THE CONTEXT: Draft University Grants Commission (Setting up and Operation of Campuses of Foreign Higher Educational Institutions in India) Regulations, 2023’ has been announced by the UGC’s chairperson. It will now allow foreign universities to set up their campuses in India; decide their admission process; fee structure and will also be able to “repatriate” funds to their parent campuses. This editorial will discuss various aspects of its effect on higher education in India.
ISSUES WITH HIGHER EDUCATION
- According to the AISHE report 2020-21, in the year 2020-21, Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education for the age group 18-23 years is estimated to be 27.3 which is quite low as compared to the developed as well as, other developing countries.
- With the increase of enrolments at the school level, the supply of higher education institutes is insufficient to meet the growing demand in the country.
STRUCTURE OF HIGHER EDUCATION
- Management of Indian education faces challenges of over-centralisation, bureaucratic structures and lack of accountability, transparency, and professionalism.
- As a result of an increase in the number of affiliated colleges and students, the burden of administrative functions of universities has significantly increased and the core focus on academics and research is diluted.
- There is no equity in GER among different sects of society. According to the AISHE report 2020-21, GER for Scheduled Castes Students is 23.1 and GER for Scheduled Tribes Students is 18.9.
- While the increase in the Scheduled Castes GER is 0.7 in the current and previous years, notably, a significant increase of 1.9 is observed in the Scheduled Tribes GER in 2020-21 over 2019-20, as compared to 0.8 in 2019-20 over 2018-19.
- Quality in higher education is a multi-dimensional, multilevel, and dynamic concept. Ensuring quality in higher education is amongst the foremost challenges being faced in India today. However, Government is continuously focusing on quality education.
- Still, a Large number of colleges and universities in India are unable to meet the minimum requirements laid down by the UGC and our universities are not in a position to mark their place among the top universities of the world.
- Poor infrastructure is another challenge to the higher education system of India particularly the institutes run by the public sector suffer from poor physical facilities and infrastructure.
RESEARCH AND INNOVATION
- there are very nominal scholars in our country whose writing is cited by famous western authors. There is inadequate focus on research in higher education institutes. There are insufficient resources and facilities, as well as, limited numbers of quality faculty to advice students.
- Most of the educational Institutions are owned by the political leaders, who are playing key role in governing bodies of the Universities. They are using the innocent students for their selfish means. Students organise campaigns, forget their own objectives and begin to develop their careers in politics.
BENEFITS OF ALLOWING FOREIGN UNIVERSITIES’ CAMPUSES ON HIGHER EDUCATION
- Competitive educational institutions– There is a huge concern for the absence of Indian universities in the top global rankings. One must also admit that Indian universities must up their standards to compete globally. Allowing Foreign Higher Educational Institutions (FHEIs)n will help in increasing the competitive environment in the Higher education system.
- Quality of education: It is proposed for only institutions which have secured a place within the top 500 of overall or subject-wise global rankings are eligible to apply. Thus it leads to an increase in the quality of the education with competition. Foreign Higher Educational Institutions (FHEIs) will need to ensure the quality of education taught at their Indian campuses is on a par with the standard of teaching at their main foreign locations.
- Regulatory ease: It fixed a 90-day limit for approval to overcome the bureaucratic tangles. It is a positive step. The notification states that the approval is valid for ten years but extendable subject to fulfilling the required conditions. Thus it helps in regulatory ease and time bound approacval.
- Autonomy: The institutions will have the autonomy to decide “qualifications, salary structure, and other conditions of service for appointing faculty and staff”. That is, the UGC Regulations on Minimum Qualifications for Appointment of Teachers and Other Academic Staff in Universities and Colleges, which is in force, will not be applicable to them.
- Brain Drain will decrease- Avenues to the Indian students to have educational degrees in the foreign university in India. Thus it will decrease the Brain Drain from the Country.
- In the globalised world, it is inevitable– Setting up of foreign universities here was unavoidable in the age of globalization, and given that the barriers for exchange of goods, services and ideas is happening,it was inevitable that education would be the last frontier, where all barriers would be dismantled.
- Research and Innovation ecosystem: The competition within institution will give the incentive to focus more on research and development. IPR will get boost in the field of Patent filing, designing and research papers publishing.
ISSUES WITH THE ALLOWING FOREIGN UNIVERSITIES’ CAMPUS ON HIGHER EDUCATION
Issue with the equity:
- The policy will harm, dilute and destroy the Indian higher education system, leading to commercialization.
- Reservations will not be applicable for this institution.
- Also, due to the lack of public investment in an affordable, quality higher education system that is accessible to all, often private institutions have been able to only provide services to those who can pay a higher fee.
- Thus, there is higher excludability and rivalry among those who are willing to seek higher education, increasing elitism in its distributional system, and thereby, generating structural equity concerns.
Abdication of social responsibility: There is the abdication of the government’s own social responsibility to build top-class universities/higher education institutions in India. Private institutions are profit-oriented not welfare-oriented.
Lack of structural reform: Top-down approach will not work with India as there are issues with the primary education system. Thus, holistic approach will be needed to reform the educational ecosystem.
Foreign institutions are not willing to invest: Even though private institutions are invited, there will India’s higher education regulatory landscape too has been deeply unreliable. Many so-called greenfield projects announced under the institute of eminence (IOE) push by the government failed to gather any significant attention due to various roadblocks in it.
In the past, some of the best-performing universities in India have tried to establish collaborative arrangements with credible foreign institutions for students and teachers to exchange and promote joint research programmes. Even though UGC supported such collaborations by Indian universities, the Ministries of Home and External Affairs have not encouraged students or faculty exchanges, citing national security concerns.
The proposed guidelines by University Grants Commission (UGC) do not commit to providing physical or financial capital for setting up campuses.
Higher Education in India is not for profit – Supreme Court does not allow the operation of ‘for-profit’ educational institutions. However, foreign investment in HEIs has to be attractive in terms of profit-making for both the country of origin of HEIs and the private investors. Therefore, the government’s approach to inviting foreign HEIs to India without profits is flawed.
Relevance of the foreign Universities- When anyone enrols in a foreign university, the experience of being on a campus overseas, and benefitting from that, is often more important in decision making, Education is more than just classroom teaching and acquiring skill sets to deal with reality. Thus relevance of opening of Foreign Higher Educational Institutions (FHEIs) is being questioned. Many students opt to go abroad for the experience, and for the income opportunity overseas which is not available in India.
THE WAY FORWARD:
- India should be a leader in international education by tapping into its reserves instead of asking foreign universities to raise the bar.
- Instead of enabling the creation of international campuses of universities from developed countries, we need to focus on becoming a global higher education destination in our own right.
- Promoting Collaboration and Partnerships-Instead of allowing foreign universities to establish standalone campuses in India, the government could encourage them to collaborate and partner with existing Indian institutions.
- Restoring the autonomy of Indian public universities: Restore the autonomy to Indian public universities if it can be given to the foreign universities.
THE CONCLUSION: More focus should be on reforming the educational institute from primary to higher education. Without tackling the learning deficit in primary education, the long-term sustainability of the economy will not be possible as there would be inefficient utilisation of the demographic dividend.
- Analyse the future of the educational ecosystem in the light of allowing the foreign higher education institutions in India.
- Enumerate the measures to be taken to overhaul the Higher Education Ecosystem in India.