Buffeted by major funding cuts, major British universities have noted the Indian Cabinet’s approval this week of a bill allowing foreign universities to set up campuses in India, but have no immediate plans to do so.

The Manmohan Singh government approved Foreign Educational Institution (Regulation of Entry and Operation) Bill, 2010, that is expected to raise the quality and quantity of higher education to meet India’s growing demands for skilled manpower.

Forced by a gnawing budget deficit amidst recession, the Gordon Brown government recently announced major funding cuts to British universities, forcing the closure of several subject departments and job losses in the near future.

The universities have become increasingly reliant on the income generated by high fee-paying of international students from India and other countries outside the European Union. It is not yet clear if setting up campuses in India will hit this major income stream.

Spokespersons of the universities of Cambridge, Oxford and Imperial College, London, told PTI that they did not have immediate plans to set up campuses in India, but would continue to build on their existing collaboration and others links with Indian institutions.

British universities have a large number of agents in India and have long standing research and teaching links with Indian institutions. However, the initial reaction to the Bill’s approval has been cautious.

The University of Nottingham is one of the few British universities with campuses in China and Malaysia.

Many other universities offer degrees abroad through collaborative links with local institutions, but are reluctant to open full campuses abroad to avoid risk to reputation and lack of quality control.

An Oxford spokesman said: “Oxford University has no plans in the foreseeable future to offer full degree courses anywhere other than Oxford itself and so has no plans to establish an overseas campus. However, Oxford conducts research and some non-degree teaching in many countries of the world, and India is a very important country for us. We have many links with India already and are keen to continue to develop our involvement in the country.”

There are 300 Indian students currently enrolled at Imperial College, London, which has several ‘fruitful’ collaboration links with Indian institutions. Some reports suggested that Imperial College would be one of the first foreign institutions to set up a campus in India, but spokeswoman Abigail Smith said: “In January we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Indian Institute of Technology Ropar, in the presence of Kapil Sibal, Minister for Human Resources Development, and Lord Mandelson.”

“Imperial is keen to explore opportunities for further research and teaching links with India in the future,” Ms. Smith said.

A Cambridge university spokesman said: “The Government of India is developing and implementing a major strategy dramatically to increase the scope, depth and capacity of Indian higher education. It is thus timely for the university to take stock and to consider how to build on these foundations to develop new ways in which we work with Indian counterparts in academia, industry and government to develop and strengthen the country’s higher education provision, research capacity and impact.”

He added: “The pattern of India’s development, its demography, its industrial structure, its projections for economic growth and its agenda for community development place a spotlight on the pivotal position of higher education.

“While there are no immediate plans to open up a Cambridge University campus in India, we note the alignment between Cambridge’s multi-disciplinary strengths and Indian academia and we are exploring appropriate ways to scale up our collaborations and partnership, for that will be the basis of anything we do.”