Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

Branch campuses in India, prospects and challenges

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- University branch campuses

Context

India, after half a century of keeping its higher education doors closed to foreigners, is on the cusp of opening itself to the world.

Higher education reforms

  • Currently, India does not allow the entry and the operation of foreign university branch campuses.
  • The NEP 2020 was a turning point for the entry of foreign universities as it recommended allowing foreign universities ranked in the “top 100” category to operate in India — under somewhat unrealistic conditions.
  • Internationalism: The wide-ranging National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 promises higher education reforms in many areas, and internationalisation is prominent among them.
  • Strengthening India’s soft power: Among the underlying ideas is to strengthen India’s “soft power” through higher education collaboration, bringing new ideas and institutions from abroad to stimulate reform and show “best practice”, and in general to ensure that Indian higher education, for the first time, is a global player.
  • In February 2022, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in her Budget speech, announced that “world-class foreign universities and institutions would be allowed in the planned business district in Gujarat’s GIFT City”
  •  It was reported that in April 2022, the University Grants Commission (UGC) formed a committee to draft regulations to allow foreign institutions in the “top 500” category to establish campuses in India — realising that more flexibility was needed
  • Bringing global experience to India: Establishing branch campuses of top foreign universities is a good idea as this will bring much-needed global experience to India.

Challenges

  • Globally, branch campuses, of which there are around 300 now, provide a mixed picture.
  • Many are aimed at making money for the sponsoring university — and this is not what India wants.
  • It will not be easy to attract foreign universities to India and even more difficult to create the conditions for them to flourish.
  • Many of those top universities are already fully engaged overseas and would likely require incentives to set up in India.
  • Further, there are smaller but highly regarded universities outside the ‘top 500’ category that might be more interested.
  • Universities around the world that have academic specialisations focusing on India, that already have research or faculty ties in the country, or that have Non-Resident Indians (NRI) in senior management positions may be easier to attract.
  • What is most important is to prevent profit-seekers from entering the Indian market and to encourage foreign institutions with innovative educational ideas and a long-term commitment.
  • Many host countries have provided significant incentives, including building facilities and providing necessary infrastructure.
  • Foreign universities are highly unlikely to invest significant funds up front.
  • A big challenge will be India’s “well-known” bureaucracy, especially the multiple regulators.

Opportunities

  • India is seen around the world as an important country and an emerging higher education power.
  • It is the world’s second largest “exporter” of students, with 4,61,792 students studying abroad (according to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics).
  • And India has the world’s second largest higher education system.
  • Foreign countries and universities will be eager to establish a “beachhead” in India and interested in providing opportunities for home campus students to learn about Indian business, society, and culture to participate in growing trade and other relations.
  • Benefits of branch campuses: International branch campuses, if allowed, could function as a structurally different variant of India’s private university sector.
  • Branch campuses, if effectively managed, could bring much needed new ideas about curriculum, pedagogy, and governance to Indian higher education — they could be a kind of educational laboratory.

Current initiatives

  • There has been modest growth of various forms of partnerships between Indian and foreign institutions.
  • The joint PhD programmes offered by the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay-Monash Research Academy and the University of Queensland-Indian Institute of Technology Delhi Academy of Research (UQIDAR), both with Australian partners, are some examples.
  • Another example is the Melbourne-India Postgraduate Academy (MIPA). It is a joint initiative of the Indian Institute of Science Bangalore, the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur and the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur with the University of Melbourne.
  • MIPA provides students with an opportunity to earn a joint degree accredited both in India and Australia: from the University of Melbourne and one of the partnering Indian institutions.
  • These partnerships suggest that India could offer opportunities for international branch campuses as well.

Challenges

  • Globally, branch campuses, of which there are around 300 now, provide a mixed picture.
  • Many are aimed at making money for the sponsoring university — and this is not what India wants.
  • It will not be easy to attract foreign universities to India and even more difficult to create the conditions for them to flourish.
  • Many of those top universities are already fully engaged overseas and would likely require incentives to set up in India.
  • Further, there are smaller but highly regarded universities outside the ‘top 500’ category that might be more interested.
  • Universities around the world that have academic specialisations focusing on India, that already have research or faculty ties in the country, or that have Non-Resident Indians (NRI) in senior management positions may be easier to attract.
  • What is most important is to prevent profit-seekers from entering the Indian market and to encourage foreign institutions with innovative educational ideas and a long-term commitment.
  • Many host countries have provided significant incentives, including building facilities and providing necessary infrastructure.
  • Foreign universities are highly unlikely to invest significant funds up front.
  • A big challenge will be India’s “well-known” bureaucracy, especially the multiple regulators.

Conclusion

After examining national experiences elsewhere, clear policies can be implemented that may be attractive to foreign universities. Once policies are in place, the key to success will be relationships among universities.

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