With the Central government unsure of getting the Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations) Bill, 2010, through the Rajya Sabha, the Human Resource Development Ministry is now trying to allow “backdoor” entry to foreign institutions.
The Ministry has asked the University Grants Commission (UGC) to identify possibilities within the existing laws of regulating and allowing the foreign educational institutions.
The two possible ways of going about it are allowing these institutions to enter as ‘deemed universities' under Section 3 of the University Grants Commission Act, 1956, or as private universities under the State laws.
At the same time, the UGC is also drafting regulations on twinning programmes and joint degree programmes between the foreign and Indian educational institutions.
These proposed regulations and the possibility of allowing foreign institutions into the country are likely to be discussed at a special meeting of the Commission scheduled for June 2. This comes just ahead of HRD Minister Kapil Sibal's tour to Washington for the Indo-U.S. Strategic Dialogue this month, during which he would like to make some announcements on joint programmes to encourage foreign educational institutions into India.
Allowing foreign institutions as deemed universities or private universities under the State laws was proposed when Arjun Singh was HRD Minister, but the plan was shelved.
But rather curiously, the Commission's meeting, scheduled for July 21, was re-scheduled and advanced to June 2, no agenda has been circulated. Normally, the agenda is mailed to the members at least a week in advance. The Commission generally meets after a gap of six weeks to two months. On Saturday, it will meet within 10 days, sources in the UGC told The Hindu, adding the members were orally told that an important issue on the “entry of foreign institutions to India was to be discussed urgently.”
The meeting is likely to witness fireworks as many Commission members will oppose the proposal on the ground that they were not consulted.
The Bill was tabled in Parliament in May 2010, after it met with resistance from the Left and the Bharatiya Janata Party during the United Progressive Alliance's first term in office. It was subsequently sent to the Parliamentary Standing Committee, which submitted its report in the monsoon session of Parliament, recommending major changes. There has been no progress after that, as the government does not have the numbers in the Rajya Sabha.
The UGC can regulate Indian universities on issues related to twinning programmes as well as joint degree programmes, but has no jurisdiction to regulate foreign universities.
As per a study conducted by the Association of Indian Universities (AIU), 631 foreign education providers were operating in the country in 2010. Of these, 440 were functioning from their home campuses, 5 opened their own campuses in India, 60 had programmatic collaboration with local institutions, 49 were operating under twinning arrangements and 77 had arrangements other than twinning or programmatic collaboration.