The COVID-19 pandemic has given a sounding blow to India’s education sector by delaying plans of foreign universities of opening their international branch campus in the country. The eight universities are from Australia, the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
The Unit for International Cooperation of the government-funded National Institute of Education Planning and Administration (NIEPA), in its survey report (online survey conducted between December 2020 and February 2021), said the universities would definitely consider establishing a branch campus in India.
The report highlighted that many foreign universities are still adopting a wait and see approach as domestic rules and regulations that govern the setting up of international branch campuses in India are yet to be framed by the government.
Eldho Mathews, deputy advisor with the unit at NIEPA and author of the survey report Establishing International Branch Campuses in India, said a wide cross-section of universities from the UK, US, Australia and Canada considers India as a strategic market for student recruitment. “Most of the respondents are focusing mainly on Indian students. Based on the nature of the new regulations, they can even develop various models including a hybrid one where for two years, the students can study at Indian campus and the remaining years, they can go to the host institution.”
It has to be noted that India’s National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 had recommended that select universities from the top 100 category in the world university rankings should be allowed to operate in India. It also recommended that a legislative framework facilitating such entry will be put in place, and such universities will be given special dispensation regarding regulatory, governance and content norms on par with other autonomous institutions of India.
Mathews said everything depends on the new act that is going to be framed by the Indian parliament because the new education policy talks about allowing foreign universities to come into India, but the act should be passed by the parliament and then only can the University Grants Commission (UGC) initiate actions to frame regulations.
Moreover, some universities considering India were looking for arrangements involving partial support from the Indian government in terms of buildings, facilities and scholarships and fellowships, while others were hoping for partial support from private Indian companies for buildings and other facilities. They were interested in education hubs in cities promoted by the government and private companies, or setting up using facilities owned by existing Indian public universities or colleges.
The report pointed out that the perceived risks and costs are currently too high. Financial support from the Indian government would offset these risks, as would tax breaks for branch campuses. It suggested the creation of higher education-focused hubs in select cities of the country, funded by the central and state governments, which would be attractive to foreign institutions.