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India: Foreign providers still on hold

The Indian Parliament has discarded the “Foreign University Entry and Operation Bill” in its mid-July session. The Bill is designed to regulate the entry and operation of foreign providers of higher education in India and proposes a framework of quality assurance keeping substandard providers from entering the country. At present, there is no such structure at the national level, which means that foreign providers cannot claim Indian university status, but they are able to operate in the grey zone of twinning and partnership programmes. The Bill had officially been cleared for the parliamentary debate by the Union Cabinet (i.e. the Government of India) on March 1, 2007. Leftist factions eventually overturned the Bill as it was “not in consonance with equity and access”, according to MP Brinda Karat.

This display of legislative inertness may not be new, but one has to understand the Indian law-making process to see the progress made: the mere fact that the Indian government approved to introduce the controversial Bill to Parliament - having failed to do so for all preceding versions of the Foreign Education Provider Bill - is certainly a first step towards a stable regulatory framework.

To the few hundreds foreign institutions collaborating with Indian partners at the present stage, the dismissal of the Bill may not have an imminent effect. Yet, in the long run, it will make it difficult for India to attract large-scale foreign investment and high-calibre institutions to the country, as insecurity about legal status is an important criterion for setting up operation.

Whether and when this first step will actually lead to the enactment of a regulatory framework is still written in the stars.

Indian government