In a move that could put the Foreign Education Providers Bill on the back-burner, Kapil Sibal-led HRD Ministry has decided not to take forward the controversial Bill in the monsoon session.
Weary of a possible run-in with the Opposition over the Bill and the strong likelihood of this affecting the prospect of the other pending Bills, the HRD Ministry has chosen to drop this legislation and instead push forward five other Bills, three of which are critical to Sibal’s reform agenda for higher education, in the monsoon session of Parliament.
The Foreign Education Providers Bill, which has for years now held out the promise of ushering in Ivy League institutes in India, dates back to UPA I and was stalled even during Arjun Singh’s tenure after facing stiff opposition from the Left parties. Sibal, however, was quick to revive it when he took over in May 2009. Sibal held meetings with presidents and heads of top league varsities abroad to convince them to set up centres in India. Three years later, he is acutely aware that it is unlikely for the Bill to sail through Parliament.
This perhaps explains why the HRD Ministry has already got the University Grants Commission to devise ways to allow collaborations with foreign educational institutes through non-legislative routes.
The Ministry is currently focusing on legislations aiming at reforming the higher education sector to check malpractices like capitation in higher educational institutes, bring in quality through accreditation and set up a grievance redressal mechanism through tribunals. These Bills are: the Prohibition of Unfair Practices in Technical Educational Institutions, Medical Educational Institutions and Universities Bill, 2010; the National Accreditation Regulatory Authority for Higher Educational Institutions Bill, 2010; and the Educational Tribunals Bill. Among these, the last two Bills have been passed by the Lok Sabha but are yet to be considered by the Rajya Sabha.
To ensure that this time his Bills sail through, Sibal over the last few days has met leaders from different parties for collective support for his legislation and to address the possible areas of concern.
The minister is learnt to have held talks with BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley among others, and with MPs from the BJD, the Trinamool Congress, the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samajwadi Party and the Left parties ahead of the monsoon session.
After consultations with stakeholders and MPs, Sibal had managed to get five of his 14 pending Bills through, in the last session. By dropping the Foreign Universities Bill, the minister is perhaps only paving way for the remaining nine legislations.