New UGC Regulations Present Opportunities for Campuses of Foreign Universities in India
Kegler Brown Global Business News January 11, 2023
- India’s UGC has now published draft regulations for establishing and operating campuses of Foreign Higher Educational Institutions (“FHEI”) in India.
- Key takeaways include that UGC approval is compulsory, only “reputed institutions” will be afforded the privilege, campuses are subject to quality assurance audits, and more.
- Anticipated challenges for universities looking to establish an Indian campus are the heavy administrative burden and government red tape, along with the cultural implications that are at play with local teacher and student organizations.
As we had previously noted, the introduction of the National Education Policy, 2020 (NEP) has led to policy initiatives that enable the entry of foreign higher educational institutions in India and create opportunities to collaborate with Indian higher educational institutions, which are governed by the University Grants Commission (UGC).
UGC, pursuant to the NEP, recently established two initiatives that (1) permit collaboration between Indian and foreign higher education institutions through the introduction of the UGC (Academic Collaboration between Indian and Foreign Higher Educational Institutions to offer Twinning, Joint Degree and Dual-Degree Programmes) Regulations, 2022; and (2) introduce regulations permitting foreign universities to set up branch campuses in the Gujarat International Financial Tec-City IFSC (GIFT IFSC), promoting GIFT IFSC as the preferred International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) globally.
As the next bold step, the UGC has now published draft regulations for establishing and operating campuses of Foreign Higher Educational Institutions (“FHEI”) in India.
UGC approval is compulsory. All foreign universities that wish to set up their campuses in India will be allowed to do so only after getting approval from the UGC. This approval will be provided for an initial 10 years, with an opportunity for renewal. The FHEI is required to undergo a quality assurance audit at the time of renewal.
Limited to “Reputed Institutions.” To set up a campus in India, foreign universities will either have to be in the top 500 to apply or will have to be “highly reputed” in their respective countries (if the university does not participate in global rankings). If their ranking is between 500 and 100, but the subject-matter ranking is higher than overall, the institutions will be permitted to set up their campuses only for those ranked subjects in those cases.
Quality assurance. The UGC will reserve the right to inspect these Indian campuses of FHEIs at any time, and they will not be outside the purview of the applicable civil and criminal laws of India.
Offline classes only. Foreign universities will only be allowed to conduct offline classes, meaning that foreign universities can offer only full-time programs in physical, in-person settings.
Equivalence with degrees awarded by Indian HEIs. The qualifications awarded to the students in the Indian campus shall be recognized and treated as equivalent to the corresponding qualifications awarded by the FHEI in the main campus located in the country of origin.
International funds transfer . Cross-border movement of funds and maintenance of foreign currency accounts, remittance, repatriation, and sales of proceeds, would be as per existing foreign exchange regulations in India (pursuant to the Foreign Exchange Management Act 1999). The FHEI would be required to provide annual reports certifying that its operations are in accordance with Indian (central and state) laws.
No government interference. Foreign universities will have complete freedom to choose admission processes, fees, and faculty. They will also have the freedom to enroll Indian students, as well as other international students, on their Indian campuses.
Prior approval for closure. To safeguard students’ interests, FHEI shall not discontinue any course or program or close the campus without the commission’s prior approval. In the case of a course or program disruption or discontinuation, the parent entity (university) shall be responsible for providing an alternative to the affected students.
The Process for Campus Establishment
The regulations also outline the procedure to follow for universities looking to set up a campus in India, as follows:
The process for securing approval for setting up a campus in India will be strictly online in the beginning. Interested institutions must apply at the UGC portal with a non-refundable fee, and then submit certain documents noted in the regulations.
After the applications are received, a committee formed by the Commission will examine these applications based on these factors:
- credibility of the institution;
- programs to be offered by the institution;
- the potential for the program to strengthen academic opportunities in India; and
- proposed infrastructure.
Upon receiving an approval in principle, the FHEI would need to set up a campus in India within 2 years from such approval.
The intent of the government, with respect to international universities setting up campuses in India, is clear from the provisions in the NEP. However, we are still awaiting clarity on the proper implementation of such regulations. Foreign universities considering setting up campuses in India should also be aware of the likely challenges they may have to encounter.
Factors that may deter universities include a multi-layer regulatory framework governing different aspects of higher education, the lack of a single regulatory body overlooking the collaborations/investments, and the multiple approvals required to operate in India.
Navigating Cultural Nuances
While there is a general optimism surrounding these regulations, there is also a lot of resistance from local teacher and student organizations alleging that the decision will not only make education expensive, but will also come at the cost of social justice. Foreign universities would need to strike a balance to address some of these concerns voiced by the local educational industry.
The regulations are fairly simple and provide considerable autonomy to FHEIs in their operations. The UGC has invited comments and feedback from all stakeholders up to January 18, 2023 (IST). After that, the draft regulations will be promulgated by the Ministry of Education and will come into effect.
Our Global Education team will continue to analyze the draft regulations. In the interim, college and university clients are encouraged to direct their questions to or request an informational meeting with Global Education chair Vinita Mehra at [email protected] or (614) 255-5508.
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.