India Opens Doors to Foreign Universities: Australian Institutions First to Set Up Campuses

India has given its approval for foreign universities to set up campuses in the country for the first time. The move is part of a broader shake-up of the Indian higher education system, aimed at fostering multidisciplinary research and ending fragmentation in the sector. Australia’s Deakin University and the University of Wollongong are the first to announce their plans to open international campuses in India. The two Australian universities have chosen to establish their campuses in Gujarat International Finance Tec-City, a planned “smart city” on the outskirts of Ahmedabad in Gujarat. The Australian Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, announced the plans during his visit to India.

Image Source: GIFT City Gandhinagar OFFICIAL WEBSITE

The Association of Indian Universities in New Delhi has welcomed the development, as it will enable students to obtain a foreign education within India and create opportunities for international research collaborations. Gavin Moodie, an education researcher at the University of Toronto in Canada, has said that India is an attractive location for English-speaking universities as much of the country’s higher education is already conducted in English. Additionally, India has a growing middle class that values international qualifications, with around one million Indians studying outside the country.

The Indian government plans to double higher-education enrolment to around 75 million students by 2035. The National Education Policy launched in 2020 set out the country’s ambitions to restructure the sector by creating multidisciplinary universities and knowledge hubs that will foster cross-disciplinary research. However, foreign universities could potentially divert students and resources away from Indian universities, making the move controversial. Vidya Yeravdekar, the pro-chancellor of Symbiosis International University in Pune, has said that Indian institutions could be impeded if foreign university campuses attract the best Indian academics from local universities.

Deakin’s campus in GIFT City will offer courses in cybersecurity and business analytics, while the University of Wollongong will offer courses in information technology, business, and financial technology. Stephen Wilkins, a higher-education management expert at the British University in Dubai, says that most international campuses initially focus on teaching, but can develop research programs if they are successful. However, Wilkins notes that about 10% of international campuses ultimately fail, particularly smaller operations covering a limited number of disciplines.

Some foreign universities have already opened joint research academies in some of India’s elite universities, including the Indian Institutes of Technology in Bengaluru and Delhi, and the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru, to train doctoral students. Education ministers from Australia and India have signed an agreement recognizing qualifications to “enhance student and researcher mobility” between the two countries. India has signed similar agreements with France and the United Kingdom. Although not a signatory to the United Nations global convention on the recognition of higher-education qualifications that came into effect in March 2023, the interest in research and collaborations with India remains strong, according to Brigid Freeman, a higher-education policy researcher at the University of Melbourne in Australia.



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