The Indian government has embarked on an ambitious plan to retain the $50-60 billion Indian students spend annually on foreign education by encouraging foreign universities to establish campuses in Gujarat’s GIFT City. According to industry estimates, this move is expected to not only help Indian students save money but also boost the local economy through an influx of foreign direct investment (FDI).
Aditya Sesh, Chartered Accountant, founder, and managing director of Basiz Fund Service Private Limited, shared his views on the potential benefits:
Every year thousands of students go abroad to the United States, Canada, Australia, to study at international universities. Not to mention, this helps them to get high-paying jobs. So, if an international university opens up in our neighbourhood, students will definitely flock to GIFT City bringing business to the state.
As per the University Grants Commission (UGC) (Setting up and Operation of Campuses of Foreign Higher Educational Institutions in India) Regulations, 2023, foreign universities are allowed to open their international branch campuses (IBC) in GIFT City. The project, worth Rs 78,000 crore, has already attracted over $240 million in investment and generated more than 20,000 employment opportunities.
Australia’s Deakin University is leading the way, with a $4 million (around Rs 22 crore) investment in GIFT City during its initial phase. The university has announced plans to begin operations in 2024, offering Cyber Security and Business Analytics programmes to an initial cohort of 100 students. Aditya Sesh elaborated on the potential impact on the local economy, stating,
Out of these 100 students, even if 50 students come from outside Gujarat, the impact on the local economy would be manifold. There will be people required to offer multimedia work, for content work, accommodation, and public transport too will benefit.
Ravneet Pawha, vice president (Global Alliances) and CEO (South Asia) of Deakin University said that its campus in India is a commercial venture for the university and it will not be a not-for-profit entity. However, she added,
So, yes it opens huge opportunities for us in terms of business. However, our overriding objective is not restricted to the commercial outcome.
IFSCA’s regulations provide Foreign Higher Education Institutes (FHEIs) the freedom to repatriate funds, decide on their fee structure, and operate as a profit entity. Pawha praised this approach, saying,
I think it’s a really good step forward by the government of India, the Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Education to come together to do this.
Despite concerns that the entry of foreign universities in the Indian market might increase competition for domestic players, Pawha believes there is room for both. She said,
We have no competition with the Indian institutions because the Indian institutions operate at a different volume and at a different price point. Students will choose different institutions for different reasons.
In summary, the Indian government’s move to attract foreign universities to establish campuses in GIFT City holds the potential to save Indian students billions of dollars spent on foreign education, while simultaneously boosting Gujarat’s economy and creating new employment opportunities. This initiative could be a game-changer for the state and the country as a whole.