Foreign universities are setting up campuses in India. But what is in store for Indian students, with some of these courses not being recognised here?

Foreign universities offering courses in India have been around for nearly 10 years. However, with The Foreign Educational Institution (Regulation of Entry and Operation) Bill, 2010, gathering dust in Parliament, there is hardly any regulatory regime to oversee the functioning of such institutes.

No accreditation

Today, more than 100 foreign institutions, mainly from the U.K., are operating in India. However, in the absence of adequate regulatory mechanisms, many of these institutions are not accredited by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) — the only official body which has notified regulations for the entry and operation of foreign universities.

According to a list of institutions approved by the AICTE under the Foreign University Regulations, fewer than 10 foreign universities have an approval from the council to collaborate with Indian institutes.

An official from the regional office of the AICTE, who did not wish to be named, said that although the office had not received proposals from foreign universities, it had got several requests from local institutes wanting to sign MOUs with foreign universities for collaborative programmes. However, only a small percentage of these had managed to get accreditation. “We do a thorough check on institutes to ensure that students are provided with the necessary infrastructure and that the MOU is valid, especially because many such programmes involve a semester or more on the overseas campus of the foreign university,” the official said.

In 2009, the U.K.-based Leeds-Metropolitan University became the first foreign university to establish a higher-education, offshore campus in collaboration with the non-profit Jagran Social Welfare Society (JSWS). However, barely had its first batch graduated, than it came to light that their degrees were not recognised by the AICTE. A group of outraged students dragged the university to court, but were disappointed when the court ruled against them, stating that the admission brochure had no mention of the degree being recognised by the AICTE.

Education counsellors say that students should always ensure that the university they are applying to is officially recognised. Students can also approach bodies such as the AICTE and the Association of Indian Universities for further inquiries.

Education counsellor Viral Doshi says that lack of accreditation means that such degrees are not recognised in India, so students may face difficulties if they wish to pursue further studies in India. However, he adds that most students who take up such courses intend going abroad, where their degrees are recognised and may even put them at an advantage compared to students who have completed their degree, especially an undergraduate course, from an Indian university. Charu Mittal, who completed B.A. (Hons) in Business Studies from De Montfort University in the U.K. through the Daly College Business School Indore, agrees. “I always wanted to go abroad and this seemed like a good way of preparing myself. I spent two years in the Indian campus and then went to the U.K. for my final year. This meant that I was somewhat shielded from the culture shock in a new environment, while getting my degree abroad.” After completing her undergraduate studies, Mittal completed her MBA from the University of Coventry, U.K., and started working in the country.

Placement hurdles

Job placement, however, is not easy. “The institute had a placement unit that helped students prepare for interviews and suggested places where they could apply,” says Mittal.

However, students were responsible for finding jobs. For many students, this is a herculean task. In an online discussion on pursuing such courses, several students from these institutes complained about the lack of placements. Doshi feels that companies in India do not approach these institutes for hiring as they are not recognised.

However, students may find the course useful if they are looking at placements abroad. Moreover, some universities are recognised globally, and if a student has completed his/her education from such an institute, employers would tend to take notice.

Besides, the concept of overseas institutes offering qualifications through offshore campuses is not new. It has been practised with much success in several countries, most notably Singapore.

In fact, many Indian students have gone to Singapore for pursuing courses from universities in the U.K., U.S. and Australia, among others. Samyuktha Reddy, who pursued a bachelor’s in Business Management from the Royal Melbourne University of Technology through an offshore campus in Singapore, says, “If such arrangements come to India, students would get the opportunity to pursue a foreign degree at a cheaper cost, in a culturally familiar environment.

I went to Singapore for the same reason — it was cheaper and culturally Asian.” Doshi corroborates that it is a fantastic option, if it gets the proper validation. “Such courses are close to 50 per cent cheaper than the same course overseas. At the same time, students get to spend up to a year abroad. If implemented properly with tight quality controls, it will be the best of both worlds for students.”

Currently, these colleges are drawing flak from educationists and counsellors alike. Education Consultant Karan Gupta says “Students consider these institutes mainly because they do not have good grades to make it to Indian colleges. If students cannot get admission into a good college in India they should do distance learning and work at the same time.”

However, Doshi is a bit more optimistic. “Although few and far between, there are some foreign institutes that do offer good programmes in collaboration with Indian institutes, such as the Schulich School of Business, London School of Economics, Lancaster University and Raffles, among others.”

The government has set up an ambitious target of increasing the gross enrolment ratio (the number of students enrolling for education) from 18 to 30 per cent by 2020. This translates to an estimated 40 million students enrolling for higher education in the coming years.