India: New regulation widens scope for foreign university collaboration

India’s higher education regulatory body has announced new rules that will allow only the top 500 globally-ranked institutions to partner with leading Indian universities, as legislation to allow foreign institutions to set up branch campuses in India remains stalled in parliament.

According to the University Grants Commission, only institutions graded ‘A’ by the National Board of Accreditation or the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) in India can collaborate with foreign institutions which, in turn, must be in the top 500 global universities as ranked by Times Higher Educationor Shanghai Jiaotong.

While this has been welcomed in some quarters as a way to move away from the deadlock over the Foreign Educational (Regulation of Entry and Operations) Bill, it has also met with some criticism.

The bill, originally tabled in Parliament in May 2010, has stalled in its passage through the legislature with several political parties opposed to some of the provisions under which foreign universities would be allowed to operate in India. The parliamentary standing committee concerned has made several recommendations to revise the draft bill, which is still being considered by the government.

Notably, the University Grants Commission (UGC) announcement on 2 June came just ahead of Education Minister Kapil Sibal's tour to Washington for the Indo-US Strategic Dialogue this month. Leaders of top Indian and foreign universities are expected to participate.

A report last year by the Institute of International Education for the US Department of State, prepared with the US-India Educational Foundation, referred to the bill’s “uncertain future” and suggested that American institutions may want to focus on joint and dual degree programmes in partnership with Indian institutions rather than physical branch campuses that would be allowed under the bill.

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