India + China Announce Renewed Approaches to Foreign Collaboration + Education

Smart Summary

  • India’s UGC will now allow dual-degree programs with foreign universities, whereas only joint degrees and twinning arrangements were permitted previously.
  • The new India regulations are NOT applicable to online programs.
  • China has re-asserted that it will not accredit foreign universities degrees obtained through online programs for reasons unrelated to COVID-19.
  • U.S. university administrators + leaders should re-evaluate their India + China market strategy in light of new developments.

India Set to Allow Dual-Degree Programs with Foreign Universities

According to news reports and preliminary guidelines emanating from India’s educational statutory authority, the Ministry of Education, the University Grants Commission (UGC) is easing rules for academic collaboration between Indian universities and foreign institutions. UGC has now approved key amendments, including a provision for dual-degree programs, in which both the Indian and foreign institutions could confer separate and simultaneous degrees for a course of the same discipline and at the same level. The amendments also curb the regulator’s supervisory role in facilitating such collaborations, meaning that Indian universities that meet a minimum academic standard will not require UGC’s permission to offer such programs.

UGC previously had in place existing regulations for twinning arrangements and collaborations between higher education institutions (HEI) and foreign education institutions (FEI), which meant that the final degree resulting from such foreign collaboration would be of the HEI in India only, and UGC would not recognize a dual degree.

Now, these proposed regulations provide for true dual-degree programs conferred by both the HEI and FEI, separately and simultaneously, upon completion of the degree requirements of both institutions.

Under the new regulations, collaborating institutions will now be permitted to offer three kinds of programs: twinning, joint degrees, and dual degrees (whereas only twinning and joint degrees were allowed under the old regulations).

Once fully implemented, these regulations will make strategic collaborations, dual degrees and pathway programs much simpler to implement, and will pave the way for HEIs to collaborate with FEIs with much greater flexibility given UGC’s reduced supervisory role.

Importantly, administrators and institutional leadership must be aware that the new regulations are not applicable to programs offered online or through other modes of “distance learning.”

Specific details and rules pertaining to the amendments will be outlined by UGC in the next few weeks.

U.S. universities looking for innovative collaboration models with Indian universities should be encouraged by the new regulations and explore their India market strategy in this new regulatory context.

China Tightens Accreditation of Overseas Diplomas and Degrees

[Note: Some insights on these developments in China are offered with assistance from attorneys at MHP Law Firm in China.]

In China, governmental education authorities provide accreditation of diplomas or degrees issued by overseas universities or colleges on the basis of each student’s application. The Chinese Service Centre for Scholarly Exchange (“CSCSE”), an agency operating under the country’s Ministry of Education, is the only official organization permitted to provide credential evaluation and accreditation services on overseas diplomas or degrees in China.

Foreign students who either study abroad in China or under an approved Sino-foreign cooperation program apply to CSCSE for accreditation and CSCSE will then take into account the “overseas residence time for study” during the accreditation and evaluation of overseas diplomas or degrees.

Early COVID Effect on Accreditation

In April 2020 and in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, CSCSE issued a statement clarifying that online courses taken because of a student’s inability to attend campus as a result of related travel or immigration restrictions will not negatively influence the accreditation of those classes and programs.

Then, in March 2021, CSCSE issued a new statement that: (i) it will continue to accredit overseas coursework, diplomas, and degrees that Chinese students have obtained online during the pandemic; but (ii) it will not accredit any diploma or degree stemming from online coursework if it deems that such coursework was falsely presented as necessary in light of the pandemic, but was, in reality, offered only to maximize profits for the institution.

Through the course of the pandemic, CSCSE has observed that certain overseas universities have offered COVID-19 concerns as a false premise under which they provide various online courses and recruit Chinese students. This, according to CSSCE, amounts to those universities’ selling diplomas and degrees, which they assert damages Chinese students’ interests.

Current Statement on Accreditation of Online Coursework + Degrees

In light of this concern, CSCSE issued a supplementary statement on March 25, 2022, reiterating the importance of “overseas residence time for study” for accreditation, and confirmed that diplomas and degrees issued through suspect cross-border distance courses will not receive accreditation by CSCSE.

U.S. universities marketing online education programs to Chinese students for any reason other than a legitimate COVID-19-related delivery impediment should evaluate the impact of non-accreditation on their programs and its effect on their current and prospective students.

Licensed to practice law in India and the U.S., Vinita Mehra is a director and chair of Kegler Brown’s Global Education practice where she works closely with in-house counsel and other college and university leaders in devising, evaluating and implementing education strategies that build revenue and expand institutional brands globally. She can be reached at [email protected] or (614) 255-5508.