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Australian universities to open campuses in India

Policy and practice must not pull in different directions

India is the youngest nation in the world with a Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) of 57.6 per cent (UDISE, 2021-22) at the senior secondary level and 27.3 per cent at the higher education level (AISHE, 2020-21). Education being a public good in India, strict regulatory frameworks were put in place to prevent the entry of foreign universities. It is worth recalling that the Foreign Educational Institutions Bill under UPA-II could not see the light of day and lapsed in 2014. Interestingly, less than a decade after its demise and within three years of the announcement of the National Education Policy 2020, two Australian universities are set to open their branch campuses in GIFT City, Gujarat. The author had hinted in an article in this newspaper ( ‘Opening the campus door’, IE, January 7) that Australian universities would be the most likely candidates for setting up international branch campuses in India.

Explained Global |Indian educational degrees to be recognised in Australia: What this means Following NEP 2020, regulatory provisions for the opening of foreign universities and foreign educational institutions have been made. The International Financial Services Centres Authority or IFSCA (Setting up and Operation of International Branch Campuses and Offshore Education Centres) Regulations, 2022 is tailor-made for Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT City). The regulations have paved the way for signing an overarching MoU on Mutual Recognition of Qualifications covering school, higher, and vocational education (except professional education) between Australia and India. The MoU is signed by Australian Education Minister Jason Clare and Union Minister of Education, Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Dharmendra Pradhan. It is the outcome of a long-drawn plan of educational diplomacy by Australia. India-Australia educational ties go back a few years, and the role of the Australian Embassy in New Delhi has remained vital. The Embassy worked hard to fine-tune the research and teaching collaboration between the two countries. The major Indian government research funding schemes, such as the Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN), and the Scheme for Promotion of Academic and Research Collaboration (SPARC) have a formidable presence of Australian universities with 100 plus collaborations with Indian higher education institutions in each scheme. The MoU has immense implications for outbound mobility for employment since educational qualifications are now mutually recognised between the two countries. This will certainly bring remittances to the Indian economy but professional degree holders from India would have to earn another degree or do a bridge course from Australia before they become eligible to work there. How the MoU would impact the inbound mobility of Australian students is a matter of speculation. The MoU will offer an opportunity to refugees and foreign students in India from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka who are currently enrolled in Indian higher education institutions to study at international branch campuses. They have resources but do not have permission to travel abroad. After getting foreign degrees from international branch campuses in India, their chances of outbound mobility will automatically enhance. This can further attract students from Africa and South Asia to join international branch campuses in India as the living cost is comparatively low and good quality health facilities are available. The entry of international branch campuses in India is certainly going to pose a challenge for private higher education institutions. There are currently 10 private deemed (aided) and 446 private (unaided) universities in India (AISHE, 2020-21). The students in these institutions have the capacity to pay and would in all likelihood prefer to move to international branch campuses due to the recognition of degrees in Australia. How private universities in India strategise and respond to the upcoming international branch campuses is worth watching. In Premium |The India-Australia relationship: Strategic and trade ties; the China factor The IFSCA 2022 aims for the top 500 QS World ranking foreign universities. Hence, The University of Deakin which ranks 283 and the University of Wollongong which ranks 193 in the QS World Ranking become eligible to apply to GIFT City. It is notable that the University of Wollongong has significant experience in the internationalisation of higher education with offshore campuses in Dubai, China, Malaysia and Hong Kong. On the other hand, Deakin University does not have a prior experience of this kind. Will these two universities be able to meet the expectations set by the IFSCA? Finally, the policy and the practice might seem to be pulling in different directions. The GIFT, IFSCA, 2022 regulations restrict the international branch campuses to offering courses only in fixed curricular areas, such as Banking, Insurance, Capital Market, Funds Management, FinTech, Longevity Finance, Sustainable Finance, Quantum Computing, and executive education in these disciplines. These are upcoming areas with higher market value and higher profit to the branch campuses. On the contrary, the cornerstone of NEP 2020 is multidisciplinary higher education where STEM, Humanities, and Social Sciences coexist and single-discipline higher education institutions transit towards multi-disciplinarity by 2030. With curricular restrictions, the international branch campuses at GIFT City will find it well-nigh impossible to complement the vision of multidisciplinary higher education in India.



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