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Internationalisation of Higher Education in India 2021

Updated: Jul 6, 2022

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Executive Summary

India since early times has been and continues to be promoted as a global study destination providing premium education at affordable costs. In addition to the traditional institutes of Nalanda and Takshila, universities in India today attract more than 40000 international students from 164 different countries. But the growth in this number slackened in the past few years compared to that a decade ago. That is why the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 calls for making a plan of action to help India restore its role as a Viswa Guru.

This report attempts to explain the current Indian Higher Education landscape in light of the changes as proposed by NEP 2020, focusing majorly on internationalisation of Indian higher education. As per NEP 2020, top-performing Indian universities will be encouraged to set up campuses in other countries. Similarly, select universities (e.g., those from among the top 100 universities in the world) will be permitted to operate in India. A legislative framework facilitating such entry will be put in place, and such universities will be given special dispensation regarding regulatory, governance, and content norms on par with other autonomous institutions of India.

India plans to have one multidisciplinary higher education institution (HEI) in, or near every district by 2030. This requires careful evaluation of the Higher education zones in India to identify what challenges are being faced by the system that are hindering the idea of autonomous and self-sufficient institutes. It also requires identifying the key stakeholders in the Indian education system who will act as catalysts in the entire process. While this analysis explains the supply side of the problem statement, we cannot ignore the demand that India is generating with its vibrant culture and traditions. Apart from these, there are many other drivers that if leveraged fully by India, can make it one of the most preferred places for higher education.

As NEP 2020 calls for having foreign branch campuses (FBCs) set up in India as one of its objectives, the report attempts to explain with the help of a carefully designed model, the minimum potential inflow of international students that India can expect to achieve in the coming years. However, its success is entirely dependent on India’s agility in implementing student-friendly initiatives in different parts of the country. One such example is the Study in India program. This program has been very well appreciated for the simplicity it brings to the process of studying abroad. Further, it also promotes the soft powers of the country like Yoga, Ayurveda etc. among the diversity of courses offered in India.

Factors like affordability and ease of admission form the top reasons for choosing India when compared to the existing global education hubs of USA, Malaysia, etc. Since India needs to compete with these countries, the report provides a detailed comparative analysis of the internationalisation models followed by countries in Asia-Pacific as they have a structure similar to India: developing nations and unprecedented growth levels. Countries like UAE, China and Singapore are becoming increasingly attractive as they serve as the host countries for establishing joint ventures, contractual models or wholly-owned international branch campuses (IBCs). India can learn from these models to decide on its mode of market entry as well as the regulation system to be followed which will lead the way to its goal of becoming the next big global education hub.

After understanding the higher education landscape in India, a need arises to look at the different types of potential partnerships that can be formed depending on the types of higher education institutes- Tier-1, Tier-2 and Tier-3. This includes the partnerships like the class project, research project, alliance, etc. that an HEI can build with industry to grant students the exposure of a corporate setting to make them ready for the global labour market. One of the top-rated skills that have come into the picture since COVID-19 is the use of technology. Therefore, for those universities that cannot afford to provide the necessary resources or make investments in tech space can partner with EdTech companies to attract foreign universities to India. This kind of resource utilisation will not only address the problem of brain drain by retaining the talent in the country but will also speed up the process of internationalisation of higher education in India.


India is the home to Nalanda, Takshashila and Vikramashila, which serve as the quintessential examples of exemplary scholars across the world. India also serves as the home to global leaders like Mr. Satya Nadella (CEO - Microsoft), Mr. Sundar Pichai (CEO - Alphabet Inc.), Hinduja group and a myriad others. However, in most cases, the brain bank is no longer a property of India. What prompts them to do so?

There can be a multitude of reasons, however, we can break it down to three main incentives:

  1. The education infrastructure.

  2. The industry/job market.

  3. Lifestyle and convenience.

Education is the primary driver which prompts the students to go abroad in the first place. The other two reasons mentioned above make these students stay overseas.

Current Indian Higher Education Landscape

Despite having the second largest higher education system in the world, none of its 990 universities and 40,000 colleges figure in the top 100 of World University Rankings. India provides one of the largest pools of manpower, yet the quality of manpower is concerning. Substandard institutions generate degree-oriented graduates who aren’t professional in the truest sense. The country ranks as low as 72 among 132 countries in the latest Global Talent Competitive Index (2020) which gauges a country’s current ability to grow and attract talents. Home to top scholars in the world, only six universities find places in the top 500 around the world. Moreover, the Gross Enrolment Ratio which quantifies the ratio of students enrolled for higher education in comparison to all people in that age group is at 26%. Only a quarter of Indians enroll for higher education as opposed to 99% in Italy, 90% in Australia and 85% in the United States. The NEP (National Education Policy) 2020 proposes to nearly double it to 50% by 2035. Before we massify the current education systems, let’s explore what internationalisation could possibly do. Higher education worldwide is dynamic and is influenced by not only the national policies but also global perspective.

Internationalisation of Higher Education

Higher education scholar J. Knight defines it as: “Internationalisation is a process of introduction of international constituents in research, educational and administrative to the function of higher education”. Internationalisation includes the policies and practices undertaken by academic systems and institutions—and even individuals—to cope with the global academic environment. The motivations for internationalisation include commercial advantage, knowledge and language acquisition, enhancing the curriculum with international content, to name a few. Dominantly, specific initiatives such as branch campuses, cross-border collaborative arrangements and programs for international students are put together as internationalisation.

Internationalisation and Globalisation

Globalisation is the word used to describe the growing interdependence of the world’s economies, cultures, and populations, brought about by cross-border trade in goods and services, technology, and flows of investment, people, and information. J. Knight & Altbach, 2007 define globalisation as the economic, political, and societal forces pushing 21st century higher education toward greater international involvement.

Internationalisation and Globalisation are related but not the same. Globalisation is a rather unalterable phenomena, while internationalisation involves choices at individual, institutional and macro-economic levels. Given the most generic definition of globalisation includes “flow of people and information”, it can be rightly said internationalisation of higher education contributes to globalisation and consequently the economic, academic trends follow.

What good does Internationalization of education bring?

Competitive skills

It has been widely established that the students who have competitive advantage of international education (even in small capacities), enjoy a higher employability in the global job markets (EAIE Dublin, 2012). This is attributable to a variety of factors, such as increased level of comfiture in a multicultural environment and higher awareness of global trade, finance and industry operations. The benefits are not limited to better understanding of foreign work culture: students with international education are more confident and self-reliant. They are more willing to avail of opportunities in foreign businesses. As part of the workforce, they are more likely to flourish in the face of adverse and unfamiliar situations that pertain to interactions with foreign business associations and cross-cultural adaptations. Moreover, students who have received exposure to international education have wider intellectual horizons and a greater ability to appreciate other perspectives that might come their way in their professional career. For this reason, these students exhibit more refined decision-making and problem-solving skills—core skills that are relevant in all industries (cf. Ruben & Kealey, 1979/Vidya Rajiv Yeravdekar & Gauri Tiwari, 2014). EAIE Dublin Conference Report 2012 enlists the following key skills developed through international mobility and correspondingly the key skills that are desired from employers.


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Aside from the skills that one imparts due to foreign mobility, does internationalisation of higher education play a bigger role?

Taking the case of Czech Republic for an anecdote. Czech Republic underwent the “Velvet Revolution” in 1989 abolishing the hold of communist -one party regime and conducted its first democratic elections in 1990. Subsequently, the economic policies of the state changed as well. In the 1990-2001 period, successive reforms were brought in, in the Central and Eastern European region primarily focusing on development of the system of higher education in these countries. A timeline representation would be:

Essentially, the point being Czech Republic underwent multiple policy reforms in the education space over the period 1990-2000 focusing at internationalisation of higher education.

GDP (in billion $) of Czech Republic can be found underneath:

Of course, the GDP increase was not just because of Internationalisation of higher education, but instead, growing foreign direct investments and general globalisation also. However, in the same time, due to better education opportunities, the productivity of the country also followed a similar trend. This can be found below:

Major Changes Proposed by NEP ’20

The NEP’ 20 proposes the following major changes:

India to be Promoted as Foreign Study Destination: Every institution will have an International Students Office to host foreign students. Colleges will be promoted to provide premium education at affordable costs.

Foreign Colleges Can Set Up Colleges in India: Top 100 Foreign Colleges will be allowed to set up their campuses in India as per NEP. They will be given special dispensation and regulations to set up the campuses.

By 2030, one large multidisciplinary college in every district: By 2030, all higher education institutions will become multidisciplinary institutions and each of them will at least have an enrollment of 3,00 students. By 2030, be at least one large multidisciplinary HEI in or near every district. The aim is to increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education including vocational education from 26.3% (2018) to 50% by 2035.

Music, arts and literature to be taught in all colleges: Departments in Languages, Literature, Music, Philosophy, Indology, Art, Dance, Theatre, Education, Mathematics, Statistics, Pure and Applied Sciences, Sociology, Economics, Sports, Translation, and Interpretation, etc. will be introduced in all higher education institutions.

Single Common Entrance Exam for all Colleges: According to the NEP 2020, there will be a single common entrance exam for admission to all higher education institutes which will be held by NTA. The entrance exam will be optional and not mandatory.

Expenditure on Education: The expenditure on education will be changed to 6 percent of the total GDP, as opposed to earlier, which was 4 percent of the GDP. Both the State, as well as Central Government, will be working together on the expenditure.

NEP ’20 lays emphasis on internationalisation of higher education in India. Amendments have been aimed at adopting a model that is in line with the international standards, one which focuses on practical knowledge and not just rote learning. Introducing Arts subjects in all colleges instills a broader perspective amongst students, while also ensuring holistic development. Developing a credit bank - standardises higher education and makes mobility possible. Further, allowing top foreign universities to set up campuses in India puts India on the road of global excellence and gives opportunity to focus on research. Finally, with the increased expenditure on education, the environment seems just about right for India to realise internationalisation of higher education to the fullest. Can this be a game changer?

Regulatory Landscape

There have been some attempts to introduce and regulate foreign participation in the Indian higher education landscape.

A. The AICTE brought out a notification in 2003 called AICTE notification for regulation for entry and operation of foreign universities and institutions imparting technical education in India, 2003. This was the first regulation (Annexure 1) that explains the process of setting a Foreign Educational Institutes (FEI) investing in India.

Lack of awareness, qualitative control, economic incentives, patchy enforcement and ambiguity about the central and state government’s role make these regulations unviable to achieve their goals of setting up an International Branch Campus in India.

B. The Government of India

through the consolidated FDI policy, 1 October 2011 had also removed all construction barriers (land norms, building size, etc.) to FDI in the education sector, but, continued legal hurdles caused FEIs to not set up their bases in India. Instead, FEIs have been participating in the Indian educational system through –

1. Twinning programs, that is, provide education partly in India and rest at the place where the FEI is situated.

2. Franchising of degree programs, under which the FEI collaborates with Indian institutions to have their degrees be taught in India.

C. Foreign Branch Campuses in India will be set up as Private HEIs are set up in India, for which different states have different laws, requirements and basic norms for setting up. This is one of the biggest challenges faced by Private HEIs - the lack of uniformity creates a lot of confusion.

D. A plan to allow foreign universities to establish campuses in India has been revived, with the Narendra Modi government set to include a provision in its Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) Bill that would allow their entry and operation and specify norms for joint and dual degrees.

New Regulatory Framework Introduced by The National Education Policy - 2020

With a target to improve the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education to 50% by 2030, the National Education Policy, 2020 (NEP) has been introduced to completely overhaul the existing system of higher education in India, especially the regulatory structure. It aims for a “light-but-tight” system.

Restructuring of institutions: All higher education institutions (HEIs) will be restructured into three categories:

1) Research universities focusing equally on research and teaching,

2) Teaching universities focusing primarily on teaching, and

3) Degree granting colleges primarily focused on undergraduate teaching.

All such institutions will gradually move towards full autonomy - academic, administrative, and financial. All HEIs should eventually be transformed into large multidisciplinary universities and colleges with 3,000 or more students. By 2030, there should be one multidisciplinary HEI in, or near every district.

Regulatory structure: The regulatory structure of higher education in India will be overhauled to ensure that the distinct functions of regulation, accreditation, funding and setting academic standards are performed by separate, independent bodies. This will minimise conflict of interest and eliminate concentration of power. To ensure this, the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) will be setup with four independent verticals: (i) the National Higher Education Regulatory Council as a single regulator (including teacher education, excluding legal and medical education), (ii) the National Accreditation Council for accreditation of institutions, (iii) the Higher Education Grants Council for financing of higher education institutions, and (iv) General Education Council for specifying the curriculum framework and learning levels for higher education. Disputes between the four verticals will be resolved by a body of experts under the HECI.

Improving research: The Committee observed that investment on research and innovation in India is only 0.69% of GDP, compared to 2.8% in the USA, 4.2% in South Korea and 4.3% of GDP in Israel. The NEP recommends setting up an independent National Research Foundation for funding and facilitating quality research in India. Specialised institutions which currently fund research, such as the Department of Science and Technology, Indian Council of Medical Research will continue to fund independent projects. The Foundation will collaborate with such agencies to avoid duplication.

Foreign universities: High performing Indian universities will be encouraged to set up campuses in other countries. Similarly, selected top global universities will be permitted to operate in India. A legislative framework facilitating such entry will be put in place. Such universities will be given exemptions from regulatory and governance norms on par with autonomous institutions in the country.

Market opportunity for foreign branch campuses in India

Student Mobility

Ever since globalisation, India has constantly been making efforts to increase its participation in international student mobility. It presently has around 950 universities and 45000 colleges (Study in India). According to the QS World University Rankings, currently India is only second to China in terms of international student enrollment in schools across the globe. This is largely because of its population of 1.26 billion, of which more than 50% are below the age of 25. As per statistics, in 2018-19, India’s outbound mobility was 375,055 students, which was 6.7% of the total mobile students across the globe. US hosts the largest share of this number (36.25%), followed by Australia (19.55%), Canada (9.28%) and the UK (5.23%) as the most preferred destinations.

Where this number continues to be high, India attracted only 47,247 foreign students from 164 countries in 2018-19. The incoming students were largely from the neighboring countries like Nepal (26.88%), Afghanistan (9.82%), Bangladesh (4.38%), Nigeria, Sudan etc. While this number was 1.4 times that in 2011-12, its inbound mobility is still less than 1 percent of the total internationally mobile students. Although there are provisions for enrolling 15 percent foreign students in some of the Indian higher education institutions and 10 per cent in all higher institutions, these targets remain to be achieved.

Figure 1: Top 10 countries preferring India as in 2018-19

The Indian government has planned to attract more than 200,000 students by 2025 (Study in India, 2018) which is nearly 4 times of the present number. Till date, India has attracted 40000+ international students every year.

Now, our calculations suggest that if India follows an aggressive implementation policy to achieve the objectives laid down by NEP 2020 and Foreign Branch Campuses (FBCs) do open in the country, India can expect to receive a student inflow of minimum 54000 international students next year (54,264 students, as per our model). This number has been arrived at after carefully considering different factors like willingness to study abroad, country-wise preferences, etc.

Following assumptions have been made to arrive at this prospective market size of 54,264 international students:

Table 1: Prospective Market Size Model

One of the conclusions that can be drawn from all the above calculations is that there exists an increasing demand for international higher education. And so far, India has had some progress in fulfilling it. Indian universities like Nalanda University and Takshila University have traditionally been international institutions in their orientation. Others like Delhi University, Osmania University and Amity University are some recent public universities that are witnessing an increasing enrolment.

India’s rich culture is one of its soft powers that seems to attract many international students. Indian institutes provide technical expertise across a diverse range of courses, from STEM to non-STEM courses, and include programs in niche disciplines such as Ayurveda, Yoga, and Buddhist Studies.

Foreign students come to India to pursue UG, PG, PhD and other professional and vocational courses. Presently, India’s power lies in its under-graduate courses like B. Tech, BBA, B.Sc., BA etc. as more than 70 percent of the incoming foreign students pursue these. While this is the overall observation, the level of tertiary education pursued differs from country to country. For instance, foreign students from Nepal prefer to study nursing in India more than any other course. For under-graduate courses like B. Tech, there were 8,861 foreign students in India out of which 85% were males and 15% were females. In post-graduate courses like MBA, a total of 1,574 foreign students came to India of which more than 60 per cent were males.

Figure 2: International Students enrolment in India by Courses

As per the data of 2018-19, the most preferred destinations in India are Karnataka (21.13%), Maharashtra (10.55%), Punjab, UP, Tamil Nadu, etc. The primary reason for choosing these states is the quality of life offered to international students in these states. Places like Mysore and Bangalore are preferred for reasons like quality education, affordability, student-friendly initiatives, good treatment and accommodative locals, etc.

An example of the state-of-the-art facilities provided to the foreign students- given that Karnataka is attracting the largest number of international students, the state higher education department has decided to set up a centralised help center for them at the Karnataka State Council for Higher Education in Bengaluru. This dedicated help center will feature a toll-free helpline managed by trained executives to attend calls and address the issues of the international students.

“When I decided to study abroad, I started to think about India and contacted my friends studying in different cities. Most recommended University of Mysore. I looked up the varsity and Mysore city and its culture, weather and cleanliness and how it treated foreigners. Finally, I decided to study at St Philomena’s College.” - Hazratkhan Hoshmand, an Afghan student. Similarly, Mumbai is a major center of commerce and finance and hence, offers loads of opportunities for students interested in the field. Jawaharlal Nehru once referred to Pune as “the Oxford and Cambridge of India,” and it is considered by many to be the premier educational and research capital of the country. Home to India’s second largest college- University of Pune, there is a sizable student population (both local and international) and an exciting feeling of change pervading the city.

Table 2: Top Preferred Universities in India (2018-19)

However, the success of our model and achievement of India’s dream of becoming the next big global education hub highly depends on a lot of factors. Some of these drivers that attract international students are:

The biggest reason for choosing India is the cost effectiveness of Indian education system. Cost of education in India is merely one-fourth of the cost cited across other leading universities in the world. So, as mentioned in our model also, annual tuition fee in India is not a major obstacle for international students as compared to the western countries.

To further make education in India cheap, the Indian government has offered a plethora of scholarships to the foreign students. Some popular scholarships for international students are the General Cultural Scholarship Scheme, Cultural Exchange Program and Indian Council for Cultural Relations among others. Amongst all these, India’s most successful step has been the ‘STUDY IN INDIA’ program.

● It’s a flagship project of the Government of India, launched in collaboration with the MoE, MEA, MHA, and MCI in April 2018 that aims at making India a leading global education hub and to double its market share of global education exports from less than 1 percent to 2 percent by offering scholarships to meritorious foreign students.

Presently, it has partnered with 106 premier Indian institutes, including 10 state universities, 20 deemed universities, 40 Institutes of National Importance, 5 Institutes of Eminence, and many top colleges. The program is currently offering around 55,000 seats with more than 35,500 fee waivers and 2,000 scholarships, with each scholarship valued at INR 250,000. In 2018, around 1,00

0 students from foreign countries took admission in the Study in India program, which increased to 3,000 in 2019. While the applicants are coming from six countries, the program aims to attract students from 30 nations.

Institutes under the initiative offer tuition fee waivers from 25% to 100% which cover for more than 50 percent of the total international students. The breakup is as follows: 100% waiver of tuition only for the top 25% students, 50% waiver of tuition fees for the next 25% students, 25% waiver of tuition fees for the next 25% students and no waiver of tuition fee for remaining 25% of students.

However, there is still a need to spread great awareness about it. IIT Madras, which has the highest number of foreign students, has not seen any foreign students come specifically through Study in India. Therefore, we need more such programs to not only attract students to the Indian institutes but also to the FBCs that India is planning to set up as per NEP 2020.

● Second is the diversity of courses offered. The academic institutes in the Indian Education system currently focus on delivering popular STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) courses. Apart from these courses, India also offers a wide range of courses on ancient cultural studies in Yoga, Ayurveda, Sanskrit and classical dances at one end, and advanced technical study of Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Computing on the other.

But there still remains a large segment of students who wish to take the road less traveled and are constantly looking to advance their higher studies abroad just because their desired program is not widely available in their home country. Therefore, if India leverages further upon this, not only it will attract a larger number of foreign students, but it will also simultaneously solve the problem of brain-drain.

Third driver will be ease of admission. Until now, students seeking admission in Indian Universities had to write individual entrance tests for each university and it’s a known fact that admission to India’s top-ranked institutes including IIMs, IITs is highly competitive. Therefore, having an easier admission criterion can definitely put India in a favorable position.

As per a latest announcement made by the senior officials in the Ministry of Human Resource Development, beginning 2020, foreign students wanting to study at any Indian institution will now have to write a common entrance test known as InSAT which will be on the lines of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) used in the US and Canada. InSAT will be an online aptitude test that will test basic knowledge of students, including verbal, analytical and quantitative reasoning. The scores will be used as a qualification for getting admission to Indian universities.

It will initially be conducted in the 30 countries that India is targeting under the ‘Study in India’ program (discussed above). Nearly five thousand candidates from Nepal, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Sri-Lanka, Kenya, Zambia, Indonesia and Mauritius appeared for the first time this exam was conducted. Going forward, the government plans to make it more prominent in the foreign students’ admission process. The successful implementation of this with least anomalies will put India on the radar of foreign students.

And lastly, expertise and accreditation. Presently, the biggest factor that hinders India’s growth in becoming the next big education hub is the lack of a universally applicable curriculum that will render individuals ready for the global labor market. We need to bring in teachers who have the right expertise and experience and can shape talented students for a better career path. In addition, providing the flexibility to tailor courses to a student’s interest and the freedom to work on a part-time basis while studying adds to the overall appeal of earning a degree abroad, will increase the overall quality of education.

Most of these drivers have been achieved by India to some extent. But there is still a scope of improvement which if brought about, can bring in the desired degree of internationalisation of Indian Higher Education.

International Branch Campuses

Internationalisation models in Asia Pacific - (Altbach, Knight, 2007)

Vietnam forms a comparable model to India; developing nations, unprecedented growth levels, and both being the forefront competitors (in the region) for establishing manufacturing hubs. Vietnam is an emerging center of activity. RMIT from Australia owns 100% of a branch campus, whereas Troy State University from the United States established a foreign branch, the International College of IT and Management. The number of active partnerships between local and foreign institutions is steadily expanding. For instance, the University of Hue in Vietnam recently developed a franchised and joint- degree bachelor’s program in tourism with the University of Hawaii. Hanoi University of Technology is currently offering master’s and bachelor’s degrees with higher education institutions from Belgium (1), France (8), Germany (1), Singapore (2), and the United States (1). The Vietnamese government recently announced development of the International University in Vietnam—another initiative to increase national capacity for higher education. Half the university teaching staff will be Vietnamese, and the other half will be from foreign universities. Foreign institutional involvement will build on and expand from the current links of Ho Chi Minh City National University.

Australia, China, Egypt, and the United States are increasing cross-border education to Thailand. The Egyptian Al-Azhar University and Jinan University from China plan to open a branch campus, whereas Swinburne University of Technology (Australia) has operated a branch campus since 1998, though it is changing its focus to industry training only. Troy State University has a teaching site in Bangkok for its MBA program; students can transfer to the United States depending on funds and visa requirements. The Thai-German Graduate School of Engineering, 13 Australian universities, and nine U.K. universities also operate in Thailand.

The University of New South Wales (Australia) will establish the first 100% foreign-owned higher education institution in Singapore after receiving government approval. The university plans to offer undergraduate and graduate programs and to develop a strong research capacity. Other respected foreign institutions offer education and training programs in Singapore through joint ventures, exchanges, and branch campuses, including the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, Shanghai Jiaotong University, Stanford University, the German Technische Universität München, and the Technische Universiteit Eindhoven (the Netherlands).

Singapore institutions, in turn, are noteworthy exporters. The National University of Singapore and Fudan University developed a joint MBA, aimed at Chinese and Singapore students. The National University is also embarking on a new graduate school initiative for Chinese students to be located in Suzhou Graduate Town, part of the Suzhou Industrial Park. Raffles LaSalle Limited is a publicly traded Singapore company that provides programs in fashion and design in many Asian countries.

What is an International Branch Campus?

IBC: An entity that is owned, at least in part, by a foreign higher education provider; operated in the name of the foreign education provider; and provides an entire academic program, substantially on site, leading to a degree awarded by the foreign education provider. (CBERT)

Why IBCs?

For institutions: For many institutions, the establishment of a branch campus abroad is

● an opportunity to improve international relationships

● ability to attract foreign talent

● increase prestige and tuition revenue

● and expand opportunities for external funding.

For host nations:

● helps to reduce the brain drain, as part of the students aiming for international degree are able to stay “at home”

● support income generation

● increase technology transfer (Shams and Huisman, 2012).

● Financially viable option for globally competitive education within host country

Institutional Level Benchmarking

Questions to consider:

  1. How is an IBC set up?

  2. How is it run?

  3. What does it lead to (in terms of outcomes)?

Focus on 3 nations that contain 34.4% of IBCs in the world

ot CountryNumber of Branch Campuses

* Emerging markets with highly nuanced educational hubs suitable to benchmark for India.

Institutional models for IBCs, based on mode of market entry into host country:

  1. Contractual Model (Franchising, articulation, acquisition)

  2. Joint venture

  3. Wholly owned subsidiary/sole venture

Co-operative Models joint ventures)Contractual ModelWholly owned subsidiaries (branch camp/satellite campus/offshore institution)Grand Tota

Education Hub: A designated region intended to attract foreign investment, retain local students, build a regional reputation by providing access to high-quality education and training for both international and domestic students, and create a knowledge-based economy. An education hub can include different combinations of domestic/international institutions, branch campuses, and foreign partnerships, within the designated region.

The following is a list of entities that have described themselves as current or developing education hubs. For each entry we provide a basic description based upon news reports, information from the organisation, and, when possible, our own visits. Inclusion below does not mean that the entity currently operates as a hub, but merely that there is evidence that it is intended to be a hub. (CBERT)

Four models of regulating foreign providers in receiving countries (Ziguras and McBurnie, 2015)

  1. Liberal regulation with minimal quality assurance: The foreign providers fall outside of the receiving government’s jurisdiction.

  2. Liberal regulation with comprehensive assurance: If the receiving countries welcome foreign institutions as well as developed quality assurance procedures for these providers

  3. Restrictive regulation and minimal quality assurance model: Due to the fact that IBCs are prohibited, there is no provision at all.

  4. Restrictive regulation and comprehensive quality assurance model: Receiving countries restrict the entry of foreign providers, but adopt quality assurance measures


Unites Arab Emirates


1 : Rise of UAE

With the economic rise and establishment of UAE as an oil-export based economy, an accompanying rise of demand for specialized skills was seen, reflected in the country’s rising tertiary enrolment numbers, which grew from just 519 in 1978 to 159,553 in 2016. (UNESCO)

The country began importing foreign labor, both low and high skilled, as the population was too small to sustain the rise in demand for labour. As recently as 2013, immigrants held more than 90 percent of the jobs in the country’s private sector. In the same year, immigrants made up over 80 percent of the population, or 7.8 million out of a total population of 9.2 million (Migration Policy Institute)

In order to diversify its economy, UAE stressed the need to reduce reliance on oil and transform its economy from a conventional, labor-intensive economy to one based on knowledge, technology and skilled labor (UAE Embassy in Washington DC) —- resulting in one of the highest degrees of trade openness (ratio of total exports and imports to GDP) of 176 percent (World Bank, 2014). The overarching objective of the internationalization of higher education is to create a strong knowledge-based economy with high level of integration into the skilled-labour economy UAE nationals.

The two Emirates, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, are focal points of this strategy, where the two jurisdictions are active in attracting international branch campuses (IBCs). Abu Dhabi began a targeted approach towards attracting IBCs of reputed universities with high QS Rankings (such as NYU) and Dubai adopted a more aggressive approach with the establishment of free zones (FZs), that resulted in the creation of education hubs. (CBERT)

2: New York University Abu Dhabi

Free zones are areas designed to attract foreign direct investment. They provide attractive incentive packages to foreign corporations with reduced customs, duties and regulatory barriers. For example, free zones in Dubai offer 100% foreign ownership, 100% repatriation of profits, and 100% exemption from taxes and customs duties (CBERT)

3 : UAE Free Zones

Education Hubs: In DIAC, 21 out of the 27 higher education institutions (HEIs) are from outside the UAE. (

Location: foreign providers in Dubai rarely operate outside of FZs; as of 2011 only two providers were operating in non-FZ areas. (

Student composition: Students at IBCs in Dubai are predominantly citizens of other countries. In 2015/16, 37,692 of the 60,310 students (63 percent) enrolled in Dubai’s HEIs were expatriates. (KHDA).” This is reflective of Dubai’s labour market at large, wherein expats make up the majority of the population.

Regulatory Landscape of the UAE: Liberal regulation with minimal quality assurance

IBCs located within Dubai’s FZs fall under the authority of the KHDA (Knowledge and Human Development Authority, Government of Dubai UAE), which requires that:

All institutions receive academic authorization prior to opening

Each of the institution’s academic programs be registered with the KHDA

To facilitate these operations, the KHDA established an internal quality assurance body, the University Quality Assurance International Board (UQAIB)

UQAIB: “In order not to burden foreign HEPs [Higher Education Providers] unduly and duplicate quality assurance (QA) processes to which such HEPs have already been subjected, UQAIB will, in the first instance, take account of existing QA reports on the quality of provision of foreign higher education institutions (HEIs) as well as the effectiveness of the QA systems and procedures in place at those institutions, as long as such reports are fairly recent.” Therefore, this system relies highly on self-evaluation of the institutions themselves - with minimal intervention from the host nation.


● Dubai’s hands-off approach with free zones has enabled the consolidation of a leading education hub in the country, however, this has led to concerns over quality assurance, excess supply and limited demand of international HEIs. A majority of IBC students in Dubai are expats, making it incompatible with the UAE’s national goal of labour nationalization.

● Mostly expat international citizens enrolled, but labour nationalization makes it incongruent with labour market outcomes

● Quality assurance concerns

● Less focus on QS rankings and more focus on quantity



4: China


The signing of regulations on 'Sino-foreign' educational partnerships allowed foreign organizations to operate in China, by the opening of China's education market in accordance with the terms of WTO membership. The regulations came into effect on 1 September 2003.

● Most of the international branch campuses and cooperation programs provide undergraduate-level courses (75.2 percent)

● Some of them master-level programs (22.6 percent)

● Only 0.9 percent of them offer doctoral-level courses and programs. (Genshu Lu, Hui Kang, and Ni Yan 2013)

Location: Most of the international cooperation HE programs and branch campuses are in Eastern China, the relatively more developed region (over 55 percent), while only five percent are in the 12 western provinces. (2013)

Mainland China encouraged cross-border cooperation in higher education by issuing the Chinese-foreign Cooperation in Running Schools Regulations of the People’s Republic of China in 2003. According to the regulations, IBCs, as independent entities, are allowed to return profits back to their home institution (Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China 2010)

● Focus on Chinese ideology: These regulations state that “Sino-foreign cooperative education must be in conformity with Chinese laws, implement Chinese education policies, comply with Chinese public ethics, and may not impair the state sovereignty, security, or public interest. Sino-foreign cooperative education shall meet the needs of the development of Chinese education undertakings, guarantee the education quality, and commit to foster a variety of talents for the socialist construction cause of China.” (

Focus on high QS rankings: “The state encourages the Chinese-foreign cooperative education that introduces high-quality foreign education resources.” (

● China’s most prestigious universities have almost exclusively established partnerships with top research universities worldwide, including member institutions of the elite UK Russell Group of research-intensive universities. The Ministry of Education: “curriculum, learning outcomes, and degrees awarded meet home campus standards” (

● The results of these measures seem to be positive. That same study found that “learning outcomes assessment and measures [at IBCs in China] were usually the same as the home campus, in order to assist graduates to be highly competitive in [the] global job market.” (

Only joint ventures: China’s Ministry of Education refers to them as China-Foreign Cooperation in Running Schools (CFCRS) institutions. Successful completion of study at a CFCRS institution typically leads to the awarding of two degrees—one from the foreign partner institution, and one from the independent CFCRS institution. (

● Student composition: Majority are Chinese domestic students

Regulatory Landscape of China: Liberal regulation and comprehensive quality assurance model

Double accreditation system: Collaboration between home and host accreditors, including information sharing, is a recent trend. For example, the Chinese government has forced the UK’s QAA (Quality Assurance Agency) to collaborate with a local partner while undertaking external reviews.

In China, “unlike some other countries that allow foreign universities to have a free hand in setting up and running an educational enterprise, China’s Ministry of Education has developed a set of rules and regulations on the presence and operation of foreign higher educational institutions in China” (Feng 2013, p. 473) “no foreign university can set up a program, let alone, a campus, without partnering with a Chinese institution and the head of the offspring institution must be a Chinese citizen.” (

Foreign institutions are required to obtain renewal approval from the Ministry of Education of Chinese Government through “a compulsory evaluation with nine standards, including self-evaluation, documentation review and randomly arranged visits” (

A joint accreditation between host and home accreditors is the new direction promoted by the Ministry of Education. Currently, home accreditors still take the major responsibilities for the quality assurance of IBCs in China.

5 :Duke Kunshan University


China’s market size makes it an attractive destination. China’s focus on quality assurance has resulted in positive outcomes. However, China only allows for joint ventures with laws that prevent complete Westernization of the HE system.

It is important to point out that this protectionist attitude and the resulting restrictions placed on IBCs do not appear to have diminished the appeal of the Chinese market to foreign institutions.

Thorough quality control.

Only joint ventures are permitted in China.

The advantages of establishing an academic presence in the world’s largest higher education market, and the benefit of partnering with institutions in a country increasingly willing and able to invest in advanced research are reasons enough for many institutions to forgo some aspects of institutional autonomy



The Singapore government understood that higher education could nurture human capital in addition to fostering economic growth (Mok 2011). Its aim is to promote Singapore as a “knowledge hub” through world-class “Singapore education” (Olds 2007; Tan 2014)

2002: Singapore’s Economic Development Board (EDB) launched the Global Schoolhouse Initiative.

Goals of Global Schoolhouse Initiative:

● To establish Singapore as a regional centre and a world hub for education

● to build the higher education sector to roughly 5% of Singapore’s GDP

● to attract 150,000 foreign students by 2015. (Ministry of Trade and Industry, Singapore)

6: Yale-NUS College

Global competition and small market size led to an unsuccessful start of internationalization in Singapore

International student enrollment targets were not met

○ From 90,000 foreign students in 2010, enrolment had slipped to about 75,000 by 2014

IBC Closures Due to Financial Pressures:

○ The University of New South Wales closed its branch campus in 2007 after a very brief operating period - citing financial pressures due to high operational costs within Singapore.

○ John Hopkins withdrew from Singapore in 2006 -- citing financial pressures due to high operational costs within Singapore.

○ New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts closed its Singapore campus in 2015 - accumulated millions of dollars in debt.

○ The University of Chicago also opted to relocate its Asia Campus from Singapore to Hong Kong in 2015, in part to be closer to the all-important Chinese market

Public funding: Government support to private ventures rescued the IBC market


● Yale-NUS College (2011) – joint venture of Yale University and National University of Singapore) – relied heavily on public funding support.

“Yale’s potential to expand overseas had been constrained by the 2009 financial crash in which the university lost US$6.5 billion on the stock market, reducing its endowment by 25%.” “Public funding cuts had also reduced Yale’s budget by $3.5 billion over several years, he said. That left ‘no resources available to be innovative’ until Singapore agreed to cover the cost of the new college.” (Times Higher Education)

7: TUM Asia

The Singapore government created other incentives for foreign institutions, such as taxation and rent reductions

● “To attract foreign education institutions, the government has adopted competitive institutional land pricing for the tertiary, prep, and boarding schools segment. Some 90 hectares of land has been set aside for this purpose” (Asian Development Bank)

● “An Edu-Mall concept to cluster commercial schools, corporate institutes, and related companies by industry type at a centralized location has been considered (Similar to Dubai Free Zones). This could enable educational enterprises in different segments to enjoy agglomeration economies.” (Asian Development Bank)

Regulatory Landscape in Singapore: Liberal regulation and minimal quality assurance model

International Accreditation is adopted by the Singapore government, meaning that either the home or the host quality assurance agency does not review IBCs in Singapore.

Currently, Singapore does not have a central authority that ensures quality of higher education institutions. Recognition and acceptance of certificates for employment, further studies or other purposes are entirely at the discretion of the individual prospective employer, education institutions or organizations.

“The MOE does not provide a list of accredited overseas universities and no central authority in Singapore assesses or grants recognition for degrees obtained from overseas universities. The MOE considers that the employer should decide whether a degree-holder has the qualities desired for the job and the qualification most relevant to the employer’s needs” (Ministry of Education 2012)


● The Chinese, Malaysian and Hong Kong markets posed significant competition to Singapore in terms of establishing IBCs - led to a rocky beginning

● To counter international competition, Singapore introduced public funding reforms and encouraged IBCs. Internationalization in Singapore is driven by public funding.

There is a lack of quality assurance - this hastens the process of establishment, but labour market outcomes remain uncertain and unmonitored by the government. Employers exercise discretion on whether or not they recognize particular degrees.

Focus on QS Rankings

8: Higher Education Market Sizes by Country inn 2012

(Source: EY)

Key Take Aways

China’s competitive advantage lies in its large relative market size. As an immediate neighbour, the alternative of the large Chinese market may pose a threat to IBC expansion in India. Additionally, China is favoured for its prevalence of joint ventures. Many IBCs find it favourable to share the risk of their investments with Chinese corporations. The issue lies in China’s strict accreditation system, which ensures quality control but adds additional barriers for IBCs to be established. India could take advantage of this by creating an accreditation system that is a one-step accreditation process, as an alternative to China’s double-accreditation system.

Singapore’s recovery from initial failures in IBC expansion can serve as a case study for India to survive global competition with public funding, lowered tariffs and subsidized rents to attract IBCs.

Following the examples of both UAE and Singapore, India could benefit from the education hub model.

Focus on QS rankings would be the ideal strategy for India, as it has benefitted Singapore and China in terms of quality control. Franchising could be an ideal option, in conjunction with IBCs.

In Singapore, issues exist in terms of recognition of international degrees in national jobs. India could eliminate that obstacle by including the universal recognition of international degrees in its regulations.

Learning from UAE’s concerns of quality control, India’s education hub model should consist of a balance of increased liberalization and one-step accreditation.

Potential Partnerships

Pillars of Internationalisation

As mentioned earlier, the internationalisation of higher education can be achieved by pursuing various types of policies. Hence, it makes sense to categorise and classify all the various types of policies, to help in identifying the one which would make the most impact for a given system. To begin here, there are two simple and broad categories which have been used by Jane Knight to achieve this, which includes ‘internationalisation at home’ and ‘cross-border education’.

The ‘at-home’ concept has been developed to give greater prominence to campus-based strategies, given the increased emphasis on international academic mobility. These ‘at-home’ strategies can also include the intercultural and international dimension in the teaching-learning process, research, extracurricular activities, relationships with local cultural and ethnic community groups, as well as the integration of foreign students and scholars into campus life and activities. “Cross-border education”, on the other hand, refers to the movement of people, programs, providers, policies, knowledge, ideas, projects and services across national boundaries. Cross-border education can also be part of development cooperation projects, academic partnerships or commercial trade.

However, if one were to be more meticulous, and were to categorise the types various streams of internationalisation which would help policymakers of a particular domain take action, then it could be classified under the following domains:

  1. Institutional Partnerships

  2. National Partnerships

  3. Sectoral Partnerships

  4. Virtual Partnerships

Based on the data found in the internationalisation of Higher Education in India - Annual Survey of International Students in India 2014-2015, the number of international students in different states can be identified. The colleges which are sought after places of study by international students in each state are identified.

age SareMale %Femal

It is observed that the Tier-1 universities, regardless of the stream, or type by funding draw international students in reasonable strengths, in addition to having an active International Relations block, as well as programs.

Hence, it stands to reason that the creation of new partnerships be targeted towards the Tier-2, and Tier-3 universities.

It has been observed that attracting new institutional partnerships, typically occur only within the Tier-1 universities, which already have pretty good exposure to such programs as seen earlier. Therefore, to promote internationalisation amongst the lower-tier universities, one needs to look at sectoral, or government-driven partnerships. One can also leverage the on-going boom in the Education Technology (EdTech) Market, which attracts citizens from the developing countries.

Promoting sectoral or industry-driven partnerships would in addition to increasing Internationalisation, also benefit the higher education institutes in the following way:

  1. Human Capital: Partnerships provide a talent pipeline for industry and create career opportunities for students that can include internships, fellowship, co-ops, and full-time roles.

  2. Educational: Partnerships create educational opportunities for university and industry participants for experiential learning, learning new skills and tools, and exposure to new problems and perspectives.

  3. Financial: Partnerships create financial opportunities that include research funding (which is more important as public funding declines), commercialisation of ideas, and equity in new enterprises.

  4. Operational: Partnerships have operational benefits such as reduced risk (i.e., a company can use a university as a kind of “skunkworks”), increased agility to move faster than either party could in their current structures and fostering collaboration across disciplines and locations.

  5. Reputational: Partnerships can benefit universities and industry by bringing visibility, credibility, and prestige to an initiative through this association. They can also lead to new publications and increased exposure.

  6. Intellectual Property: Partnerships enable the development of new ideas and intellectual property, through access to complementary expertise as well as the chance to be a testbed for applying ideas.

As for the types of partnerships that HEIs can build with industries, there are the following:

  1. Class Project: Companies can sponsor and/or work with a class to help students solve a real-world business problem while creating experiential learning opportunities for students.

  2. Capstone Project: Companies can sponsor and/or work with individuals and teams on a more extended capstone project.

  3. Research Project: Universities and companies can contribute funds, technology, space, and expertise to pursue joint research projects, which may be focused on a single question/problem or be more exploratory.

  4. Position: Partnerships can also be at the scale of an individual role or position, including an externship, internship, co-op, fellowship, or sponsored/funded PhD.

  5. Product: Universities and companies can work together to produce something; this could be a consumer product or — on a meta-level — a space or process to create products and services.

  6. Programs: Partnerships can also be at the programmatic level where sponsored staff deliver programs like skills workshops, networking events, and mentoring programs to support students and faculty.

  7. Alliance: Long-term partnerships can be formalised into alliances that include several of the collaborations made possible by a sustained relationship.

  8. Consortium: Beyond an alliance between two entities, universities and industry can also form consortia that benefit from greater scale with increased depth and breadth of collaboration.

Then there is also the EdTech space, which as mentioned earlier can be made use of. Today, technology’s value to organisations, universities and individuals increasingly extends beyond productivity to the enhancement of learning, collaborating, and decision making. Universities hence find it increasingly important to develop and apply digital capabilities in order to survive, let alone thrive.

However, lower-tier colleges and universities struggle to fund wireless access, standardise and upgrade classroom technologies, and decide what to do regarding the ageing enterprise applications. IT funding in higher education remains a zero-sum game. But it cannot be understated that technology is integral to achieving many of higher education’s highest priorities and challenges, whether they entail:

● automation to streamline costs;

● standards to facilitate outsourcing, shared services, and partnerships;

● student success technologies and applications to provide academic maps, planning and advising, early alerts, and progress tracking;

● analytics to measure and improve learning, student success, institutional efficiency, and other data-informed priorities;

● technologies and supporting services to help faculty use technology to improve existing courses or develop effective online courses;

● technologies and supporting services to help faculty conduct research and scholarship in digital environments and with colleagues across the world;

● applying technology to achieve a competitive edge in pedagogy, student outcomes and experiences, and research and scholarship; or

● safeguarding institutional resources and reducing risk.

Technology is expensive and essential. These lower-tier colleges and universities cannot afford to dedicate resources and time on poorly conceived or inconsequential technology investments, or on inventing local solutions to widespread needs by themselves. Hence it makes sense to partner with a corresponding EdTech company that can help them out with their issues, and thereby attract foreign companies and international students. Such partnerships can include:

  1. Mission-differentiating Programs: IT capabilities directly associated with the institutional mission

    1. Culture of Innovation: Nurturing an environment that continually introduces new ideas or ways of thinking, then translates them into action to solve specific problems or seize new opportunities

    2. E-learning: Learning that involves a web-based component, enabling collaboration and access to content that extends beyond the classroom

    3. Student Success Technologies: Information technology that helps students explore and select a pathway of interest, tracks and supports students’ progress along their chosen pathway that ultimately results in student success, and provides institutional leadership, faculty, and advisors with tools and information they need to contribute to student success

    4. Research Computing: Services and infrastructure provided to faculty, students, or research staff for the purpose of performing research at a higher education institution

  2. IT management Programs: IT function’s relationship with institutional management

    1. IT Governance: A decision-making process that ensures the effective and efficient use of information technology and alignment of the campus IT strategy with the institution’s strategic plan

    2. IT Risk Management: The process of identifying, assessing, prioritising, and addressing the major IT risks associated with an institution’s key objectives

  3. Foundational Programs: These underpin the effective and efficient application of information technology to institutional priorities.

    1. Analytics: The use of data, statistical analysis, and explanatory and predictive models to gain insights and act on complex issues

    2. Information Security: Functions and resources associated with providing information and systems security services and programs for the institution, including directory, identity management, and access provisioning/deprovisioning functions and roles, etc.

If you are interested in applying to GGI's Impact Fellowship, you can learn more about program here.



Shatakshi Sharma is a management consultant with BCG and Co- Founder of Global Governance Initiative with feature publication on Yourstory.

Prior to graduate school at ISB, she was Strategic Advisor with the Government of India where she drove good governance initiatives and her work was featured by the Economic Times. She was also felicitated with a National Young Achiever Award for Nation Building. She is a part time blogger on her famous series-MBA in 2 minutes.

Naman Shrivastava is the Co-Founder of Global Governance Initiative. He has previously worked as a Strategy Consultant in the Government of India and is working at the United Nations - Office of Internal Oversight Services. Naman is also a recipient of the prestigious Harry Ratliffe Memorial Prize - awarded by

the Fletcher Alumni of Color Executive Board. He has been part of speaking engagements at International forums such as the World Economic Forum, UN South-South Cooperation etc. His experience has been at the intersection of Management Consulting, Political Consulting, and Social entrepreneurship.

Akshar Madhavaram is a Mentor at GGI and an Associate at EY Parthenon where he works on various growth strategies, market entry strategies and due diligence projects with key focus on the education sector and in collaboration with various organizations across the globe. He graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi with a B. Tech degree in Engineering Physics. He is a big-time philosophy nerd, fascinated by philosophers such as Socrates, Arendt, Sartre and Nietzsche.


Niranjan Gyanchandani is an engineering graduate from BITS Pilani university. He has over two years of experience in the finance industry working across various risk management roles.

Ishita Jain is a final year undergraduate student pursuing Hons at Shri Ram College of commerce. As a finance enthusiast, she loves number crunching and plans to use her analytical skills in problem solving and creating an impact in the future.

Shamshir is a Political Science and International Relations graduate from the University of Toronto. She has experience working in the EdTech industry. She has also worked with the G20 Research Group to present a report on the gender pay gap in national labour markets at the 2020 Riyadh Summit. She has a strong interest in education and labour policy with a focus on innovation and globalization.

K T Prajwal Prathiksh is a third-year undergraduate student, currently pursuing his B. Tech degree at the Department of Aerospace Enginnering, IIT Bombay. He is also the system engineer at the Student Satellite Program of IIT Bombay, which envisions to convert IIT Bombay into a centre of excellence in Satellite and Space Technology. A passionate technology and policy enthusiast, he believes that active involvement in the space of policy and development is much needed in the future to make a difference in society.

Aditi Singh is a postgraduate student of Law, Politics and Society at Ambedkar University, Delhi. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in History from Hindu College, University of Delhi and is interested in history, social activism and public policy, especially at the intersections of gender and sexuality.

If you are interested in applying to GGI's Impact Fellowship, you can access our application link here.



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