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Getting foreign technical degrees just got tougher in India

December 5, 2007

The AICTE (The All India Council for Technical Education) now wants to regulate all ‘unrecognized’ foreign institutions running degree or diploma courses in India in association with local partners.’ In fact, a new bill – the Foreign Educational Institutions Bill, 2007 – will now regulate the entry and operation of foreign educational institutions (FEIs) in India in order to “protect students, ensure quality education and stem the commercialisation of education.”

Commercialisation of education? What is the government talking about? What about the hundreds of desi private educational institutes (run by politicians) which take lakhs of rupees as ‘capitation fees’ from students?

Will the Bill work?
As for regulating the foreign degrees, I can understand if dubious educational institutions (those not recognized by their own governments) are not allowed to operate in India, but there are few institutes in this category. I can also understand if the government simply wants to make a list of these institutes because can you believe it, at present the government does not even know how many such foreign educational institutions there are! Anyone can start any institute claiming foreign affiliation and thereby cheat students. But forcing institutes to get mandatory ‘approvals’ can lead to corruption and hamper the the growth of these institutes.

Besides, the Bill is a weak one and a detailed analysis of the subject can be read here:

…it (the Bill) encourages fee-hiking, offers loopholes where institutional partnerships are involved, leaves open the possibility of substandard education, and gives the government arbitrary powers to exempt certain foreign universities from any provision of the legislation…it demands no minimum prescribed standards of quality for FEIs and will, therefore, fail to ensure that quality education is provided. …any FEI, therefore, however low its educational standards in its country of origin, would be able to operate in India. Furthermore, the government would have no right to intervene to bring substandard FEI’s on a par with the educational, curricular and faculty standards prevalent in good Indian educational institutions.

So the Bill is likely to remain a bit of a joke.

Interestingly, about ten years ago India worked overtime to ban foreign degrees. You can read about that here. I thought we would have learnt from past mistakes…seen that such policies never helped anybody except the babus. Look at the terrible educational infrastructure we have today!

Socialist agenda?
Only 7 per cent of Indians in the 18-24 age group enter higher education and it is “access to schools” that is the critical factor to help the poor, not strangling higher education (so what if it’s foreign!) Trying to throttle FEI’s or even giving them financial support (it is planning to do this in select cases according to the Bill!) is a bad idea.

There are, on average, only four secondary schools for every hundred square kilometres in the country…for every hundred thousand people, there are only 14 schools in the country; the figures are even lower in the big and populous States. The expenditure on secondary education was 0.88 per cent of GDP, much less than the 1.5 per cent recommended by the Central Advisory Board on Education.

Ideally every single Indian should be able to have the opportunity for the best of education but if only the well-to-do are reaching the higher rungs of the education pyramid, well, it’s tragic, but those who do get there need opportunities to study further. But there are those who feel that the government is following what they believe to be a socialist agenda.

What are aspiring students to do?
Even if budgets have been allocated for improving our educational infrastructure, at present there is nothing much on the ground. So what are students supposed to do? What about those who can neither afford to go abroad for studies and/or those who cannot get admission into the few good institutes here? Worse, what about industry? There is a terrible shortage of technical graduates today in India and this Bill is going to throttle the supply.

Industry isn’t worried, but the government is
If anyone should be worried about foreign degrees imparting inferior education, it’s industry. But they aren’t worried, and that’s not surprising as some reputed, recognised Indian educational institutions like the Mumbai-based Institute of International Studies (IIS), Mangalore-based International Centre for Applied Sciences and the Pune-based Bharati Vidyapeeth’s Institutes of Biotechnology are collaborating with reputed foreign schools to offer their degrees here. And industry, specifically companies like Reliance, Future Group, and ICICI have shown interest in hiring these graduates. In fact the buzz is that often the training offered in these institutes is “more current.”

AICTE should concentrate on improving Indian Institutes
Earlier this year AICTE signed the Washington Accord, (an agreement between the bodies which accredit professional engineering degree programs in the signatory countries) and this means international recognition for Indian technical colleges affiliated to the AICTE. But admission to the Washington Accord is just provisional, and can become a reality only if the colleges upgrade their facilities. But as one of my commentators, Aditya, said, the agreement has not even be ratified yet and as for the colleges starting to upgrade – that seems a distant dream!

AICTE should push this upgradation harder, wield the whip if need be, and ensure that Indian technical courses come up to the mark. It is believed that about 50 percent of our tech grads are not good enough and AICTE should concentrate on refurbishing, overhauling and revamping these various colleges, instead of wasting time on regulating ‘foreign’ institutes, handing out ‘approvals’ and deciding whom to give financial assistance to! To ensure that students aren’t cheated, it can always make public the list of such institutes and even mention that they aren’t affiliated to the AICTE.

(Photo linked to the original and is for representative purposes only)

Related Reading: Who produces more engineers? The US or India?
Are our engineers good enough?
India might hire from abroad to make up the shortfall of engineers
Indian government wants to throttle International schools
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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Sasi permalink
    December 5, 2007 12:39 pm

    We needs steps taken that would raise the standard of Indian education so we have more and more employable students passing out each year.

    The initiative taken by in helping students to be strong in their Maths and Science fundamentals and develop their apptitude right from the earlier stage will help in changing the current employment scenario.

  2. December 5, 2007 2:57 pm


    You might have read news reports regarding the move taken by AICTE against the CFA Institute in India. Here’s the link.

    I’m a CFA Candidate myself and can vouch for the fact that the CFA Insitute was not wrong here. It was ICFAI who was creating all sorts of problems and of course, AICTE saw to it that CFA Institute faces stiff legal problems in India, so much so that thousands of Indians who had registered for Level-I examinations were not even sure if they would be able to take it. AICTE needs to realize that such actions taken by them is not benefiting anyone at all. Most of my friends here were laughing at their stupidity and only commented on the loss of the country because the case is still pending and Indians are not being able to register for the examinations . Not only this, students who have already completed a level or two have no way of completing this designation, unless they start living abroad.

  3. December 5, 2007 3:24 pm


    The Bill seems to have been panned by everyone, and there seem to be contradictory criticisms.

    The Frontline article you have linked, starts out saying the Bill will give a free hand to foreign education providers. (Given the huge leftist leaning of The Hindu group, this criticism did not surprise me. In fact, the whole article seemed against foreign investment in education).

    And then there is criticism of the other extreme that the Bill will throttle supply by heavily regulating foreign education providers.

    I am still trying to figure my own stand here, but the Bill itself seemed a product of realpolitik. While it ostensibly hopes to stem crass commercialism (to please the leftists), in reality it gives a free-hand to foreign educationists (in keeping with current open market inclinations).

  4. ulag permalink
    December 5, 2007 4:48 pm

    I think there is a need for a healthy discussion on this issue in the parliament with the govt and the opposition clearly stating their views on the matter. The problem with the left is they view anything “foreign” with suspicion and as soon as the government takes a step which goes against its rigid dogma they make sure they nip it in the bud.
    I really think that this bill with a few changes can prove very useful. The quality of technical education in this country is not satisfactory. I should know considering im in it. There are a few centers of excellence like the IITs and the NITs but these are too few and far between for a population of 1 billion of which 60% are roughly below the age of 25. Add to these the reservations policy and youve created a niche university which is out of reach for most. If one bothers to go through the rank lists of the best universities, the deemed universities are at the top behind the major ones like IITs and NITs. Though their fees are high, they manage to cater to a large class of students who have nowhere else to go.
    I do agree that the government neednt dole out any subsidies to these foreign universities. They should let them charge their own fees which is what the deemed universities do. Its upto the university to realize it’ll help them in the long run to take meritorious students and not bypass them for the want of high fees.
    At the risk of sounding repetitive, as iv said in an earlier comment on this blog, the govt needs to focus on primary education and gets its act right there. The govts role is of more importance there. It should not look to control the higher education sector.

  5. December 5, 2007 10:30 pm

    Thanks Sasi, but initiatives like 24×7 are short-term measures. We need to build infrastructure.

    Ruhi, I have read about CFA, and I agree with you here. The interest of the students (which I feel is national interest) is not being kept in mind. It’s a shame.

    Anand, yes the article is very indepth and gives various standpoint but your analysis is absolutely correct. Its all about politics…in our country with our coalition govt, everything seems to be be about pleasing some minority or the other, without upsetting the other!
    I am looking at the Bill from another point of view…it’s many loopholes are a fantastic opportunity for politicians of all hues to make money!

    Ulag, thanks. The Left and it’s allergy towards anything foreign, even if it’s useful, is harming our nation and as for a healthy discussion in parliament, I think that will be difficult! I wonder if you have ever watched parliament live on TV? The way these politicians behave, constantly baiting each other and fighting over petty issues. It’s almost impossible for anyone to start a proper discussion because some idiot scuttles it!

  6. December 6, 2007 7:20 pm

    I don’t see why we’re so dogmatically against commercialization of education. Why penalize those who are able and willing to pay for good education just because the Government can’t live up to its promise (well, responsibility actually) of providing good education to everyone. If it takes a couple of foreign players to give engineering education in India a shot in the arm, so be it! We certainly need one. Although I do agree that the way in which the Government plans to go about regulating these institutes is contentious.

    “It is believed that about 50 percent of our tech grads are not good enough and AICTE should concentrate on refurbishing, overhauling and revamping these various colleges, instead of wasting time on regulating ‘foreign’ institutes, handing out ‘approvals’ and deciding whom to give financial assistance to!”

    Firstly, IMHO, 50% is an understatement, but hey, I’m just one just a student. Stuck in this system. What do I know? Secondly, while I do agree that there should be greater focus on existing institutes in the country, I do not think that paying attention to foreign players is such a waste of time. There must be a mechanism for checks and balances.

    I completely agree with Ulag on the matter of doling out subsidies to foreign schools. I’m sure they are well aware that they won’t gain a shred of respectability without attracting and/or producing talented individuals. They will set up their fee structures and course offerings accordingly. While a certain amount of regulation of education is necessary, making the system so bureaucratic that drives away the good institutes is something that should consciously be avoided.

    “I wonder if you have ever watched parliament live on TV? The way these politicians behave, constantly baiting each other and fighting over petty issues. It’s almost impossible for anyone to start a proper discussion because some idiot scuttles it!”- why restrict the criticism to parliament? Have you seen any of those evening debates that occur on news channels? It is fairly obvious that our fine parliamentary debating skills have permeated through to a much wider fabric of society. 😀

  7. December 20, 2007 10:38 am

    The Delhi High Court has dismissed the writ petition of CFA Institute. However, the detailed order is not yet available yet. Basically the situation is that the CFAI has lost this particular case. The detailed order should be available soon.


    Thanks Anjali for letting us know! – Nita.


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