The University Grants Commission (UGC) on Wednesday notified the regulations for foreign universities to set up and operate their campuses in India with complete autonomy to decide their admission process and fee structure.
The draft of the UGC (Setting up and Operation of Campuses of Foreign Higher Educational Institutions in India) Regulations, 2023 was released by the commission in January this year.
The guidelines have been prepared in line with the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 that has envisioned that top universities in the world will be facilitated to operate in India.
UGC chairman M Jagadesh Kumar said, "The regulations aim to facilitate the entry of Foreign Higher Educational Institutions (FHEIs) into India...and to provide an international dimension to higher education in India."
"These regulations aim to ensure that the education imparted in the (India) campus is at par with that of the main campus in the country of origin and that its operations comply with the applicable laws and regulations," he said.
According to the regulations, "Foreign institutions intending to establish campuses in India should have secured a position within the top 500 in the overall category of global rankings, as decided by the commission from time to time, or should have secured a position within the top 500 in the subject-wise category of global rankings and should possess outstanding expertise in a particular area...."
In case an FHEI desires to receive or utilise foreign contributions, it will have to obtain registration or prior permission under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 and comply with legal requirement under the FCRA, the UGC stated.
In their Indian campuses, foreign universities will be allowed to offer study programmes leading to the award of certificates, diplomas, degrees, research and other programmes at the undergraduate, postgraduate, doctoral and post-doctoral levels.
"Foreign universities cannot open learning centres, study centres, or franchises that may act as representative offices of the parent entity to undertake promotional activities for their programmes in their home jurisdiction or any other jurisdiction outside India. They are required to seek prior approval from the commission before starting any new programme in their campus in India," the regulations said.
"No programmes can be offered in online or in Open and Distance Learning modes under these regulations. However, lectures in online mode not exceeding 10 per cent of the programme requirements are allowed," it added.
"Two or more than two universities can collaborate to set up campuses in India, provided each institution meets the eligibility criteria individually. Each foreign university can set up more than one campus in India. However, they shall make a separate application for each proposed campus to the commission," the regulations stated.
Foreign institutions need not pay any annual fees to the UGC other than the one-time application fees. They shall set up their campuses using their own infrastructure, land, physical resources and human resources.
Foreign universities may provide in their Indian campuses full or partial merit-based or need-based scholarships and fee concession to Indian students.
"Foreign Higher Educational Institutions can admit students and collect fees in their campuses in India only after a notification has been issued by the UGC permitting them to commence their campus operations in India under these regulations."
Campuses of foreign universities in India shall have autonomy to recruit faculty and staff as per their recruitment norms, it stated.
The foreign higher educational institution shall decide the fee structure, which shall be transparent and reasonable.
Based on an evaluation process, the institution may provide full or partial merit-based or need-based scholarships from funds such as endowment funds, alumni donations, tuition revenues and other sources.
The final guidelines also suggested that FHEIs provide "fee concession" to students who are Indian citizens.
The guidelines also stated that the cross-border movement of funds and maintenance of foreign currency accounts, mode of payments, remittance, repatriation, and sale of proceeds, if any, shall be as per the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) 1999 and its Rules.
The application process for these universities will be online, and they will submit required information on the UGC portal with their application. The universities willing to apply will also to submit undertaking stating that the the the quality of education imparted by it in its Indian campus is similar to that of the main campus in the country of origin; and qualifications awarded to the students in the Indian campus shall enjoy the same recognition and status as if they were conducted in its home jurisdiction.
The UGC will then constitute a Standing Committee to examine the application.
"The Standing Committee shall assess each application on merit, including the credibility of the educational institutions, the programmes to be offered, their potential to strengthen educational opportunities in India, and the proposed academic infrastructure, and make recommendations. The recommendations of the Standing Committee shall be placed before the Commission within a period of 60 days from the date of receipt of the application, complete in all respects, the guidelines stated.
Earlier in the draft, the time period to make recommendations before the UGC was within 45 days from the date of receipt of the application. It has now been extended to 60 days.
The Foreign Higher Educational Institution will have set up campuses in India within two years from the date of receiving the approval. Meanwhile, the final regulations do not mention the initial permission will be granted for how many years.
On the contrary, the draft had mentioned that "the permission shall be granted initially for a period of ten years".
The notification stated that the FHEIs shall not offer any such programme of study which is contrary to the standards of higher education in India.
"The operation of Foreign Higher Educational Institutions shall not be contrary to the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency, or morality," the draft norms had stated.
The commission will also keep a close watch on the operations of these universities and will have the right to inspect the campus and its operations at all times to ascertain the infrastructure, academic programmes and overall quality and suitability. In case of violation of norms, the commission can take action in terms of imposing a penalty, suspend or withdraw approval at any time.
"The Commission shall have the power to visit the campus and examine its operations to ascertain the infrastructure, academic programmes and overall quality and suitability, the notification stated.
The FHEIs are expected to submit their annual reports giving details of programmes offered, the number of students admitted and passed out, and qualifications awarded with the UGC.