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India simplifies procedures for foreign institution partnerships

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • New rules around dual and joint degrees will make it easier for Indian students to go on exchange to foreign institutions to receive course credits and receive degrees bearing the names of the Indian and foreign institution
  • The new regulations are meant to usher in a new era of foreign partnerships and to attract foreign students to study in India
  • Institutions must meet high eligibility standards in order to participate and those institutions will no longer need the approval of India’s regulatory body the UGC to pursue foreign university partnerships
  • Indian students are also now able to take two degrees at the same time at Indian universities provided the degrees are at the same level and in the same discipline

India’s higher education regulator the University Grants Commission (UGC) has announced a simplified set of regulations that will govern collaborations with foreign institutions and that should set the stage for many Indian students to obtain degrees that bear both the names of an Indian and a foreign institution.

In addition, the UGC is allowing Indian students to work towards two degrees at the same time while attending an Indian higher education institution. Those degrees can be bachelor’s or master’s and they can be from the same institution or from two different institutions. Students can study for the degrees in-person, through blended delivery, or entirely online. The goal of this new policy is to facilitate the acquisition of an expanded skill set for Indian higher education students.

The simultaneous degree announcement has raised some concerns, however, with some wondering how much market value degrees earned online in this way will hold, and with others worried about excessive workload for students or lack of focus.

Vishal Malhotra, a student of Bundelkhand University in the city of Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh, told University World News, “pursuing two degrees simultaneously is not feasible and will inevitably lead to a surface-level approach towards learning.”

A strategy to encourage more foreign partnerships

The UGC has announced the following opportunities for Indian students attending eligible institutions, all of which must be pursued in-person with no online component:

  • Twinning programmes: Indian students enrol in an Indian institution for a degree programme and then take up to 30% of their course credits at a foreign university with which the Indian institution is partnered. At the end of the students’ studies, they receive a degree from the Indian institution.
  • Dual degrees: Students enrol in two degree programmes at an Indian institution and then take at least 30% of their course credits from a foreign university partner. The degree programmes must be in the same discipline (e.g., two arts-related degrees, or two computer science-related degrees) and at the same level (i.e., both at the bachelor’s level or both at the master’s level). The degrees the student earns are awarded by both the Indian and foreign university.
  • Joint degrees: Students enrol in a degree programme designed jointly by an Indian and foreign institution and take at least 30% of their credits at the foreign institution. Their degree bears the name of both the Indian and foreign institution.

Foreign students can take advantage of the same types of collaborations – in their case they would enrol in their home country’s university programme and then go on exchange to India to receive some of their course credits from the Indian partner institution. UGC Chairman M. Jagadesh Kumar told a press conference that this will help to encourage foreign students to study in India, “which will lead to internationalisation, which is an important parameter for improving global rankings of higher education institutions.”

Eligibility requirements for institutions

There are eligibility requirements for foreign partnerships:

  • Indian institutions must be accredited by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) with a minimum score of 3.01 on a 4-point scale or ranked in the top 1,000 in the Times Higher Education (THE) or QS world university rankings or on the top 100 list of the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF).
  • Foreign institutions must rank in the top 1,000 on with the Times Higher Education or QS world university rankings.

Institutions will no longer have to receive the approval of the UGC to deliver these collaborative degrees, but the Indian institution and the foreign institution must sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with each other to proceed.

Of the new rules, Mr Kumar told a press conference:

“The earlier regulations were too strict and there were too many bottlenecks. Our simplified regulations will increase the scale at which students could benefit from such collaborations between Indian and foreign higher education institutions.”

For additional background, please see:

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