Thursday, March 11, 2010

Union cabinet to consider foreign varsities bill today

The Union Cabinet is likely to take up five educations bills, including the long-awaited legislation allowing for foreign education providers to operate in India, for consideration today. Besides the Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operation) Act, the Cabinet is expected to take up for approval the Prohibition of Unfair Practices in Technical, Medical Educational Institutions and Universities Bill, The National Education Tribunals Bill, and the National Authority for Regulation in Accreditation of Higher Educational Institutions Bill. These bills form the basis of the governments higher education reform agenda.

The Foreign Education Providers Bill has been pending for the last three years. Despite being cleared by the Cabinet in 2007, the bill could not be introduced by UPA-1 on account of objections from the Left. Forced to go back to the drawing board, UPA-II has made some changes to the original legislation. These were worked on and put in place by a committee of secretaries late last year. There were one or two issues on which the Cabinet would have to take the final call, but these are not contentious issues any more.

The bill provides for an eight month time-bound format for granting an institute approval to set up a centre in India through three levels first from the registrar where the application is first filed. Then from the higher education commission which will advise the Centre and then the Centre will take a final call to grant or withhold the approval. In the event an application is rejected, the Centre will have to inform the concerned foreign education institution the reasons for rejection within 30 days of the advice being received from the commission.

Institutes will have to adhere to full disclosure of all components of fee and deposits, the number of seats available, admission process, details of teaching faculty, including their educational qualifications, teaching experience and pay categories, details of the institutes physical and academic infrastructure, broad outlines of the syllabus, and teaching hours.

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