Foreign Higher Educational Institutions In India


    In News

    • Recently, Two Australian public universities have come forward to set up campuses in GIFT City, Gujarat.


    • The government had in 1995 drafted the Foreign Education Bill which had to be shelved.
    • An attempt was made in 2006, but the draft law could not cross the Cabinet approval stage.
    • In 2010, the UPA-2 government brought the Foreign Educational Institutions Bill, which failed to get enough support in the Parliament.The bill lapsed in 2014
    • The National Education Policy, 2020 allowed for establishment of selected universities e.g., those from among the top 100 universities in the world.
    • Finance Minister in her Budget Speech 2022 announced a new route for setting up foreign universities(GIFT IFSC)
    • UGC in January 2023 released guidelines for setting up of foreign universities.

    Advantages of Allowing Foreign Universities

    • Beneficial for Students: The Government recently told the Rajya Sabha that 
      • 11.3 lakh Indian students were studying abroad. 
      • A recent report has estimated that Indians would be spending US$ 80 billion annually for studies abroad by 2024-25.

    Foreign universities could provide the same quality of education without students relocating.

    • Reduced FOREX outflow: International branch campuses help in reducing the foreign exchange outflow.
    • Address the issue of Gross Enrollment Ratio: foreign universities in India may increase the enrollment ratio by providing more options for higher education and potentially attracting more students to pursue degrees.
      • Despite having one of the largest higher education systems in the world, India’s Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education is just 27.1%, among the world’s lowest.
    • Increased Competitiveness: By having foreign universities in India, the country can become more competitive globally in terms of education and research.
    • Cultural Exchange: Having foreign universities in India can foster cultural exchange and understanding between India and other countries.
    • Boost Research: The enrolments in M.Phil and PhD courses in india is very low. It can be expected that campuses of reputed foreign institutions  will improve enrolments in research courses and help improve the research ecosystem in India.


    • Regulatory challenges: The following regulatory factors may deter foreign higher educational institutions from investing in India-
      • Multi-layer regulatory framework governing different aspects of higher education
      • Lack of a single regulatory body overlooking the collaborations.
      • Multiple bureaucratic  approvals required to operate in India
    • Fees: The fees charged by foreign institution are often much higher than those charged by Indian institutions, which could make higher education less accessible to students from lower-income families.
    • Lack Of Interest : Many  reputed  foreign higher educational institutions operate on a not-for-profit basis and have no materialistic motives to go offshore.
      • A few countries that have such offshore campuses like Qatar had to hard-sell the institutions the idea by leasing land at almost no cost, bearing the bulk of infrastructure cost and promising them the academic, administrative and financial autonomy that they enjoy in their home country.India could hardly afford any such incentives.
    • Luke Warm Experience: A casual look at foreign institutions in other countries shows not a great picture.
    • Uneven Playing Field: foreign higher educational institutions(FHEI) can be for-profit institutions and they’ll be allowed to repatriate surplus funds abroad. Indian public HEIs are not ‘for-profit’ and have to reinvest the surplus. This will put FHEIs on a different pedestal than Indian HEIs.

    Way Forward:

    • Developing Clear and Transparent Regulations: The government should establish clear guidelines for the establishment, operation, and accreditation of foreign universities in India. This can help ensure that these institutions operate in a way that is consistent with Indian laws and regulations.
    • Promoting Collaboration and Partnerships: Instead of allowing foreign universities to establish standalone campuses in India, the government could encourage them to collaborate and partner with existing Indian institutions. This could help to mitigate competition and ensure that the benefits of foreign universities are shared with Indian institutions and students.
    • Setting up EEZs: Setting up Education Excellence Zones (EEZs)  result, knowledge production would be clustered in India, and FHEIs could be invited into these EEZs for true inter-university excellence and competition.

    State Of Higher Education in India 

    • With more than 500 million people,India has the largest population in the world in the age bracket of 5-24 years, presenting a huge opportunity in the education sector.
    • India is the world’s 2nd largest higher education system, with around 38 million students in 50,000 academic institutions (including 1,057 universities).
    • India has an aim of doubling gross enrolment rates from the current 26.3% to 50% by 2035.(NEP,2020)
    • India is the 2nd largest source of international students (after China) globally.