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Opening the doors for foreign universities
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The University Grants Commission (UGC) has released the draft guidelines that paves way for foreign universities to open satellite campuses in India. Final guidelines will be published by the end of this month after reviewing the comments and suggestions about the draft. The draft provides that the fee structure, course structure and remuneration of teachers will be decided by the respective foreign universities. There are also stipulations that online classes will not be allowed, all courses shall be full-time and held off-line. The criteria applicable for Indian universities, including reservation, will not applicable for foreign universities. Foreign universities can open campuses on their own, or in collaboration with institutions already functioning in India. Applications for this will be reviewed by UGC and the decision regarding approval will be taken within 45 days. The varsities will have two years to start functioning. Those granted permission will be universities that are top-ranking at international level. (What ranking to be used is not made clear). Admissions will be open to Indians as well as foreigners, but the varsities will have to ensure that the same quality and standard they offer outside India will be provided here too. It will also be laid down that faculty from foreign universities should work here at least for two semesters. The campus can be established under Company Law or registered under LLP.

Many have welcomed the UGC's move citing the benefits that it offers. One of them is that students get an opportunity to study in foreign universities without the need to go abroad. UGC Chairman M Jagadesh Kumar, points out that in 2021 about 4.5 lakh students had gone abroad to study in foreign universities. Secondly, teachers will get more job opportunities. Thirdly, the foreign exchange outflow caused by the flocking of students abroad can be avoided. An estimate says that for students going overseas for university level studies, India loses about Rs 3000 dollars. Fourthly, the decision will open the doors to an educational system of high quality and that gets updated constantly. There are however, counter arguments to all these. The number of students who get an opportunity to study in foreign universities will depend not only on how many varsities come forward to establish campuses in India, but also on the number of students admitted in them. There is no bar either on admitting foreign students. But the argument that job opportunity for teachers will increase also implies an amount of ease with which meritorious teachers of the national university sector can be poached. And that will adversely affect the poor students in India to the extent of quality teaching they receive. There is also the question whether for stemming the flow of students to foreign destinations it is necessary to bring institutions from abroad here or to raise the standard of home universities to world class.

A major aspect to be noted is that the presence of foreign universities will benefit only a minuscule number from elite segment. One of the merits cited of the new decision is that the criteria of reservation will be entirely missing. But this is fraught with certain fundamental issues. This is a step which the BJP itself had stoutly opposed while it was in opposition. A similar move was made by the UPA government, which however, had a provision for a ban on sending funds earned by satellite campuses to mother institutions. Even that provision does not exist in the guidelines of NDA government. Not only that, such a crucial step which should be implemented through a parliamentary decision is being pushed through the mechanism of UGC. Another issue is the propensity to overstep states. Education was once a state subject until it got classified under the Concurrent List in 1976 with which the Centre came to the picture. But it needs to be understood that using the UGC, and in the name for the New Education Policy, there is a clear move to continue the process of wresting the education sector in the hands of the Centre. It may not do good to federalism, democracy or to even education, if decisions that are to be taken after debates in parliament and state assemblies are taken and implemented by UGC, a body that is proposed to be abolished shortly. The mention that all decisions will be subject to 'national interest' has an underlying hint that there may be curbs on freedom of thought, which is the lifeblood for the domain of education. For, mostly it is the interest of the ruling dispensation that are projected as national interest. That being so, what kind of merit will be achieved by the new move is a matter for speculation. The question is whether the criteria for changes in the sphere of education are the benefits accruing for students or political gain. Ultimately, doesn't the new decision to grant permission to foreign universities, also represent a confession that our educational scene will not improve?

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TAGS:Foreign universities in India draft guidelines UGC Chairman M Jagadesh Kumar BSF 
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