Foreign University Bill ready for Indian Parliament… Long way still to go!

India looks to open university market, again: bill ready for parliament

  • ·                                 From:The Australian 
  • ·                                 December 28, 2011

INDIA has taken a significant step on the long march to admitting international universities with a parliamentary committee sending a new draft of the 2010 Foreign Universities bill to cabinet just before Christmas. Cabinet approved a much debated version of the original proposal in March 2010.

The legislation was left in a legislative no-mans land for months, due to parliamentary opposition and disquiet among local universities at the prospect of foreign competition.

The bill allows universities with 20 years good-standing in their home countries to set up shop on posting a bond

But even if the bill passes into law India will not become a free market in higher education, with a committee of academic experts deciding on which universities qualify for fast-tracking through the approval processes. And it will bring international institutions which now operate in India but award foreign qualifications under local regulations.

The legislation also requires reinvestment of any profit in the local campus.

However it allows twinning arrangements – suiting institutions keen to expand sources of international students at senior undergraduate level for their home campuses.

Critics of the proposal claim that high fee foreign schools will do nothing to increase access to higher education and that they will drain research and teaching talent away from Indian institutions.

While there is no national register, there are believed to be 160 international universities operating in India, nearly all of them from the US and UK.

In effect India is intent on a quick and economic expansion of the post school system  – without being overwhelmed by opportunists interested in a quick quid rather than course quality.

However the possibilities of the Indian market are still attracting interest among the major competitors in the international education industry. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed a US-India higher education summit in October and Australian higher education minister Chris Evans pitched for more Indian business in an August visit.

The challenge if, rather than when, the bill passes (it is still to be put to a vote on the floor of the Lok Sabha) is for institutions to get their administrative ducks in a row without being caught in interminable administrative process. Deakin Universityspent four years trying to set up an Indian research centre in Bagalore before giving up in the face of state and federal bureaucracy.

Nor will India be a low cost market to do business in. Education marketing expert Allison Doorbar warns Indian students studying with a western university in India will expect to see academics from the home campus at the front of the class.

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