New Delhi, May 7: The CPM has stopped the foreign universities bill from being tabled in the Rajya Sabha, setting back the government’s efforts to open up education to overseas investment.
The bill, which lays down the rules for foreign universities looking to enter India, received cabinet clearance in November after differences within the government were sorted out over how strict the regulations would be.
The CPM, however, opposes the very idea of foreign universities setting up shop in India on the ground that it will “commercialise education”.
The Centre will not put the bill, which was to be tabled last week, in cold storage but the legislation is now up for lengthy negotiations.
“We asked the government not to bring in the bill without discussing it with us,” said CPM Rajya Sabha member Brinda Karat.
The human resource development ministry wants the bill speeded up not so much out of love for FDI in education as out of eagerness for some control over the foreign institutions now operating in India with local partners. These institutions now need no clearance, either from the University Grants Commission or the All India Council of Technical Education.
“We can discuss a regulatory mechanism for the existing foreign institutions,” Brinda said.
Under the bill, foreign universities will have the status of deemed universities in India. Fly-by-night operators will be weeded out.
The bill says the foreign universities will receive “national” and not “preferential” treatment, which means they must adopt the quota regime.
The HRD ministry has had a run-in over this with the commerce ministry, which felt that too severe regulations, especially the quotas, would put off foreign universities.
“The National Knowledge Commission, too, wants a “flexible approach”.
The CPM, however, suspects that the foreign providers will somehow receive preferential treatment. It worries not only about the admission policy but also about how much fees these universities will charge and how much their teachers will be paid.
The party also believes that the curricula at these institutions would be “unsuitable” for Indian students.
Several states, however, are vying with each other to attract FDI in education.