14 April 2015 14:29:31 IST

Govt looking at de-reserving education sector

Moving higher education out of the ‘not-for-profit’ category is under consideration of the Centre as it works on norms to reform the sector

A senior Government official told BusinessLine that, a whole gamut of relaxations, including de-reserving the sector from the ‘not-for-profit’ category and allowing repatriation of profits are being looked at. The Commerce Ministry has initiated inter-ministerial consultations on reforming the higher-education system. The Centre is working on allowing foreign universities to set up campuses in India in collaboration with local partners on less stringent terms and also award their degrees.

“We have asked for a Committee of Secretaries (CoS) to be set up. But we will need another round of inter-ministerial consultations before that can happen as some issues need to be ironed out further,” the official said.The reforms will allow easier university collaborations in the country, encourage Indian universities to set up branches in other countries and make distant education easier.

“Foreign universities will be allowed to introduce their own curriculum, bring their own teachers and also pay their own levels of salaries,” the official said.The UPA Government, too, had attempted to reform the sector by introducing the Foreign Educational Institutions (Entry and Operations) Bill, in Parliament in May 2010, but it lapsed last year.

While many of the reforms being considered by the BJP government is on the lines of the lapsed Bill, the key difference is the suggestion that profit making be allowed in the higher education sector and foreign investors be permitted to repatriate their profits.“It is futile to think that reputed universities like Harvard would open their campuses in India if these are not allowed to repatriate the profit that they make. Allowing profit making is a suggestion that the Commerce Ministry has made,” another official said.

The CoS, which when formed will be headed by the Cabinet Secretary and include Secretaries from key Ministries including Human Resource Development (HRD), Commerce & Industry, Law and Finance, will feed its recommendations to the HRD Ministry which will then decide how it is to be implemented.

“Whether the old Bill is revived with changes or a new Bill is drafted are issues that the HRD will decide,” the official said.

High-Levels of Regulations

Foreign universities have so far shied away from opening their campuses here because of the high levels of regulations, but some including The University of Chicago, Harvard Business School and Deakin University have opened their centres for research in India.

If allowed to make profits, Indian universities, too, would be interested in branching out in other countries.

The Government also hopes to attract students from neighbouring countries such as Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and the Middle East, who may find it cheaper to study in the campuses of foreign universities in India rather than travelling to the West.

“We not only hope to save foreign exchange by retaining our own students who would have otherwise travelled abroad, we plan to be net foreign exchange earners with students from neighbouring countries enrolling in foreign universities in India,” the official said.