Special Correspondent

KOCHI: The Students' Federation of India (SFI), dubbing the Foreign Educational Institutions Bill as anti-people, has vowed to oppose foreign universities opening ‘teaching shops' in the country.

“These institutions will be like special economic zones (SEZ) meant for the elite, by the elite and for the elite,” claimed Ritabrata Banerjee, SFI general secretary, at a news conference called to brief the media on the just-concluded Central executive committee of the federation.

The Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations) Bill, cleared by the Union Cabinet recently, is expected to be tabled in Parliament soon. The Bill allows foreign universities to set up centres in India and offer courses.

Mr. Banerjee said the SFI had decided to launch a nationwide protest against the Bill. On the day the Bill was to be tabled in Parliament, copies of the Bill would be burnt at SFI rallies in major cities and Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal would be burnt in effigy.

Mr. Banerjee said letting foreign institutions to set up shop in India would add to the social and economic inequity in the higher education sector.

The government would have not much control over them, there would be no social control and no reservation or fee concession for backward and poor students. Moreover, only sub-standard institutions, which were keen on cashing in on the vast Indian educational market, would be opening centres here, and not top-quality universities.

He claimed that these universities had not been allowed to open more centres in cities other than their home towns in their own countries. In SFI's view, the Bill was a symbol of crass commercialisation and centralisation of education.

Mr. Banerjee said that instead of allowing foreign universities to set up centres in India, what the Centre should do was to drastically increase allotment for education.

India needed to step up investment in the education sector from the current 2.8 per cent of the GDP to 6 per cent.