Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

UGC norms to setup Foreign Universities in India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Top foreign universities

Mains level: Read the attached story

foreign universities

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has unveiled draft regulations for ‘Setting up and Operation of Campuses of Foreign Higher Educational Institutions in India’.

Quest for Foreign Universities in India: A quick recap

  • The government had in 1995 drafted the Foreign Education Bill which had to be shelved.
  • Another attempt was made in 2006, but the draft law could not cross the Cabinet stage.
  • Then in 2010, the UPA-2 government brought the Foreign Educational Institutions Bill, which failed to get enough support in the Parliament.
  • The bill lapsed in 2014 as UPA lost power.
  • The New Education Policy, 2020 allows for establishment of foreign university campuses in India.

Procedure for Universities coming to India

  • The process for getting approval for setting up a campus in India will be strictly online in the beginning. Interested institutions have to apply at the UGC portal with a non-refundable fee, and then submit some documents.
  • After the applications are received, a committee formed by the Commission will examine these applications on these factors:
  1. Credibility of the institution
  2. Programmes to be offered by the institution
  3. Their potential to strengthen academic opportunities in India
  4. Proposed infrastructure

UGC (Setting up and Operation of Campuses of Foreign Higher Educational Institutions in India) Regulations 2023: Key questions answered

  • UGC approval compulsory: All foreign universities that wish to set up their campus in India will be allowed to do so only after getting approval from the UGC.
  • Reputed institutions: To set up a campus in Indian foreign universities will either have to be in the top 500 to apply or will have to be “highly reputed” in their respective countries (if the varsity does not participate in global rankings). If their ranking is between 500 and 100, but the subject-wise ranking is higher than overall, then in such cases, the institutions will be permitted to set up their campuses only for those ranked subjects.
  • Quality assurance: Additionally, the UGC will reserve the right to inspect these Indian campuses of foreign HEIs at any time, and they will not be outside the purview of anti-ragging and other criminal laws.
  • Offline classes only: All the foreign universities that open their branches in India will be allowed to conduct offline classes only, i.e. foreign universities can offer only full-time programmes in physical mode.
  • Freedom to choose admission process, fee, and faculty: All foreign varsities will have the freedom to come up with their own admission process. However, the universities will have to ensure “quality of education imparted at their Indian campuses is on par with their main campus.”
  • Admissions to all: Foreign higher educational institutes will have the freedom to enroll Indian as well as international students on their Indian campuses.
  • International funds transfer: To ensure that there is no chaos in funds transfer, all matters related to funding will be as per the Foreign Exchange Management Act 1999.
  • Safeguarding of students’ interest: FHEI shall not discontinue any course or programme or close the campus without the commission’s prior approval. In the case of a course or programme disruption or discontinuation, the parent entity shall be responsible for providing an alternative to the affected students.
  • Equivalence with degrees awarded by Indian HEIs: The qualifications awarded to the students in the Indian campus shall be recognised and treated as equivalent to the corresponding qualifications awarded by the FEHI in the main campus located in the country of origin.
  • Securing India’s national interest: FEHIs shall not offer any such programme or course which jeopardises the national interest of India or the standards of higher education in India. The operation of FEHIs shall not be contrary to the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency, or morality.

Why such move?

  • Increase in domestic enrolment: India has more than 1000 universities and 42,000 colleges. Despite having one of the largest higher education systems in the world, India’s Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education is just 27.1%, among the worlds’ lowest.
  • Education quality improvement: The lack of quality in Indian education is reflected in the QS World University Rankings 2022. IIT Bombay was the top-ranking Indian institute in the list with a ranking of 177. Only eight Indian universities made it to the top 400.
  • Paving the way: London Business School, King’s College in London, the University of Cambridge, and New York University have started preliminary discussion with the GIFT City authorities and the regulator to establish facilities at the GIFT International Financial Services Centre.

Benefits of the move

  • Human capital generation: This move would complement efforts to provide high quality human capital to India’s financial services industry.
  • Decreased overseas spending: Indian students’ overseas spending is set to grow from current annual $28 billion to $80 billion annually by 2024.
  • Reduce FOREX spending: Apart from fostering a competition in quality, International branch campuses can also help in reducing the foreign exchange outflow.
  • Prevents brain-drain: Education attracts opportunities. Atmanirbhar Bharat push will retain the domestic talent. More than eight lakh Indians gave up their citizenship in the last seven years.
  • Increase India’s soft power: Opening the door for foreign universities can improve India’s soft power as it will provide further impetus to the government’s Study in India programme that seeks to attract foreign students.


  • Regulatory challenges: The following factors may deter foreign higher educational institutions from investing in India-
  1. Multi-layer regulatory framework governing different aspects of higher education
  2. Lack of a single regulatory body overlooking the collaborations/ investments and
  3. Multiple approvals required to operate in India
  • Implementation issues: While NEP has taken the right steps to boost the education sector and pave the way for a globally-compatible education system, its implementation has been slow and requires clarity.
  • Higher possibility of Brain Drain: A policy challenge that stands before the GoI is to facilitate such tie-ups in a way that the Indian talent chooses to and is incentivised to remain in India and the Indian educational infrastructure is developed to match global standards.


  • The intent of the GoI, with respect to international universities setting up campuses in India, is clear from the provisions in the NEP.
  • However, much clarity is awaited for the proper implementation.


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