Foreign varsities in India to have autonomy to decide admission processes, fees.

The University Grants Commission (UGC) on Thursday released draft regulations that will allow foreign universities to set up campuses in India with autonomy in deciding their admission processes and fee structure. Further, these foreign universities will only be able to offer full-time courses in physical mode.

The higher education regulator released the draft UGC (Setting up and Operation of Campuses of Foreign Higher Educational Institutions in India) Regulations, 2023, and sought suggestions from the stakeholders till January 18. The regulations are likely to be notified by January end.

The guidelines have been prepared in line with the National Education Policy (NEP), 2020, which said top global universities will be facilitated to operate in India. The policy said a legislative framework facilitating such entry will be put in place and that such universities will be given special dispensation regarding regulatory, governance, and content norms on par with India’s autonomous institutions.

UGC chairperson M Jagadesh Kumar said the regulations will provide Indian students access to high-quality international education.

The draft regulations said that foreign universities shall not set up campuses without UGC’s approval. They define the eligibility criteria and said foreign higher educational institutions (FHEIs) should either have secured a position within the top 500 of overall /subject-wise global rankings as decided by the UGC or should be reputed institutions in their countries.

The institutions will have the autonomy to evolve their admission processes and criteria to admit domestic and foreign students and decide the fee structure, which should be transparent and reasonable. “Based on an evaluation process, full or partial need-based scholarships may be provided by the FHEI from funds such as endowment funds, alumni donations, tuition revenues, and other sources.”

The application process for these universities will be online, and they will submit the required information on the UGC portal with their applications. The universities willing to apply will also submit an undertaking saying the quality of education imparted on Indian campuses will be at par with that of their countries of origin.

The guidelines said the qualifications awarded to the students on the Indian campus shall be recognised and treated as equivalent to the corresponding qualifications awarded by the foreign institutions on main campuses located in their countries of origin for all purposes, including higher education and employment.

The UGC will constitute a Standing Committee to examine the applications. “This Committee shall assess each application on merits, including the credibility of the educational institutions, the programmes to be offered, their potential to strengthen educational opportunities in India, and the proposed academic infrastructure, and make recommendations before the UGC within 45 days from the date of receipt of the application, complete in all respects,” the guidelines said.

Selected universities will get two years to set up campuses from the date of approval. Initially, universities will be granted approval to operate for 10 years. At the end of the ninth year, they will have to file for renewal of approval.

“The FHEI shall pay the Commission an Annual Fee (second year onwards) as decided by the Commission from time to time,” the guidelines said.

The universities will have the autonomy to recruit faculty and staff from India and abroad as per their norms. “[They] may decide the qualifications, salary structure, and other conditions of service for appointing faculty and staff. However, the FHEI shall ensure that the qualifications of the faculty appointed shall be at par with the main campus of the country of origin. It shall ensure that the foreign faculty appointed to teach at the Indian campus shall stay at the campus in India for a reasonable period,” the guidelines said.

The institutions will be expected to arrange adequate physical infrastructure in terms of built-up space for their academic programmes and undergo a quality assurance audit and submit reports to UGC at the time of the extension.

The draft guidelines said the institutions shall not offer any programme which “jeopardises the national interest of India” or the standards of higher education in India. “The operation of Foreign Higher Educational Institutions shall not be contrary to the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency, or morality,” the norms said.

The commission will watch the operations of these universities and have the right to inspect the campuses and operations at all times to ascertain the infrastructure, academic programmes, and overall quality and suitability. In case of violation of norms, the commission can take action in terms of imposing a penalty and suspending/withdrawing approval at any time.

Source- Hindustan Times.

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