New Education Policy ( NEP )2020 approved by the Union Cabinet of India on 29 July 2020 opened the way for foreign universities to establish their International Branch Campuses ( IBCs) in India. This is one of the major announcements of the new education policy. IBCs represent the concept of transnational education (TNE ). With the beginning of the twenty-first century, their proliferation throughout the world is visible. In Asia — China, United Arab Emirates, and Malaysia are the three largest host markets for IBCs.
In response to a survey conducted by a research-focused university located at N. Delhi— National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration ( NIEPA) between 21 December 2020 and February 2021, five American universities and one each in the UK, Australia, and Canada have shown interest in setting up their IBCs in India. These universities are among the top 50 and 100 according to the Times Higher Education World Universities Ranking, 2021. It seems that most of the foreign universities are in wait and watch position because as yet regulatory framework for the entry of foreign universities has not been finalized by GOI. It can be expected that regulatory framework would be lenient and flexible as evident from what NEP 2020 says ” A legislative framework facilitating such entry ( of foreign universities ) 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.”
It took 34 years to revamp Indian education policy to have NEP 2020 which is the third framework to be adopted in the country since independence. As per the legislative framework of this policy, Indian universities can also establish their campuses in other countries and collaborate with them in research and student exchange programs through special efforts.
Globalization and increasing international competition in higher education have prompted the Indian government to opt for IBCs of foreign universities. The flight of a large number of bright students abroad due to various reasons, mainly being unable to get admission in quality institutions, has always been a serious concern of educators and policymakers. With the opening of IBCs of the top 100 global universities, it would be possible for the students to get a quality education in India. IBCs are likely to boost higher education standards and may help gradually decrease the outflow of about Rs. 50,000 crores ( $ 6.7 billion) due to the migration of nearly 200,000 students for higher education abroad every year. After completion of higher education in IBCs, if the students get jobs in India, this will prevent the loss of human capital and will meet labor market needs.
One of the significant outcomes of working with foreign universities is that local universities/ institutes get the opportunity to frame curriculum in alignment with international pedagogy. This will enable them to offer a diverse portfolio of subjects and specialization to students.
The flexibility and multidisciplinary approach of NEP 2020 is expected to increase the number of international students enrolling in Indian universities. It will also facilitate the Indian students to study at foreign universities and they can transfer the credits obtained to foreign universities. It will also make it easier for them to carry out research at foreign universities.
Some people in India have pointed out that IBCs will increase the cost of education for financially marginalized people which will result in an increase in inequality in the social system. There is also an apprehension that good faculty of local universities may move to IBCs for better remuneration.
It is possible that initially, the foreign universities may opt for setting up the IBCs in collaboration with local educational institutions as a joint venture. After having a reasonably good experience they can opt for an independent campus. It is more than obvious that to open their IBCs as a joint venture in India, the foreign universities will select institutions with fair global university rankings. Some of the world’s prominent centrally funded institutions have lower global university rankings due to a lack of infrastructure and faculty. These are two important parameters and play a direct role in the global university ranking system like THE, QS, etc. Therefore there is an urgent need to generate and strengthen the infrastructure to the desired level ( mainly the state of the art research laboratories equipped with modern equipment and instruments ) and fill up the vacant teaching posts in centrally funded institutes/ universities that include IITs, IIMs, NITs, CUs, IISERs, etc. Nearly 36 percent of the sanctioned teaching posts in these institutes/ universities are lying vacant. Recently Union Ministry of Education has instructed centrally funded institutions to fill up all the vacant teaching posts in one year. It can be expected that improving the infrastructure and filling the vacant teaching posts will result in the up-gradation of global university rank. This will attract the top-ranking foreign universities to collaborate with them and establish their offshore campuses as a joint venture in India.
The information available on IBCs in some countries indicates that for the establishment of overseas campuses of top universities especially of American ones, funds are provided by local public or private authorities while the brand name with some of the academic sources of foreign institutions is enough for the purpose. The rest come from local sources. In such conditions, whether public or private authorities in India can provide the fundings remains to be seen.
Keeping in view the flexible nature of the legislative framework of NEP 2020 in relation to the establishment of IBCs in India and the Central Government’s efforts in this direction after the approval of the New Education Policy 2020, it is evident that policymakers are all set to formulate a regulatory framework. Hopefully, the relevant and proper regulatory framework will be formulated which will strike a balance between the interests of the nation and the provider of IBCs i.e. international foreign universities.
Dr. Aqueel Khan,
Former Professor and Head,
University Postgraduate Teaching Department of Biochemistry,
RTM Nagpur University,
Email: [email protected]