Indian universities are pushing for international tie-ups

India is buzzing with university delegations which follow hot on the heels of regulatory changes that allow tie-ups between Indian and foreign universities.

Dozens of individual overseas universities have expressed an interest in collaborations on twinning, joint degrees and dual degrees with India, while others join recent or planned university delegations, including from the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

In a move first flagged up in 2020 but officially announced in April, the Indian higher education regulatory body the University Grants Commission (UGC) said joint programmes would no longer need UGC approval and announced generally reduced red tape and conditions for tie-ups between Indian and foreign universities.

More strikingly, the announcement has been accompanied by a flurry of education ministry and diplomatic activities including talks between UGC Chairman Jagadesh Kumar and diplomats of several countries in New Delhi. Others point to the UGC calling on around 100 Indian university heads in April and May to push them to initiate and cement international collaborations.

Indian officials and diplomats overseas, including in the UK, Australia and the United States, have been stepping up visits to universities in those countries, persuading them to consider India’s changed internationalisation environment and send university delegations to take a closer look.

A lot is happening on the policy front

“From the UK point of view, it feels like there is a lot happening on the Indian policy front, with the development of the National Education Policy (NEP) and the prospect of opening up new types of university relationships, and particularly around transnational education, joint and dual degrees, twinning arrangements, etc,” said Vivienne Stern, head of Universities UK, who was part of a 22-member delegation of UK university leaders on a five-day visit to India from 6 June, which she said was one of the largest delegations to visit India.

The UK has been “deeply intertwined with the Indian education system, particularly on research, but we have not had the opportunity to visit Indian partners since COVID,” Stern noted.

“So this was really the first opportunity we have had to get a large group of universities together to come out, rekindle some existing relationships and form some new ones, but also, crucially, to learn what the new educational policy might mean,” Stern told University World News.

The NEP is the government’s long-term plan, released in 2020, for reforming the Indian higher education sector to 2030. Internationalisation of higher education is mentioned as a key pillar of the strategy.

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