ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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For the Elites

What kind of university system does the government propose by allowing foreign universities?

Union Minister for Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal claims that the establishment of foreign universities in India with degree-granting powers will bring about a major change in the higher education sector. Perhaps, but of what kind? The Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations) Bill has been approved by the union cabinet and is due to be tabled in Parliament soon. Foreign direct investment (100%) in education in the automatic route has been allowed since 2000; the proposed legislation will also enable such institutions to confer degrees and diplomas in the country.

The bill has been drafted under the paradigm that higher education is a commodity, an idea set out in 2005 in a consultation note of the commerce ministry of the first United Progressive Alliance government. That note had argued for closing the gap between what is required by the market and what is produced in institutions of higher education through the introduction of foreign education providers. The new bill – of which only a draft is in circulation – aims to work in that direction, lays down the conditions for entry and proposes a regulatory environment for overseeing such providers. But will the entry of foreign universities into India lead to an increase in access to higher education and, if so, of what kind? And perhaps most important, what impact will this have on the Indian state-run university system, where the overwhelming majority of college-going students will continue to have to obtain their education?

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