Foreign Educational Institutions Bill: A Boon or a Bane

It was a fine evening when I was thinking about the institutes that I might be interested in pursuing my Masters in Business Administration from. When this thought came in my mind. will it be more beneficial in following the trend and studying abroad?

My mind was intertwined amidst a pool of questions. What is that the foreign universities have to offer to me? It was then that I thought of some of the key factors and listed them down:

  • Infrastructure: They have the best in class infrastructure with sprawling buildings spread far and wide and what pleasure it will be studying in such an ambience.
  • Flexibility to choose: On surfing the websites of some reputed foreign universities I was allured by the courses they offered and more importantly the flexibility in choosing courses that they offered.
  • International Exposure: The most important factor was the international exposure that I could get. Just imagine studying with people from diverse fields and from various cultures. Lot of learning opportunities indded.
  • Faculty: On browsing through the faculty profiles, I was left dumbstruck as I realized that all of them were experts in their field; something very important in order to boost the learning experience.
  • International Degree: And of course a foreign degree will for sure increase the chances of getting a good placement with a woofing package.

And in the days when all this was going in my mind the Foreign Educational Institutions Bill got passed in the Parliament and caught my attention. And as is said the grass is always greener on the other side, so the initial thought was that it is the most sound decision that the government has taken in the education sector. But I was not ready to rely on assumptions and premonitions so I started my spree to get an in depth understanding of whether the bill is a show-stopper or a show-stealer.

Insight into doors of education being opened in other countries:

The Foreign Educational Institutions Bill is something new in India but it is something that is already prevalent fully or partially in many other countries of the world. Few years ago Singapore let open the doors of its education policy for the foreign players to establish their presence. In 2003 China even partially opened its doors to foreign universities but with close collaboration with state institutions for better monitoring.

The Gulf countries were not far behind in letting their education sector come in confluence of foreign universities as well. The result if to be analyzed has been different in all the countries as it heavily depends on various regional parameters which vary from country to country.

Key points of the bill:

In case of India let us analyze the key points of the bill:

  • An eight-month time bound format has been prescribed by the government for granting approval to foreign universities to set up their campuses in India. For this the registration process is to pass through different levels to get acclamation and for the institutions to get finally registered with UGC or any other apex body in place for regulation process.
  • No quota laws will be compelled on these universities and the decision is left solely to their discretion to go for quotas or not.
  • It is also proposed that in order to set up their campuses in India these universities will have to deposit an amount ranging to Rs 50 crore as a corpus fund.
  • The key factor that will decide the interest that foreign players will take in setting their campuses in India is that they will not be allowed to repatriate the surplus generated from education activities.
  • The bill also has the provision to reject the application or registration of the university if it is not in terms with the regulations proposed.

Now the need arises in tracking the effects of the bill. Some say the bill is a milestone and some say that it is a mark of putting our education system on sale.

Analysing effects of the bill:

All those who consider the passing of the bill a bane are of the notion that the bill does not offer social justice to all as it is bound to benefit the elite class only. Pertaining to the high fee structure that these institutions will offer it is imperative that the poor people will not be able to get their children in these elite institutions. But what most of us fail to understand is that setting up of these institutions is not snatching the already available seats in the present institutions running in India. By coming in picture only fresh new seats are being created. The government of course needs to provide more and more merit-cum scholarships and cheap loans to open the door of education for all.

The second area of concern is that these institutions will only be interested in garnering their profits rather than improving the quality of education in India thereby making Indian students victims in the wake of their brand reputation by charging high fees and providing low quality education. No doubt this is one of the prominent concerns whether these campuses in India will be able to maintain their reputation or will actually misuse their reputation.

I strongly feel that it is the quality of education that will speak. If students do not get the benefit due to low quality education delivered people would not like to honk admissions in these institutes as with so many players entering the education field the arena of choices will expand. Also the most important factor is that with more choices the competition will be more so not providing quality education will prove impetuous to the brand name of organizations and will not let the students become victims unless they willingly want to become. After all brand value plays an important role in working of any organization.

The third concern is that opening of foreign universities may pose as a threat to the foreign exchange that India earns with respect to foreign students who come to India to study as with the opening of these universities they may migrate there. But we need to consider the fact that the ratio of these students to the students who go from India to study abroad is very less. Going for some statistical analysis we come to know that at present approximately 1.8 lakh students go abroad for higher studies every year. According to the government figures, $2.247 billion worth of foreign exchange is swept out of the country as remittance towards tuition fees and other expenses by Indian students in 2008-2009.

So, one of the main objectives of the bill is to prevent this outflow of currency out of the country by letting these institutions open their campuses in India. Possibly, it will help as many students may stay back in India to pursue their higher studies. Also the students coming to India to study will also be coming specifically to study maybe Indian courses or because of the fact that the tertiary education in India is cheap than in their country. So deducing their migration as a threat will not be a major problem.

Fourth area of concern is that these institutions may not provide need based curriculum as it may not be beneficial to them from profit earning motive. Indeed this could be the case but seeing the other side we may find that with passage of time if these need based services start attracting more and more students then these institutions may mould their curriculum to cater to the growing scenario.

The Foreign Educational Institutions Bill is a boon or a bane will only be decided on the fact that to which extent it will be able to fulfill its objectives in true spirit in collaboration with merging with the Indian education scenario. We hope that it will enable international exposure to world class education system and will help the students and faculty in getting benefited and in raising the standard of education in our country.

Manisha Rana