India opening doors for foreign universities to set up campuses

04 March 2023

Anant Upadhyay reviews the new framework for international universities to grow provision in India.

For years, international universities have looked at the domestic Indian market believing that there may be considerable opportunities to grow provision. However several false starts in introducing legislation have caused frustration.

Recent events suggest that the market is on the verge of opening up and it appears that two Australian universities may be about to take the plunge. Campus Morning Mail has revealed this week that both Deakin and Wollongong are on the verge of entering the Indian marketplace'.

In 2019-20, India had a student enrolment of 38.5 million in higher education, with an annual graduation of over 9.4 million students, surpassing the entire population of Switzerland. The draft norms proposed by the University Grants Commission (UGC) for foreign universities to establish campuses in India aims to address the growing demand for education among the expanding student population.

Let's briefly summarize the draft.


Before establishing campuses in India, Foreign Higher Education Institutions (FHEIs) must obtain authorization from the University Grants Commission (UGC). The foreign university must either be ranked among the top 500 globally in overall or subject-specific rankings or have a high reputation in their home country.

The Process

The regulations also specify the steps that universities must follow when setting up a campus in India. Initially, the approval process will be conducted entirely online. Interested institutions must apply through the UGC portal, paying a non-refundable fee and submitting the required documents. A committee appointed by the Commission will then evaluate the applications, taking into consideration factors such as the institution's credibility, the programs offered, their potential to enhance academic opportunities in India, and the proposed infrastructure. If approved, the Foreign Higher Education Institution must establish the campus in India within two years and will initially be granted permission to operate for a ten-year period, which may be renewed for additional ten-year increments.

Admissions and Fees

Foreign universities will have full autonomy in regards to admission procedures, fees, and faculty hiring. They will also have the option of admitting both Indian and international students on their Indian campuses.


Foreign Higher Education Institutions (FHEI) will have the authority to hire faculty and staff both locally and from overseas. The qualifications, salary structure, and other employment terms for faculty and staff will be determined by the FHEI and must be equivalent to those at the main campus of the home country. The FHEI will also ensure that foreign faculty appointed to the Indian campus stay in India for a reasonable amount of time.

General Conditions

  • Foreign Higher Education Institutions (FHEI) are not permitted to enrol students or charge fees until the campus has been approved by the University Grants Commission (UGC).
  • Only offline, full-time programs in a physical, in-person setting will be allowed for foreign universities.
  • The qualifications earned by students at the Indian campus will be recognized as equivalent to those awarded by the FHEI at its main campus in the home country.
  • The qualifications earned through the Foreign Higher Education Institutions (FHEI) will be equivalent to those awarded by Indian Higher Educational Institutions and will not require additional equivalence.
  • The degrees earned through the FHEI will carry the same benefits, rights, and privileges as those earned through an Indian Higher Educational Institution.
  • The FHEI is responsible for providing sufficient physical infrastructure for their academic programs.
  • The FHEI is not authorized to act as a representative office for the parent entity and promote their programs in the home country or any other location outside of India.

Annual Report

The Foreign Higher Education Institution must submit an annual report to the University Grants Commission (UGC), which includes information on the programs offered, the number of students admitted and graduated, and the qualifications awarded.

Cross-Border Funds

The flow of funds across borders and the management of foreign currency accounts, payment methods, remittances, repatriation, and sales of proceeds must abide by the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) 1999 and its rules. An annual audit report must be submitted to the UGC, certifying that the operations of the Foreign Higher Education Institutions (FHEIs) in India are in compliance with FEMA 1999, its rules, and any other relevant laws, regulations, and guidelines, as well as state laws, rules, and policies.

Safeguarding the Interest of the Students

FHEIs must obtain prior approval from the UGC before discontinuing a course or program or closing the campus, to protect the interests of students. If a course or program is disrupted or discontinued, the parent university must provide an alternative solution for the affected students.

Right to Inspect

The UGC has the right to conduct inspections on the Indian campuses of foreign universities at any time and they are subject to the civil and criminal laws of India.

In conclusion, the draft provides a clear set of guidelines for foreign universities seeking to establish campuses in India. Foreign Higher Education Institutions (FHEIs) must meet specific eligibility criteria and follow a strict application process. The regulations provide autonomy to foreign universities in regards to admissions, fees, and faculty hiring, while also setting strict guidelines for their operations in India. However, there may be confusion and lack of clarity regarding the ranking criteria and sources used. This could lead to potential challenges in the authorization process for interested foreign universities. It is important for the UGC to provide clear guidelines and regulations on the ranking criteria to ensure a fair and transparent process for all parties involved. The regulations aim to ensure the quality of education provided by foreign universities and protect the interests of students

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