The Foreign Universities Bill, India’s long awaited law to permit foreign education providers to operate in the country, may now be ready to be submitted to parliament, according to the Indian Express (December 19, 2011). After languishing amidst considerable controversy since in parliamentary committees since May 2010, an amended bill will soon be considered by the Cabinet and, if approved, resubmitted to parliament. Among the changes that have been made are the following:
- A reduction in the amount of money that a foreign institution will have to deposit in India from $10 million to $4 million for institutions offering only certificates. Degree-granting institutions would remain at the $10 million level. Foreigners wanting to offer medical or other advanced degrees would have to deposit more.
- “Institutions of repute” invited by India be eligible for “fast track” approval and not be required to undergo detailed and lengthy scrutiny—a kind of “fast track.”
- Arrangements for twinning and other partnership are part of the revised law. Many foreign institutions have expressed a preference for working with an Indian partner, and the law will now accommodate such partnership, joint degrees, and the like.
A lot of questions remain. For example, why would India want to accept under any circumstance at all foreign institutions that are not “institutions of repute?” It is likely that many less than stellar foreign universities will want to enter the Indian market to make money. Ensuring that such schools cannot get easy access is a challenge for the Indian authorities. Hence the requirement of a significant financial commitment in the form of a deposit. Many have also speculated that few foreign institutions will be inclined to invest millions of dollars “up front” in branch campuses or other initiatives in India that might, in the long run, prove less than successful. The incentives for entering the Indian education market are not clear.
Thus, the regulatory framework for permitting overseas institutions to operate in India seems as murky as ever. Observers, inside and out of India, will watch with interest the next steps of this seemingly unending an confusing saga.