Ananya Bhadauria, International Education Policy and Stakeholder Relations Manager, Acumen

Ananya is currently working on developing and delivering research for governments and universities in the UK,  Australia, and New Zealand with a particular focus on TNE arrangements and a keen understanding of regulations and policy within the higher education sector. She recently graduated from The University of Oxford where her master’s focused on learning more about comparative and international education, focusing on international higher education policy. She received a distinction for her analysis of the regulatory environments conducive to the internationalization process within Indian higher education, focusing on the NEP 2020.  Ananya has a keen understanding of public policy initiatives within higher education and has skills in quantitative and qualitative analysis and knowledge of Transnational Education. Ananya has previously collaborated as a key part of research teams at USAID and the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, and has authored research for the Department of Education and the University of Oxford. She is currently a committee member of the Centre for Global Higher Education (CGHE), headquartered at the University of Oxford. 


The introduction of the National Education Policy (NEP) in 2020 had been heralded as a major advancement in the HE sector in India. It is the first Indian public policy on the issue of education in the 21st century, pushing for an ‘overhaul’ and ‘revamping’ of the education sector in the country. Compared to its predecessors in 1968 and 1986, the NEP’s ground-breaking move in the support of privatisation, internationalisation, and digitalisation has set monumental changes in motion within the Indian higher education sector. These will have a transformational effect not only for the sector but will largely aim to change the socio-political reality of the subcontinent. In 2023, a number of laws and initiatives have been launched under the guiding roadmap of the NEP 2020, keeping in mind the vision of access and equity in providing ‘world-class’ education, right at our doorstep.

In a post-pandemic future, higher education is at the forefront of the nation-building process. With the largest number of students enrolled in higher education across the world, between the ages of 18-25, below are three trends to watch out for:

  • The Advent of Digital Degrees:

The Union government is all set to launch India’s ambitious initiative ‘National Digital University’ in 2023 to provide online education in multiple languages. The University will be built on a networked hub-spoke model, with the hub building cutting-edge ICT expertise. The best public universities and institutions in the country will collaborate as a network of hub spokes. Since the NDU will be built on a networked hub-spoke model, it can develop cutting-edge ICT platforms and digital content, using AI, ML, VR/AR, and blockchain. The NDU can integrate the existing capabilities such as SWAYAM, SWAYAM-Prabha, ePG-Pathshala, eGyanKosh, National Digital Library, and Virtual Labs into one organic entity. 

Digitalisation is in line with the NEP’s goal to expand access and provide quality education, as it aims to achieve a 50% Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER). With a nod towards the establishment of the Digital National University in India and the approval of fully online degrees in 38 universities across India, the full-fledged digitalisation of higher education has just begun. Inclusive HE requires access to higher education by all groups of students to ensure free access to the poor students of SEDGs. Especially when communities have prior needs of access to basic water and food supplies, electricity, and healthcare facilities, expanding GER digitally will become difficult to sustain. Evidently, increasing the gap between haves and have-nots in the Indian HE system reproduces the existing social hierarchies and thereby leading to an exclusion of a large population. Keeping this in mind, the goals of accessibility and equity in mind, the digital divide must be overcome at any cost.

  • Foreign Universities in our Backyard and Transnational Education (TNE):

Many newspapers and news articles have used names such as Oxford and Harvard to foretell their arrival in India with the new draft guidelines released by the Indian University Grants Commission (UGC) to establish branch campuses. However, it may be naïve to assume that these institutions would jump at this opportunity, as much as it may seem to please the easy pallet of our imagination. As India hopes to become a ‘Vishwa Guru’ in accordance with the NEP 2020, the role of international institutions has been amplified to help Indian institutions provide ‘world-class’ education. The NEP 2020 initially proposed to let the top 100 institutions of the world have access to India. However, this later changed to ‘top 1000’ and now to ‘top 500 or a reputed institution in home country’ in order to establish branch campuses in India. 

However, branch campuses in India may be a far-fetched notion in 2023 due to India’s limited GDP expenditure and lack of state sponsorship for infrastructural facilities. However, transnational education (TNE) and setting up of franchises and validated, online, articulation and progression provisions will be very much a reality. These TNE opportunities will provide Indian students with an array of opportunities and alternatives as compared to studying abroad with low returns on employment, high tuition fee, and unsustainable long-term growth. Additionally, TNE will widen access for students, attract international students, boost educational exports and enhance teaching and research capacities, in line with the NEP’s ‘Study in India’ campaign. TNE collaborations have the potential to generate a substantial impact on local communities and sustainability. It can also directly impact the economic development of the country as it improves competitiveness and employability at scale. Students also reap the benefits of an internationally recognised qualification, which is more affordable in comparison to pursuing the same abroad.

  • Flexible Learning:

NEP 2020 seeks to pave the way for flexible and lifelong learning and encourages students to choose their academic path leading to the award of a certificate, diploma, and degree. Hence, the Multiple Entry and Exit System (MEES) is the cornerstone of the new National Education Policy in higher education. This allows students to drop their course and resume it at a later stage as and when they desire or deem it worth pursuing. In line with the digital university initiative and the internationalisation of the Indian higher education sector, this arrangement will prove to be a boon for those students who cannot continue their studies due to financial or social constraints and desire to resume their studies whenever their conditions become favorable in due course of time, irrespective of age or social backgrounds. This is also in line with the NEP’s Academic Bank of Credits which aims to keep a record of qualifications gained under a government-approved database.

While this may seem to increase GER initially and not account for the actual number of graduates in the long run, it is nonetheless a plausible initiative. Multiple Entry and Exit System (MEES) can be considered a major reform aimed at making the Indian higher education system more student-friendly and equitable. The strategic execution of this path-breaking move will provide seamless mobility to learners ensuring their zero-year loss with the opportunity of learning from anywhere, anytime.

As the number of Indian students opting for higher education overseas grows annually, their abroad spending is set to grow from the current annual $28 billion to $80 billion by 2024. Compared to this, the number of students domestically increased from 37 million to roughly 40 million between 2016 and 2019. Evidently, there is an urgent need to revamp and revitalise the Indian higher education system to encourage Indian students to opt to study in India while providing world-class education at our doorstep. In this regard, these three trends are a welcome step in enabling better access to quality higher education in India.

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