UPA moves on higher education reforms; tables Bills in Parliament

UPA moves on higher education reforms; tables Bills in Parliament

New Delhi: The government on Monday moved on its blueprint for education reforms and introduced crucial Bills, including one that will allow foreign universities to set up campuses and award degrees in India, in Parliament amid chaotic scenes and noisy protests from Left members.

The Bills, seen as attempts to fast-track education reforms, are to check malpractices by educational institutions (Prohibition of Unfair Practices in Technical Educational Institutions, Medical Educational Institutions and Universities Bill, 2010); to set up educational tribunals to resolve disputes in campuses (Educational Tribunals Bill, 2010); and to form a national education agency (National Accreditation Regulatory Authority for Higher Educational Institutions Bill, 2010).

If the Foreign Educational Institution (Regulation of Entry and Operation) Bill, 2010, becomes law, it will provide a legal framework for a number of partnerships—joint degree programmes, twinning arrangements and student and faculty exchange programmes—which already exist between several Indian and foreign colleges.

Also See | The Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of entry and operations) Bill, 2010 (pdf)

The Communists, who have been opposed to the entry of foreign universities in the country, tried in vain to object to the introduction of the Bill. Alleging that the foreign universities would be acting like “foreign teaching shops", Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Basudeb Acharia said the proposed legislation would “distort the already elitist educational structure in the country" and that the “education institutions would become money minting institutions".

“The UPA (United Progressive Alliance) is trying to centralize education regulation, which is detrimental to the interests of the states," Acharia said. Education in India is a concurrent subject that falls under the jurisdiction of both the state and the Centre.

The Bills were introduced in the Lok Sabha even as some Opposition members trooped into the well raising slogans to demand action against those involved in the alleged spectrum allocation scam.

Two foreign universities, Duke University of the US and Canada’s Schulich School of Business, have said they will set up campuses in India once the foreign universities Bill becomes law.

Schulich School of Business and the non-profit arm of road and airport developer GMR Group will together set up a campus at an upcoming township around Hyderabad international airport.

Jaivir Singh, adviser to Duke University’s dean for its India strategy, said it had shortlisted sites for its campus.

He said the foreign universities’ Bill was a step in the right direction, and that overseas schools need not rely on foreign investment alone. “Interestingly enough, most foreign universities are looking at engagement with the local population. (We) might have institutions who have commitments from those locally," said Singh, who will himself begin fund-raising for the India campus.

“There is no clarity on regulation," said Shobha Mishra, a director who works on education and health with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry. Mishra said she had only been through an old copy of the foreign universities Bill and had not seen the Bill in its present form.

However, Mishra expressed disappointment over another crucial Bill on a national commission for higher education and research not being brought yet to Parliament.