UGC announces amended regulations for academic collaboration between Indian and foreign institutions

The University Grants Commission (UGC) on Tuesday announced amendments to the existing regulations for facilitating academic collaborations between Indian and foreign institutions with the aim of “providing access to quality education”.

Students enrolling in the jointly-offered programmes will be able to earn a specific percentage of the course credit, depending on the type of programme, at a foreign university. Students will not have to get admission into a foreign university and the amendments would allow them to have the study abroad experience while being in a course in India.

UGC Chairman, M Jagadesh Kumar released the amended regulations in a virtual meeting on Tuesday. He said the collaborating institutes will be able to offer three kinds of programmes: i) Twinning programmes, ii) joint degree programmes and iii) dual degree programmes.

If an Indian institution partners with a foreign university to offer a twinning programme, then the students will have to complete 30 per cent of the course’s credits at the foreign university by means of an exchange programme. The same will be applicable to foreign students enrolling in a similar programme.

Under twinning arrangements, credits earned at a foreign educational institution will be counted toward the degree/diploma awarded by the Indian higher education institution. Each institution shall issue a transcript for their respective courses, with a remark indicating that the student has taken certain modules at the partner institution.

For joint degrees, both the partner institutions will have to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU). Students from India will be required to complete more than 30 per cent of their course credit at a foreign institute. The degree, on completion of the course, will be awarded by the Indian institution along with a certificate of credit recognition.

For dual degrees too, students will have to complete 30 per cent of course credit at a foreign institute, but the degree awarded by both Indian and foreign institutes will indicate the credits earned at the respective institutions.

A proposal for a regulatory mechanism to permit collaborative academic programmes was received by the UGC on February 1, 2021, and consequently, a special committee looked into the possibilities to increase collaboration. The draft regulations were then put out for public review, before being passed by the Commission on April 19.

These regulations, which may be called the University Grants Commission (Academic Collaboration between Indian and Foreign Higher Education Institutions to offer Joint Degree, Dual Degree, and Twinning Programmes) Regulations, 2022, will not be applicable to programmes offered in online and open distance learning (ODL) mode.

“Currently, we have about 4 crore students in Indian higher educational institutions, but this number will increase over time. We believe that the regulations will lead to the internationalisation of our higher education and will also provide a great opportunity for our Indian students to acquire multidisciplinary education for an internationally relevant career,” Kumar added.

Any Indian higher education institution accredited by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) with a minimum score of 3.01 on a 4-point scale or figuring in the top 100 in the university category of the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) will be eligible to enter into a partnership to offer collaborative programmes. For foreign institutes to be eligible to collaborate with Indian institutes, they must feature in the list of the world’s top 1000 in the Times Higher Education (THE) and QS World University Rankings.

Institutes fulfilling the prerequisite eligibility criteria of rankings will be called “entitled institutions” and will not require any approval from the UGC to proceed with the partnership.

In the draft regulations prepared last year, the eligibility criteria for foreign institutes suggested that the institutes must have a global ranking of less than 500. “The increased bandwidth is only to allow more institutes to partner and offer more choices to the students,” the UGC chairman stated in response to a question about the commission’s reasons for raising the ranking band and the resulting quality concerns about participating institutions.

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