Friday, April 05, 2013

Quietly, India makes foreign varsity collaborations harder

Only the best foreign universities and the top layer of Indian varsities will be allowed to collaborate under new regulations the University Grants Commission (UGC) is proposing, at a time when a long-awaited law to streamline global tie-ups lies entangled in a web of bureaucratic and political indecision. The UGC regulations will create a mechanism that will allow universities in the US, UK and other developed countries keen to tap the Indian student market an opportunity to join hands with Indian institutions to both offer academic programmes and to conduct research together.

But the new regulations finalized by the UGC at its last meeting are tougher than the Foreign Educational Institutions (FEI) Bill that global varsities were eying as their window into India. The UGC resolved that only “those foreign institutions which are accredited with the highest grade in their homeland should be allowed to collaborate with those Indian institutions which are also accredited with the highest grade by the recognized Indian accrediting agencies.”

Several public universities – including each of Gujarat’s seven universities and Kerala’s two varsities – which have a ‘B’ rating from the National Accreditation and Assessment Council (NAAC) will be unable to collaborate under the UGC regulations if the higher education regulator sticks to its resolution.

Internationally, while a few foreign universities – including Duke and VirginiaTech in the US – have expressed interest in setting up campuses in India, many others, including some Ivy League institutions, are keen on increased collaboration with Indian counterparts.

Currently, Indian institutions can conduct joint research on a project-by-project basis. The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and many other public and private universities also have tie-ups for faculty and student exchange programmes with universities abroad. But Indian law forbids jointly offered degrees and more sustained research collaboration, and bars foreign universities from setting up brick and mortar campuses in India.

The FEI Bill, drafted both as an instrument to allow foreign institutions legal entry into India, and as a mechanism to regulate unauthorized programmes already running here, was introduced in Parliament in 2010. But the draft legislation – that requires applicant foreign institutions to be accredited but not necessarily with the highest grade – has remained stalled in the corridors of power since. The Parliament Standing Committee on human resource development has raised concerns about the legislation.

Sensing political opposition to the plan at a time when it is already struggling for numbers in Parliament, the UPA government has placed the FEI bill on a backburner. Instead, the UGC regulations are aimed at allowing collaboration without permitting brick and mortar campuses or standalone programmes offered by foreign institutions alone.

Source: Hindustan Times, April 5, 2013

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