Indian campuses of foreign universities may not be a preferred choice for many who see foreign degrees also as a stepping stone for migration to another country, according to subject experts and students.
The University Grants Commission (UGC) unveiled draft norms for allowing, for the first time, foreign universities to set up campuses in India with autonomy to decide the admission procedure and fees structure.
Several subject experts and students aspiring to study abroad feel that studying in a foreign university is much more than about just earning an international degree.
“More and more students go because the studies in foreign countries gives them advantage to get jobs opportunity to settle in those countries, so the Indian campuses of such universities will not be of any help to retain them,’ said Ripun Das, who is moving to the United States this year for pursuing his management degree at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School.
Sharan Banerjee, a PhD scholar at Cornell University’s SC John School of Business, believes the value of these foreign universities is often in the community you find on the campuses.
“Allowing them to set up campuses may not replicate the same success story or may be less appealing in terms of worth or degree and rigour, among other things,” he said.
According to Rajesh Jha, a professor at Delhi University, everywhere the main campus of a university is the major attraction.
“Secondly, educational institutions evolve over a period of time with strong roots in local social and cultural mileu. So a foreign student would prefer to go to a university’s home campus than a campus in India,” he told PTI.
According to a recent survey by INTO University Partnerships, almost eight in 10 Indian students (76 per cent to be precise) look at a study abroad plan to work and settle overseas after completing their international degree.
Similarly, a report on international migration patterns by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recently pointed out that Indians studying in economically developed countries are the most likely among all foreign students to stay back in their host country and join the local workforce.
“The move will have some impact. But I don’t think it will reduce the flow of students going for higher education abroad. They go there for different reasons such as living experience in the developed world, staying in different culture, work experience, migrate etc,” said Dr Milind Kulkarni, an IIT Bombay alumnus and Director, Prakruti Education and Research Foundation.
UGC Chairman M Jagadesh Kumar, however, has a different view on this.
“(The number of) Indian students who want to study abroad will be more than a million in near future. Campuses of foreign universities in India can admit only a fraction of students who are going abroad. Therefore, those who go abroad for possible immigration after studies will continue to go abroad,” he told PTI.
“Other students who do not plan to immigrate may choose to study in the campuses of FHEIs in India. Therefore, both categories of students will continue to make their choices and I do not see any problem in this,” he added.
As per the draft norms, the foreign universities with campuses in the country can only offer full-time programmes in offline mode and not online or distance learning.
Foreign Higher education Institutions (FHEIs) will need a nod from the UGC to set up their campuses in India.
The initial approval will be for 10 years and will be renewed in the ninth year subject to the meeting of certain conditions. These institutions shall not offer any such study programme which jeopardises the national interest of India or the standards of higher education here.
While these universities will have the freedom to decide their admission criteria and fee structure, the commission has advised keeping the fees “reasonable and transparent”.
“It is not always the quality of education that attracts people to go abroad. Quality of life also matters. Life outside campus matters. If a foreign university opens up in India, it won’t stop Indian students from going abroad. Sure it is good for those who cannot go abroad,” said Ujjwal Jha, a study abroad and migration expert.
Over 6.5 lakh Indian students went abroad in 2022 to pursue higher education, according to data shared by the Union education department in Parliament.
The number of students who went to study abroad showed a significant rise from 4.54 lakh in 2017 to 5.86 lakh in 2019. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number fell by half to 2.59 lakh in 2020. Over 4.4 lakh Indians went abroad for higher education in 2021.
The data also showed that most Indian students preferred Canada, the USA and UK to pursue degree courses.
“Do you think there would be many takers for Indian campuses of foreign Universities? Don’t most students go to Universities abroad with the hope of getting a work visa there? Exception might be Ivy Leaguers and the top British Universities,” said Arunraj Nair.