The International Financial Services Centre Authority (“IFSCA”) by a notification dated October 11, 2022 introduced the IFSCA (Setting up and Operation of International Branch Campuses and Offshore Education Centres) Regulations, 2022 (“Regulations”), paving way for the setup of foreign universities and foreign educational institutions in India for the first time. The key highlights of the Regulations are:
- Regulations are applicable to ‘Foreign University’, a university established outside India, accredited to award degree for courses in permissible subject areas, or a ‘Foreign Educational Institution’ authorized to offer courses in permissible subject areas, seeking registration to set up International Branch Campus (“IBC”) or an Offshore Educational Centre (“OEC”), on a stand-alone basis in Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (“GIFT IFSC”).
- Permissible subject areas include research programmes in financial management, FinTech, science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
- Application can be made by foreign universities securing position within Top 500 in global overall ranking or subject ranking in the latest QS World Universities ranking, and Foreign Education Institutions of ‘repute’.
- An application made will be referred to a committee of experts constituted by GIFT. An in-principle approval maybe granted to the applicants by IFSCA based on the recommendations of the committee. The applicants will be required to setup all necessary infrastructure and engage necessary manpower for the operation of the proposed IBC / OEC within 180 days of the receipt of in-principle approval, subject to a further extension of 90 days. Provided that, IFSCA may grant an extension beyond the 270 days, at its discretion.
- Registration granted will be valid for five years and renewable for an additional period of five years, with or without conditions, as the IFSCA deems fit.
- The course offered by the registered entity will have to be identical to that offered by the parent entity and identical degree, diploma or certificate has to be conferred upon the students by the parent entity.
- The IBC or OEC set up should not undertake promotional activities for the parent entity in home jurisdiction and have to adhere to dispute resolution policy specified by IFSCA.
- The parent entity will be eligible to repatriate profits without any restrictions.
Foreign universities and educational institutions have been permitted to operate on a stand-alone basis for the first time in India. Further, the Regulations do not mandatorily require the applicant to be a not-for-profit entity. However, a clarification from the IFSCA in this regard is awaited. We understand that the purpose of this Regulation is to encourage foreign accredited and awarded programmes in STEM i.e., Science, Technology, Engineering and Management, in India. We await further detailed clarification on how the registration process will work including the form of the application to be submitted, composition of the committee and implementation of the regulations.