Govt moves Bill to allow foreign universities

Govt moves Bill to allow foreign universities

New Delhi: The government took a step forward on Monday to allow foreign universities open local campuses, key to revamping the country’s education system, but the bill presented to Parliament may take time to win approval.

The proposal will be watched to gauge New Delhi’s reformist appetite. After its victory in last week’s confidence vote, the Congress-led government is in a stronger position to move legislation to further free the economy.

Speaker Meira Kumar allowed the Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation and Entry and Operations) Bill 2010 to be introduced after Union human resource development minister Kapil Sibal insisted that the objection against the bill was invalid at this stage.

The proposed legislation was introduced even as Opposition members trooped into the well raising slogans to demand action against those involved in the alleged spectrum allocation scam.

The Bill, to allow foreign education providers set up campuses in India and offer degrees, is aimed at regulating the entry and operation of foreign institutions.

The measure was hanging fire for over last four years owing to opposition from various quarters, including the Left parties, over certain major provisions. After being referred last year to a committee of secretaries which brought modifications to certain provisions earlier existed, the Bill was approved by the Cabinet in March.

Objecting to its introduction, CPI(M) leader Basudeb Acharia said allowing of “foreign teaching shops" would “distort the already elitist educational structure in the country" and make education more commercial.

The Bill, the CPI(M) leader said, would be detrimental to the interests of the states as education was in the concurrent list.

The proposed law prescribes a time-bound format for granting approval to foreign educational institutions to set up campuses in India.

They would be registered with UGC or any other regulatory body, which will scrutinise proposals of aspiring institutions as per India’s priorities and advise the government whether to allow the institute operate in the country.

A foreign university aspiring to set up a campus in India will have to deposit Rs50 crore as corpus fund and cannot take back the surplus generated from education activities here.

The Bill has a provision under which the government can reject an application of a university if it feels that the venture will have an adverse impact on national security.

Goldman Sachs counts the lack of quality education as one of the 10 factors holding India back from rapid economic growth. The demand for graduates over the next five years is likely to be 13.8 million, analysts have estimated.

Congress leaders have said they also plan to introduce a long-delayed Bill to cap liability of operators in case of a nuclear accident, key for firms like General Electric and Westinghouse, a unit of Toshiba Corp, to enter the $150 billion civil nuclear sector.