25% extra places, no entrance exams for foreign students

In a major step towards achieving greater internationalisation of India’s higher education as outlined by India’s National Education Policy 2020, the country’s higher education regulator the University Grants Commission (UGC) has approved an additional 25% of university places for foreign students to be admitted to undergraduate and postgraduate courses across India.

These will be ‘supernumerary seats’ or places over and above the intake approved for individual institutions and by regulatory bodies, so that universities will not have to cut back on their intake of Indian students in order to bring in more foreign students.

As the 2022 intake is already in place, this is unlikely to be implemented by institutions until 2023.

The additional seats will not include international students involved in student exchanges between different institutions or under memoranda of understanding between the Government of India and another country.

According to the UGC guidelines released on 26 August, the number of places will be decided by universities themselves, keeping in mind infrastructure, faculty and other requirements, and specific guidelines by regulatory bodies.

Notably, as many as 10% of supernumerary seats were already reserved for foreign nationals across the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) since 2016, and this will now also increase to 25%.

Balanced tuition fees

Institutions may also set their own fees for foreign students, though UGC Chairman Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar cautioned that setting fees too high will mean foreign students will not come.

Higher education institutions “need to strike a balance in fixing the tuition fee appropriately”, he said.

Kumar said the UGC was encouraging all good institutions to work towards increasing the number of foreign students. However, “initially, only those HEIs [higher education institutions] that have good infrastructural facilities and academic programmes may attempt to admit foreign students,” he said.

Institutions can estimate the number of foreign students to be admitted based on available labs, classrooms and hostel infrastructure, he added. Although there will be no additional government resources, he said, “admitting foreign students will help [institutions] generate internal resources through tuition fees that can then be used to further improve the infrastructure to attract more foreign students”.

The Indian authorities have noted that opportunities to attract international students, academics and funding are increasing and many higher education institutions are now committed to expanding their international reach.

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