India’s New National Education Policy Offers New Opportunities for Foreign Educational Institutions

Posted by Reading Time: 4 minutes

By Dezan Shira & Associates
Editor: Tracie Frost

The Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) of the Government of India recently announced its intent to establish a new National Education Policy (NEP).  The current policy has been unchanged since 1992. MHRD’s document, “Some Inputs for Draft National Education Policy 2016,” is open for public comment until July 31, 2016. The higher education aspects of the policy are of particular interest to foreign educational institutions.

According to a report written for MHRD, nearly 300,000 Indian students study abroad, mostly in post-graduate and doctorate programs, spending about US$ 9 billion per year. Nearly half of those 300,000 students go to the United States, with the United Kingdom and Australia accounting for most of the other destinations for studying abroad. Annual spending by Indians for foreign studies is twice the amount allocated in the central government budget for higher education, and nearly 20 times what Indian higher education institutions spend on research collectively. In contrast, only 75,000 foreign students come to India, many only for short duration study programs; less than 20,000 international students are enrolled in degree programs, most of them undergraduate students from South Asia.

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In recognition of the fact that many of India’s best students go to foreign universities, the report recommends that India encourage high quality foreign universities and educational institutions to collaborate with Indian partners and establish an Indian presence. The report further suggests that “while the nature and cooperation and collaboration may vary, the foreign university should be in a position to offer their own degree to the Indian students… The key essential would be the collaborating foreign partner would be among the top 200 Universities of the world… The opportunity should be used to ‘globalize’ Indian higher education without compromising the basic needs of access, equity and quality for the Indian student.”

The Indian government has long resisted allowing foreign universities to offer degrees to Indian students in India. Yet, given that only a small percentage of Indian students have a chance to be admitted into the ultra-competitive top-tier Indian degree programs, it is understandable that so many Indian students see value in studying abroad. India’s educational system currently lacks the robust institutions at national, state, and district levels that are necessary to provide and manage quality colleges. The NEP’s proposals for foreign universities seek to close the gap in creating such institutions while reforming the existing ones.

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While the NEP is yet to get adopted, MHRD’s recommendations are significant for foreign educational institutions interested in investing in the Indian educational market. The draft NEP is not clear regarding how the “top 200 Universities of the world” will be defined. What is apparent though is that India may likely be selective in choosing which educational institutions are allowed to confer degrees in India. Following the adoption of the NEP, the Government may seek to codify the new policies into law through legislation. However, there is some doubt as to whether the Modi Government has sufficient support in the upper house of parliament to ratify such changes.  Many interested parties, including foreign governments and higher educational institutions, have made or are planning to make comments during the comment period to encourage the adoption of the NEP.

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