Foreign universities bill passed by the cabinet, but will face opposition (including from within the Congress)

Just a few days back, the Union Cabinet passed a Bill called the Foreign Educational Institution (Regulation of Entry and Operation) Bill, 2010 which empowers Foreign Universities to setup their campuses in India. This is a Bill that seeks to regulate the functioning of these Foreign Universities in India, something that was not on the cards, given some of the challenges that the Government was facing in its other legislative actions. And, this is a sensitive subject, with a lot of opposition to the Government in this action, from the Communist Parties, from other parties, and from within the Government itself. There was a plan to bring the Bill to Parliament in the first term of the UPA, but given the dependence of the Government on the Communist Parties, the Bill was dropped at that time, and the concept had been in cold storage ever since then.
The Bill will allow foreign educational institutions to set up their campus within India, and be treated as private universities. They will have certain freedoms to make it more attractive for them to set up shop here in India, such as:
– The foreign institutions will be allowed to set their own fees, like other private institutions; this should enable students who want to get the level of teaching in these institutions to get this cheaper by joining the India campus rather than making a beeline for the foreign campuses (it is expected that the fees here will be cheaper than in the US or other countries)

– They will not be subject to the various quotas such as the SC/ST and OBC quotas (one would think that would have been a major demand by the educational institutions)
There is of course a fear by other colleges (including the premiere ones such as the IIT’s, the IIM’s, the ISB’s, and others) that if some of the more prominent institutions (world renown) come to India, then they will become an attractive hunting ground for professors at many of these local institutes who would look at joining these new institutes (with the expectation of a much larger salary).
One of the expected opposition to the Bill is likely to be in the form of criticism of this forming an elitist education approach, meant only for the creamy layer who can afford the high fees. India suffers primarily from huge dropouts in the area of primary, middle and secondary education, and the effort to increase the schooling rates needs to remain the primary effort area for the Government. However, this does not mean that the Government should not also focus on higher education. In higher education, there are massive concerns around the area of ensuring that the level of education is relevant, that syllabus are updated to remain uptodate, and that the overall level of quality of teaching remains poor for a vast majority of the higher education institutions. Getting in more quality education institutions can be a good movement ahead.

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