The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rein on foreign universities

New Delhi, March 31: There will be no more free-play for foreign universities functioning in India.

All foreign universities will be brought within the ambit of the University Grants Commission Act and will be governed by its rules and regulations. The recommendation is going to be put up before the Cabinet and is part of the sweeping changes suggested by the human resources development ministry to make the Act more relevant in the rapidly-changing scenario.

“We have made our recommendations and these are lying with the human resources development ministry. It is now the ministry’s prerogative to lay down a final blueprint of the amendments,” says UGC chairperson Arun Nigavekar.

At present, there are more than 100 foreign universities functioning from India. The majority of them are from the US, followed by the UK and Australia. Branches of these universities do not have to conform to any law. “It is nothing but free-play for them. At present, we have no proper Act to monitor their functioning and keep an eye on the quality (of education they impart),” says G.D. Sharma, a professor at the National Educational Institute of Administration and Planning, a think-tank of the ministry.

“Many countries have already changed their laws governing higher education institutions. Malaysia is one of them,” points out Sharma, whose institution has been working on reforms in higher education.

Policymakers and educationists feel that once the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade comes into effect in the service sector, including education, more foreign universities will tap the Indian market. In the absence of a proper monitoring authority, there will be total chaos, they maintain.

The situation in this sector, even at present, is worrying policymakers to the extent that they have already suggested harsh penalties for individuals and organisations running fake universities.

“The foreign universities functioning in India today — whether from United States, Britain or Australia — are not among the top institutions in their respective countries,” asserts Sharma. He says many of these are not even accredited in their countries.

Once the UGC Act becomes applicable to foreign universities, they will have to ensure proper quality. The UGC will also have the power to check the antecedents of a foreign university setting up a branch in India.

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