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Nod to Foreign Campuses in India ‘Misleading Dream’ of Ivy League Education

Ravi Kaushal |
Several teachers and students allege that the decision will make education expensive and also come at the cost of social justice.

Representational Image. Image Courtesy: NDTV

Several teachers and students have criticised the University Grants Commission’s (UGC) latest regulations on setting up campuses of foreign higher educational institutions as “peddling fallacious dreams of an Ivy League education at affordable costs”.

The top 500 universities ranked across the world will be allowed to open their offshore campuses with autonomy in deciding fees, curricula, faculty recruitment and transfer of remittance to the origin country.

According to the regulations, uploaded on the UGC website, “The campus of Foreign Higher Educational Institutions (FHEI) may evolve their admission process and criteria to admit domestic and foreign students. It shall decide the fees structure, which should be transparent and reasonable.”

The FHEI “shall make available the prospectus on its website, at least, 60 days before the commencement of admissions, including fees structure, refund policy, number of seats in a programme, eligibility qualifications and admission process”.

FHEIs shall have the autonomy to recruit faculty and staff from India and abroad as per its recruitment norms and may decide the qualifications, salary structure, and other conditions of service for appointing faculty and staff.

“However, the FHEI shall ensure that the qualifications of the faculty appointed shall be on par with the main campus of the country of origin,” the draft adds.

However, teachers and students organisations allege that the decision will not only make education expensive but also come at the cost of social justice.

“They are peddling fallacious dreams of an ‘Ivy League education at affordable costs. The reality is far from it as these foreign universities will provide education at a cost unaffordable for the vast majority of our population as they will be unfettered in deciding curricula, fees structure and salaries of teachers,” the Democratic Teachers Front (DTF) said in a statement. “This will no doubt increase the cost of education in these institutions.”

The DTF added that the content of the education provided in these institutes “will work to attenuate the quest for democratic policy autonomy in the country”.

DTF secretary Abha Dev Habib told Newsclick that public- funded universities are being “starved of funds, which has resulted in a slow but steady erosion of the quality of education imparted in many of these premier institutions”.

“Forcing public higher educational institutions to take loans from higher education financing agencies is also leading to an increase in the cost of education,” Habib further said adding

that the “increase in the cost of education will result in the exclusion of a large section of our society, especially the deprived, which seeks empowerment through education”.

Besides, it will “lead to a mismatch between the demand for and availability of skilled workers”, Habib, who teaches physics at Miranda House College, Delhi, contended.

Arguing that government’s aim is to “compromise the quality of higher education in public-funded universities,” she said., “Ironically, foreign universities have been prohibited from running online programmes whereas the government is envisioning a national digital university.”

The UGC regulations on Academic Bank of Credits and the credit framework for online courses through SWAYAM (Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCS) allow a student to pursue up to 50% of the course online from other universities/Swayam portal, she added.

“Another regulation on blended learning also mandates that a further 40% of each paper taught by teachers in the parent university will be online in the form of video lectures. This will lead to up to 70% of a course offered by a student being digitalised. In fact, the government is set to enact a law to start a National Digital University which will allow a student to pursue any courses fully online,” Habib said.

The Aam Aadmi Party-affiliated Academics for Action and Development Teachers Association (AADTA) alleged that the regulations will “convert educational institutions into commercial enterprises and elitist enclaves and make them distant from Indian socioeconomic-cultural problems”.

“This is the reactivation of the ‘drain theory’, by which these educational East India Companies will try to plunder the vast education sector. The social justice concerns have been totally ignored, which are very important in our context, where higher education is a very effective means of social change,” the AADTA said in a statement.

AADTA national head Aditya Narain Mishra told Newsclick that the regulations have “no provisions for caste- based/economic-based/minority-based/armed forces-based/ Divyang-based/ Kashmiri migrants/representation- based/women reservation in student admissions and faculty requirements”.

For example, there is “no reservation for SC/ST/OBC/EWS/PH/armed forces/women in admissions and appointments. There is no clarity on the syllabus and its content. Similarly, there will be no elected representative in governance/governing body. If a foreign institution fails in its operations, how will the UGC take care of students studying in that institution?” he asked.

Students’ Federation of India (SFI ) general secretary Mayukh Biswas said that the “ruling party is perhaps forgetting the fact that it had opposed the earlier versions of the regulations introduced in UPA-II administration”.

“The idea of foreign university campuses in every nook and corner of India might feel very empowering, but the reality is that this will definitely weaken the education system,” he told Newsclick adding that the pandemic has “severely affected the

student community with several of them out of the education system since they couldn’t afford it”. The introduction of foreign universities will “further enable this gap with only the elite able to afford higher education”, he added.

According to Biswas, the UGC has given “complete freedom to foreign universities to decide the fees structure. State governments were also not consulted before releasing the draft norms in such a way that the federal structure of the country was completely ignored throughout the procedure”.

Alleging that the Centre has “already failed in maintaining thequality of higher education”, he said, “The only interest of the government seems to be in providing funds and ‘institute of eminence’ status to non-existent private universities like JIO University.”

Notably, most eminent foreign universities, according to him, “never set up campuses other than their original campus space to ensure the quality and eminence of education. The regulations must be done away with immediately”.

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