16 Sep 2020 20:40 IST

NEP opens doors to foreign universities and fulfils many dreams

Aspirants will be able to access world-class education at a lower cost without having to travel overseas

In recent times, offshore, cross-border, and transnational higher education have become trending terms. Every year, lakhs of students from India board flights to universities abroad to venture on a new journey. In 2019 alone, more than 7.5 lakh students went overseas for their higher education.

While the global coronavirus pandemic has put a halt on students’ plans to go abroad, this trend may not be deeply hit in the long run. Realising that more and more students dream of foreign education, but may not have the resources to fulfil the same, India announced a new plan. The new National Education Policy (NEP) that opens the door for foreign universities to set up campuses in India and help students fulfil their dreams while at home.

The NEP suggests, top 100 universities in the world will be facilitated to operate in India. A legislative framework will be put in place, facilitating their entry and those universities will be given special exemptions regarding regulatory, governance, and content norms on par with other institutions of India.

Looking forward

The new policy will bring a massive change in the global education system. As several educators suggest, this is a new wave of optimism. By allowing foreign universities to open campuses in the country will make it possible for students to access quality education locally. The expectation is to enable aspirants with a world-class education at a significantly lower cost without travelling overseas.

Many may also believe opening foreign universities in India is to discourage students from travelling abroad. It will further help reputed and top-ranked foreign universities to have a local presence and attract more students not just in India but from other countries as well. The government also envisions increasing the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education from 26.3 per cent in 2018 to 50 per cent by 2035. The new policy may act as a catalyst in meeting the GER goal by 2035 as it may lure a large student population into the country, thus India becoming a hub of global education.

Promoting collaborative education

Establishing campuses of global institutes in India will enhance cross-learning through student exchange programs and twinning programs. This will further promote research collaboration between Indian institutions and global institutions. World-class universities equipped with laboratories and research centres of international standards will be set up. Foreign partnerships will enable local institutes to design their curriculum in alignment with global teaching standards and offer a diverse portfolio of subjects and specialisation to students.

Any foreign university setting its campus in India either directly or in collaboration with another party would ideally want the student to at least experience one semester abroad in their main campus.

Essence of studying abroad

Whilst NEP has the potential to open up new opportunities, it can’t be denied that travelling to another country for higher education has unique benefits. Why do students prefer to go abroad for higher education? It is because cross-border education brings global awareness, cultural perspective, and competitiveness among students. It helps them to develop a broader outlook and provides for internships and jobs, that are probably unavailable in India. It also enhances student’s interpersonal and intra-personal skills contributing to their holistic development and is a great way to savour first-hand foreign culture, as well.

It is unknown as of now whether top universities will actually take a step forward and establish campuses, considering that fees charged by educational institutions will be capped. So far, complex FDI policy, lack of regulatory frameworks, and inability to award an international degree have demotivated the foreign universities in the regulated higher education sector to set up universities. They remained limited mostly to the unregulated sector such as vocational and distance learning education.

With NEP put in place, if foreign universities within India wish to grant foreign degrees, a framework needs to be chalked including full curriculum mapping with approval from the University Grants Commission. Foreign universities may also prefer to provide the first few years in India and the final year in the UK, US, Australia, or Canada. Now, the real test for the educators and policymakers is to formulate well-structured regulatory guidelines for foreign universities to operate in India.

(The writer is CEO, Founder, Edvoy, an education consultancy platform.)