New Delhi, Dec. 26: A committee of secretaries vetting a proposed law to regulate foreign universities has rejected plans to exempt select globally-renowned varsities from most of the regulations in recommendations that could dramatically alter the legislation.
The panel of senior central bureaucrats has also recommended retaining a clause allowing the government to deny a foreign university entry based on national security concerns, overruling objections from the Prime Ministers Office (PMO).
Top government sources privy to the committees discussions said the panel had strongly objected to two key proposals pushed by the PMO.
The panels recommendations will now be examined by the cabinet along with the latest draft of the legislation the Foreign Education Providers (Regulation of Entry and Operations) Bill, 2009.
The cabinet is likely to examine the bill and the recommendations in January because the government is keen to try and introduce the legislation in the budget session of Parliament, scheduled to begin in February.
The panels recommendations, along with a five-fold hike in the minimum corpus needed for foreign universities to start campuses here reported by The Telegraph today raise the entry barriers to such varsities.
Originally, the bill allowed the Centre to grant exemption from most provisions to select institutions only if they pumped in at least 51 per cent of the total investment for setting up an institution in India if they came with a partner.
But the draft bill presented to the panel of secretaries included a change proposed by the PMO to further recognise the reputation and international standing of some institutions.
The change, reported by this newspaper on December 6, pertained to dropping the proviso requiring 51 per cent investment in the Indian institution to become eligible for exemption.
But the panel, which met on December 7 and December 11, has objected to the exemption clause Section 9 of the bill and has suggested in its final recommendations that it be omitted.
If the committees recommendation is accepted by the cabinet, no foreign university can seek exemption from the bills provisions even if it meets the earlier condition of 51 per cent investment.
It was argued at the committee of secretaries that the exemption clause could lead to problems as the government could be accused of bias in terms of who is exempt and who isnt, a source who participated in the discussions said.
As mentioned in the December 6 report in this paper, clauses pertaining to national security and linguistic sensitivities were dropped from the bill after the PMO objected. As all domestic laws are applicable to foreign universities, a separate mention of these clauses was unnecessary, the PMO had argued.
But a concerned home ministry objected to the deletion of the provision which will empower the government to deny entry to foreign educational institutions on grounds of national security.
In its recommendations, the secretaries panel has said the national security clause be restored keeping in mind the home ministrys concerns.
The panel consisted of representatives from 13 departments and ministries, apart from the Planning Commission.