Close on the heels of Australia’s Western Sydney University announcing plans to establish an independent campus in Bangalore, the University Grant Commission (UGC) on Tuesday notified regulations permitting foreign universities ranked among the world’s top 500 to set up branch campuses in India, decide their admission process, fee structure, and also repatriate funds to their parent campuses.
Two or more than two universities can collaborate to set up campuses in India, provided each institution meets the eligibility criteria individually. Each foreign university can set up more than one campus in India. However, they shall make a separate application for each proposed campus to the commission.
The guidelines were notified almost 10 months after the draft was made public for feedback. Based on the inputs, the final regulations have been tweaked. For instance, the final rules mandate that foreign universities should ensure that international faculty appointed to teach at the Indian campuses stay in the country for at least a semester.
Also, the final rules have increased the time period for the standing committee to process applications from 45 days to 60 days. The recommendations of the committee should be placed before the UGC in 60 days, as opposed to 45 days in the draft regulations.
Further, “foreign universities cannot open learning centres, study centres, or franchises that may act as representative offices of the parent entity to undertake promotional activities for their programmes in their home jurisdiction or any other jurisdiction outside India. They are required to seek approval from the commission before starting any new programme on their campus in India”, the regulations said.
“No programmes can be offered online or in Open and Distance Learning modes under these regulations. However, lectures in online mode not exceeding 10% of the programme requirements are allowed,” it added.
Foreign institutions need not pay any annual fees to the UGC other than the one-time application fees. They shall set up their campuses using their own infrastructure, land, physical resources and human resources. Foreign universities may provide on their Indian campuses full or partial merit-based or need-based scholarships and fee concessions to Indian students.
While this is in step with the National Education Policy, 2020, which envisages a legislative framework to allow top global universities to operate in India, attempts made in the past, including by the UPA government, faced resistance, including from the BJP, which was in the Opposition then, and the Left parties.