India alters foreign school rules citing WTO compliance
Backtracking on earlier commitments, the government of India announced last month it will not require foreign educational institutions to meet quotas or adhere to caps on tuition fees.
An earlier draft of the Foreign Educational Institutions Bill required foreign institutions to set aside specific numbers of spaces for students from disadvantaged groups, and permitted the government to regulate tuition fees charged. Publicly-funded institutions in India face the same regulations, but private institutions are exempt.
The Indian government now says that under international trade rules, they cannot impose quotas and fee regulations on foreign institutions when the same regulations are not enforced on private Indian institutions.
The new rules would violate the national treatment provision of the GATS – the requirement that countries treat foreign providers the same they do as their domestic providers, but India has not taken commitments in education services in the GATS.
“Clearly, India is modifying its regulations to be WTO compliant in anticipation of making GATS commitments in the current negotiations,” says Monique Fouilhoux, deputy general secretary of EI. “This is a disturbing example of how trade rules can affect domestic policy – in this case, the objective of promoting greater social equity in education.”
Fouilhoux also points out that the new legislation will make it easier for foreign institutions to enter India by allowing them to by-pass the traditional accreditation and quality assurance regulations.
The earlier bill required that foreign educational institutions seek accreditation from the University Grants Commission (UGC) before being eligible to offer courses in India.
Under the revised bill, foreign institutions only need to show they are accredited in their home country and have operated for ten years. They will not need to apply to the UGC or any other Indian regulatory body for recognition.