New study abroad regulations to improve HE quality

New regulations to allow Indian universities to collaborate with universities and colleges overseas and enable Indian students to gain credits for study abroad semesters were announced by India’s Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani recently.

The measures are aimed at bringing world-class education to Indian students, as well as improving higher education curricula, through increased interaction with overseas universities.

The changes do not go as far as allowing joint degrees with foreign institutions.

But in a significant attempt to boost collaboration between Indian and foreign institutions, the Human Resource Development Ministry said in a statement on 22 June: “Indian universities and colleges having the highest grade of accreditation or threshold accreditation, will now be able to apply online to the University Grants Commission for starting twinning and collaborative arrangements with quality foreign educational institutions in undergraduate and postgraduate programmes leading to the award of a degree.”

“This will offer unprecedented academic mobility through acquiring credits and study at reputable institutions abroad,” Irani said.

In a video statement Irani said Indian students often go abroad to burnish their CVs with the name of reputable foreign institutions. The new regulations will mean the experience, exposure and academic benefits of study abroad can be gained at a lower cost for Indian students who often cannot afford the high fees of foreign institutions.

“This will actually help minimise the cost of students’ engagement with a reputed foreign educational institution,” Irani said.

The collaboration rules stipulate that the degree will be awarded by the Indian educational institutions alone. The ministry said: “Joint degrees are not permitted.” However the name of the collaborating foreign institution can be indicated on the degree certificate issued by the Indian institution.


Irani added that for the first time Indian students could also accrue credits from the collaborating foreign institution during the study abroad period, which would be part of the students’ transcript issued by the Indian institution that awards their degree.

Students from foreign institutions will also be able to study at Indian universities under these regulations, the ministry said.

A minimum duration of collaboration has been specified as one study abroad semester for postgraduate degrees and two semesters for undergraduate degrees.

Under previous guidelines issued in 2012, only foreign institutions could seek permission for academic collaborations. But perhaps in an indication of India’s opaque bureaucratic procedures, none did so.

The ministry said only top Indian institutions established for longer than six years would be eligible.

Indian institutions that already have global partnerships have a year to have these collaborations approved by the University Grants Commission, after the proposals are examined by a committee of experts, Irani said.

The Indian Council of Universities, a consortium of public and private universities welcomed the move, saying that previously “there was no clarity about collaboration of Indian universities with foreign counterparts”. The council's president Surjit Singh Pabla said in a statement on 24 June, “it was a long-awaited request by the Indian universities to make foreign collaboration workable”.

He added: “Under this policy the recruitment of foreign students in Indian universities will also increase.”

Faculty collaboration

The government’s move is part of a broader policy to internationalise and modernise higher education curricula in the country. Irani said it would promote collaboration between faculty members as well, to enable Indian academics to improve their teaching skills. “It might also result in some joint research collaborations. The future is wide open,” she said.

Irani said in a video statement issued on 23 June that experts from institutions such as the University of Cambridge, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Pennsylvania, University of California, Berkeley, Georgia Tech, Princeton University and Yale would be brought in to upgrade university curriculum in social science, science, mathematics and engineering.

“It will be a joint initiative of the Government of India in collaboration with these universities of international repute,” Irani said, with the central government bearing the cost of the scheme.