venture with Indian universities? And will they be given any subsidy or incentive to open their campuses?
A: There are different ways in which foreign universities can establish their campuses in India in compliance with the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) 1999. A few representative ways are: FHEI can establish a company under the Companies Act 2013 and operate the campus through this company or come via The Limited Liability Partnership Act, 2008, or as a joint venture with an existing Indian entity such as a university or set up a branch office in India for conducting its operations in education. All are legally permitted routes that enable the FHEI to repatriate their funds. The biggest incentives are that there is no need to keep a corpus fund, and these campuses can repatriate their funds to the parent university.
Q: Several universities abroad have a three-year engineering degree, which is not recognized in India. How does the UGC intend to tackle this?
A: Because NEP2020 provides a lot of flexibility in designing the content and duration of programmes, we need to look at all such cases with an open mind.

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