Sannam S4 congratulates the Ministry of Human Resource and Development for the forward-thinking draft of the National Education Policy (NEP) released in June 2019. With an aim to reorient the country’s overall education strategy, the policy places a strong emphasis on developing the internationalisation capabilities of Indian higher education institutions. We believe that a bold and successful global engagement strategy can enable India to improve the quality of its academic  institutions, develop domestic research and innovation to help accelerate the progress of India’s stated national and UN Sustainable Development Goals and create significant employment across the country.

Sannam S4 is the largest independent advisory firm in international education with over 150 dedicated higher education professionals based in our offices in New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Chennai. As a knowledge partner to the Ministry of Human Resource and Development, we are committed to contributing to the development of internationalisation across universities and colleges in India. Because of this commitment which is shared by our international partners, we have reached out to our client universities, all of whom are keen to deepen and expand their presence in India.

Please find below our comments and recommendations based on the feedback from 14 of our partner universities that can further strengthen the proposed policy initiatives under the NEP. LIST OF CONTRIBUTING INSTITUTIONS:

1. Aston University, UK

2. Algonquin College, Canada

3. Glasgow Caledonian University, UK

4. Lehigh University, USA

5. Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Science, USA

6. Nottingham Trent University, UK

7. Pittsburg State University, USA

8. Sheridan College, Canada

9. The University of Exeter, UK

10. Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

11. University of Auckland, NZ

12. University of Dundee, UK

13. University of Westminster, UK

14. University of York, UK

Institutional Capacity for Internationalization

The policy proposes the set-up of an Inter-University Centre for International Education (IUCIE) within selected Indian universities to support internationalisation efforts.

  • CENTRALIZED INTERNATIONAL OFFICES: The IUCIE is a much-needed resource required to set up ‘Models of Excellence’ within selected Indian institutions. The IUCIE should have the institutional imperative to disseminate best practices, training and development of thought leadership to help regional universities and colleges set up their own centralized international offices. In a majority of Indian institutions, the ‘international functions’ of a university don’t typically sit within the same centre. Partnerships for example, are not handled in the same office as student recruitment in most Indian universities. A centralized international office can act as the focal point for all international activities and drive change.
  • SENIOR LEADERSHIP BUY-IN: The success of an international office and the development of an internationalization strategy within any institution would require visible support from senior leaders (e.g. Vice-Principal International & Principal) and objectives set for senior managers (e.g. Deans). A wholeuniversity approach is needed that is embraced by faculty, departments, students and across varied academic support units.
  • SUSTAINABILITY OF PROGRAMS: The implementation and adoption of the internationalization strategy should have set systems and structures in place to ensure the sustainability of new initiatives. This is vital so that the execution of strategy is not reliant on individuals who may move on or lose interest.
  • APPOINTING STAFF TO IUCIE: IUCIE would benefit from appointing staff from both public as well as private institutions who have extensive experience in delivering successful partnerships. This way, institutions can benefit from their diversified knowledge and practical experience of internationalisation.
  • SETTING INDIVIDUAL STRATEGIES: All institutions should be encouraged to develop their own internationalisation strategy that best reflects their individuals needs and aspirations. It should be guided by institutional ethos the values of a university or college that can drive the entire higher education enterprise. – As suggested by a NZ University
  • ALIGNING WITH GOVERNMENT INITIATIVES: In order for the International Centres to maintain relevance, the Centres should be aligned with the country’s stated national and sustainable development goals. This includes supporting Government of India initiatives including waste management, sanitation, water conservation and Make in India projects through internationalization initiatives.

Encouraging Institutional Collaboration

The policy proposes that collaboration between foreign and Indian institutions will be facilitated for twinning programmes.

  • PARTNERSHIP EVALUATION TOOLKIT: With the explosion of new universities in India, there has to be a consistent way to evaluate new institutions that are interested in entering partnerships with International players. Currently the UGC and NIRF rankings provide some guidance in the evaluation phase but are not completely reliable for international institutions. Additionally, it will be helpful to provide some framework to International universities that can clarify what kind of partnerships are feasible. These services can be incorporated within the functions of the IUCIE set up at select Indian institutions which can then be disseminated to other Indian institutions.
  • QUALIFICATION RECOGNITION: In a few cases, qualification recognition has been raised by international partners as a constraint to the articulation of programmes such as pathway qualifications that are not recognized by the Association of Indian Universities. Students who obtain these qualifications are not issued ‘Equivalence Certificates’ in India that can to enable them to undertake further study or work with the Government – As suggested by a UK University.
  • BILATERAL PARTNERSHIPS: The Government of India is engaging in bilateral partnerships with certain countries. A case in point is the recently signed MoU with the French government to “mutually recognize academic qualifications” This new MoU allows students to easily transfer and apply their degrees when they move back to their country of origin. Similar bilateral partnerships should be advanced with other countries that witness large Indian student enrollment.
  • MUTUALITY OF MISSION: Rushing into partnerships without fully exploring the reach, vision, objectives and project outcomes can lead to frustration. Discussions between universities need to take place upfront to narrow down on the scope of what is truly achievable. Determining the scope can take a few months and possibly visits to either country. Seed funding to support familiarization visits might be of use in developing more positive partnership outcomes.
  • UNDERSTANDING THE ACADEMIC SYSTEM OF THE PARTNERING COUNTRY: Institutional collaborations are successful when each institution understands the academic system of the other country. This is not a simple matter to be ignored. The desire to develop a twinning program must simultaneously address the questions about what kind of academic system is followed in either institution and how they can be made to complement each other.
  • PARTNERSHIP SUPPORT FROM GOVERNMENT: Price points are a core challenge in turning ideas for collaborative activities into reality. Some Government level funds to further support the engagement of Indian institutions and their students in twinning programmes is much needed. For example, the government should take ownership of supporting any infrastructure or resource investment (for e.g. IT capabilities or laboratories) required to support a cross-border partnership. A matched funding model can be a positive move forward to further establish the ability of institutions to share financial responsibilities that will ultimately promote the longevity of collaboration.
  • MANAGING EXPECTATIONS: Internationalisation is a complex and ever evolving process. It involves multiple areas of universities, many of which are unfamiliar with international experiences. One of the challenges which affect the implementation of internationalization efforts is managing the expectations of students and staff participating in exchange and satisfying common quality standards to ensure that content, infrastructure and experience are transferrable across institutions.
  • TIMELINE EXPECTATIONS: The UK education system is heavily regulated and as such due diligence and quality controls must be explored to advance any potential partnership. This can be a lengthy process and not in line with the previous experience of Indian partners which often leads to frustrations. This is not a problem uniquely faced by UK universities, but other international partners as well – As suggested by a UK University
  • INNOVATIVE MODELS FOR PARTNERSHIPS: There are a wide range of partnership formats in India but a few established “norms” in terms of partnership models. India is not considered to be a mature market for partnership development and experience shows that partners’ expectations can vary widely from institution to institution. Indian institutions should focus on developing ‘fewer but deeper’ partnerships that encompass the full range of collaborative activity including recruitment partnership models, research partnerships, capacity building and student and faculty exchanges. This will ensure that relationships with institutions are founded on mutuality and are sustainable for both parties.
  • REPORTED CHALLENGES: Our universities report the following challenges when collaborating with Indian institutions: 1) Finding the right decision maker to be able to progress the partnership 2) Inflexibility on wording of legal documents 3) Understanding where the opportunities are and how to take these forward symbiotically 4) Complex bureaucracy within the Indian System, particularly within the public sector. 5)High levels of central regulatory control which can be inconsistent- As suggested by a UK University.

Research Collaborations

A new National Research Foundation (NRF) with an annual funding of USD 3 Billion will be set up to provide support and funding for research collaboration and two-way travel of talented students and post-doctoral fellows.

  • REGULATORY APPROVALS FOR PARTNERSHIPS: Considering India’s complex regulatory environment in higher education, it would be useful if the centre also provided advice and support on regulatory aspects of partnerships for both technical and non-technical fields which are currently monitored by the AICTE and UGC, respectively. There also needs to be effective management of communication channels to ensure greater awareness, wider understanding and uptake of government schemes such as the Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN) since these are currently administered at the national level.
  • ADDRESSING DIFFERENCES IN CULTURAL CONTEXTS: The difference in cultural contexts have at times been challenging for academics going to India. We have overcome this by providing adequate briefings and facilitating face-to-face communication with partners prior to their travel. Indian institutions should mirror this exercise by providing pre-project briefings with the core members of a partnership. – As suggested by a UK University.
  • LACK OF INDUSTRY SUPPORT: In order for Indian students to graduate with appropriate skills and knowledge expertise, government should make a concerted effort of facilitating the participation of industry through R&D partnerships and skills training programs within Higher Education institutions. Policies to encourage academic research in areas of interest to industry complemented by policies to encourage commercialization of inventions can significantly boost new findings in healthcare, energy and AI. – As suggested by a US University.

Inviting Foreign Universities into India

The policy proposes that select universities (i.e. those from among the top 200 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 have to follow all the regulatory, governance, and content norms applicable to Indian universities.

  • EXPANDING THE PARTICIPATION POOL: The NEP should support internationalisation of all types of postsecondary institutions, and not just large research-intensive universities. Technical and vocational colleges should also be supported within this scheme. Other countries, such as China, are now supporting the internationalisation of their polytechnics by partnering them with such institutions. – As suggested by a Canadian University.
  • BEYOND RANKINGS: Rankings are not the only method of reflecting the quality of an institution. Some subject areas are niche and don’t always reflect well in such league tables, however are still industry leaders in the sector. Alternatively, it is suggested that consideration be given to each potential partnership individually and the most appropriate partner should be selected. Ranking may be part of this decision-making process but should not be the soul contributor.
  • IDEAL CRITERIA: Criteria to engage in cross-border research collaborations should include strong due diligence on quality assurance, assessment of teaching programmes, student feedback, and employability.

Strengthening Governance and Regulatory Bodies

The policy proposes changing the structure and responsibilities of the existing regulatory bodies.

  • ENFORCEMENT OF REGULATIONS: We would welcome a more streamlined regulatory system in India as currently the responsibility for technical and non-technical courses lies with different bodies and the enforcement of regulations is also not consistent across the country. This has led to uncertainties around regulation and its enforcement by both Indian and international institutions. The proposed National Higher Education Regulatory Authority (NHERA) will address these issues, although a needs analysis should be conducted on whether further Proposed Standard Setting Bodies (PSSBs) are required in the country.
  • QUALITY ASSURANCE BODIES: Quality Assurance bodies also need to be streamlined as quality assurance of courses and institutions lies with different agencies such as the National Assessment and Accreditation Council, the National Board of Accreditation and professional bodies. The UK’s Quality Assurance Agency, Office for Students and the Regulatory Framework for Higher Education in England could provide useful insights. There are examples of effective quality assurance bodies in other countries that can provide useful models for India.
  • AUTONOMY OF BODIES: The Ministry must ensure that there are clear hierarchies and relationship mapping set between different regulatory bodies. Each body should also have autonomy to make decisions.


We believe that the National Education Policy is a big step forward from the Ministry of Human Resource and Development and has the potential to bring significant reform. The policy has outlined various forward-looking initiatives that will enable India to meet the aspirations of its young people and catalyse economic growth. We at Sannam S4 and our partners are all committed to working with the Government of India in delivering the changes outlined in the Policy

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