Tuesday, March 16, 2010

India: Union cabinet clears foreign universities bill

The Union Cabinet: India on 15 march 2010 cleared the Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operation) Bill, 2010, for introduction in Parliament. It seeks to allow foreign education providers to set up campuses in the country and offer degrees.

Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal said: “This is a milestone which will enhance choices, increase competition and benchmark quality. A larger revolution than even in the telecom sector awaits us.”

The Foreign Universities Bill, 2010, has been pending for the last four years owing to opposition from various quarters, including the Left parties, over certain provisions. Last year, it was referred to a Committee of Secretaries, which brought modifications to certain provisions.

The Bill was approved by the Cabinet, presided over by Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, without any change. It prescribes an eight-month, time-bound format for granting approval to foreign educational institutions to set up campuses. They will go through different levels of registration process during this period. Finally, they will be registered with the University Grants Commission or any other regulatory body to be put in place that will scrutinise the proposals of the aspiring institution as per India's priorities and advise the government whether to allow it to operate in India.

Though 100 per cent foreign direct investment through the automatic route is permitted in the education sector since 2000, the legal structure does not allow granting of degrees by foreign educational institutions here.

Three other reform bills, slated to be taken up in the Cabinet, were deferred to the next meeting. These are the Prohibition of Unfair Practices in Technical, Medical Educational Institutions and Universities Bill, the Educational Tribunal Bill and the National Accreditation Authority Bill. A Group of Ministers has already cleared the Bills.

Higher educational institutions, including IITs and IIMs, today hailed the government's go ahead for a bill to allow entry of foreign education providers in India and sought to allay any threat posed by the institutions from abroad.

Four years ago, when India first flirted with the idea of opening its doors to foreign universities, optimists said Harvard, Yale and Oxford would line up to get in. Now it seems few big-tags are interested in investing in India, although, Imperial College, Duke College, Georgia Tech and Schulich School of Business (York University) — are among those who have so far met senior officials in the HRD ministry and spoken of setting up a full-fledged campus.

One thing is for sure, the foreign universities in India shall initiate a competition among educational institutions, give boost to the research activity in the universities. These universities will also be able to offer attractive pay package to the faculty to attract good candidates.

The establishment of foreign university campuses in India shall provide an option to the students going to foreign countries in large numbers to obtain higher degrees.

This Bill along with the three other related Bills (mentioned as above) will be an effective package after the approval of the Parliament.

As whole, it appears to be a good move. Three cheers to the HRD Minister !