New Delhi, April 29: A law that will allow and regulate foreign universities in India is scheduled for introduction in the Lok Sabha either tomorrow or early next week, after a four-year see-saw tussle that frequently entered the political domain.
The Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations) Bill and three other key education reform legislation have been circulated by the Lok Sabha secretariat among MPs ahead of introduction, sources said.
Till late evening, the human resource development ministry and the Lok Sabha secretariat were trying to complete the formalities for the introduction of the bills tomorrow, failing which they will be listed for introduction next week. The three other legislation, which the HRD ministry will introduce in the Lok Sabha, seek to punish institutions that cheat or mislead students, introduce a mandatory accreditation regime and establish dedicated dispute-redress tribunals for the education sector.
It is the FEI Bill that is likely to raise the most political heat in Parliament with concerns cutting across party lines over allowing foreign institutions into India.
The UPA had drafted the bill in its first term and was planning to introduce it in Parliament in 2006 but backed out following the Lefts opposition from the Left which was then supporting the government from outside. The then HRD minister Arjun Singh also harboured suspicions about the bill.
The bill was redrafted after Kapil Sibal took over the HRD ministry and the draft legislation was fine-tuned by a committee of secretaries before it was approved by the cabinet earlier this year.
Foreign institutions will be free to set their own fee for courses and will not need to follow government reservation rules. They can offer degrees, diplomas and certificates either through tie-ups with Indian institutions or from campuses they themselves set up in India. The changes in the bill over the past few months — reported first by this newspaper in reports on September 20, December 6 and December 26 — liberalise some provisions and make other entry barriers still tougher.The final bill that will be introduced creates a new category of institutions called foreign educational institutions that will not be treated on a par with deemed universities — as was the plan earlier.
A Rs 10 crore corpus fund that foreign institutions had to commit to, has been raised to Rs 50 crores under pressure from the health ministry. This fund will be used to compensate students and employees if the university suddenly decides to shut shop here.A clause specifying that the government could refuse applicant institutions the right to operate based on national security concerns has been retained at the home ministrys insistence despite the PMO arguing that it be dropped.
The PMO had argued that all national laws would in any case be applicable to foreign varsities.
The final bill also bars foreign institutions from offering distance education courses.
The Prohibition of Unfair Practices Bill for the first time punishes institution administrators for cheating or misleading students through unsubstantiated claims in their prospectus and advertisements, and for charging capitation fees. The bill contains both civil and criminal penalties for violators.
The National Authority for Regulation of Accreditation in Higher Educational Institutions Bill makes it mandatory for institutions to get themselves rated for quality and allows private rating agencies to enter the education accreditation market for the first time.
The National Educational Tribunals Bill establishes national and state education tribunals that will solely take up cases pertaining to education related disputes.