Sunday, September 15, 2013

Foreign Universities in India: Indian Ministry of HRD tries to govern through regulations what it cannot do by law

In a very interesting move, the Ministry of HRD which regulates Universities through the University Grants Commission is now proposing to pass a set of regulations called the UGC (Establishment and Operation of Campuses of Foreign Educational Institutions) Rules to allow foreign Universities to set up campuses in India.

See the news release at with its grammatical and spelling mistakes!!

Mr. Kapil Sibal, a lawyer and the former Minister tried to get the same thing done through an Act of law to be passed through the Parliament which is yet to take it up.  What the lawyer could not do, the current Minister, an MBA from Temple University USA, may succeed by a clever play of governing through rules and regulations.  This is how bureaucrats have always been governing the country through extra-legal means.

This set of rules comes on the heels of the Supreme Court decision that struck down the rules framed by the AICTE, another body of the MHRD, through which the AICTE has been claiming to regulate all the MBA programs in the country.

The new rules that the MHRD is framing through which it seeks to allow foreign Universities to set up campuses in India and award degrees specifies that the foreign Universities can set up a legal entity under The Companies Act under Section 25 which would make it a non-profit entity and thus no distribution of surplus funds is possible.  It also stipulates a deposit of US$ 4 million (Rs.25 crores; thanks to the Rupee depreciation) which may be forfeited if the foreign University does "anything" that violates the rules.

The degrees that these foreign Universities are allowed to issue would be considered foreign degrees!!  Therefore, there is still the need for these degrees to be equated to the Indian ones through an application to the Association of Indian Universities (AIU).  I do not understand why these new UGC rules that allow the Universities to award the degrees cannot stipulate the equivalencies instead of making these foreign Universities to run around the AIU.  This is like telling the Hyundai car company that their car completely made in Chennai would be treated like a foreign car and therefore has to undergo all the "import" formalities!!

I wonder why the MHRD is going around doing this. There is nothing in the law currently that states that a foreign University cannot set up its campus in India.  Any body, can apply to UGC and set up a University under the existing laws.

I am reminded of a situation where my friend's car was towed away by the cops from its parking spot when he was visiting me at my office.  When he called the cops to recover his car, he asked them why they towed his car and they said that it was parked illegally.  He said that there were no NO-PARKING signs, for which the cops asked him if there were any PARKING signs.  In India, it seems that what is not specifically provided for, is taken to be prohibited!!

My question is all this is simple:  How many Foreign Universities are lining up outside the MHRD doors in Delhi wanting to set up their campus in India?

- Sankaran Raghunathan

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