The regulatory framework of this sector in India is multi-layered. At the last chain of delivery – the classroom, three sets of regulations operate – University, College, and Council (as per the course). There are significant entry, operation, and exit barriers at each level, and studying the regulatory environment at each of these levels will provide the complete picture.

Universities awarding their own degrees are classified into five types based on their management – Central University, State University, Private University, Institutions-deemed-to-be-a-University and Institute of National Importance. Colleges award degrees in the name of the university to which they are affiliated. In addition, 15 professional councils (like MCI and AICTE) regulate the courses run by the colleges and universities. The University Grants Commission (UGC) acts as the over-arching regulatory body.

There are three routes for private players to set up an institute of higher education in India:

1. A private university in a state through the legislative route: Only 20 states have passed the required legislation facilitating the setup of a private university, with some states like Haryana having an umbrella Act for all private universities and others like Uttar Pradesh requiring a separate Act for each university. In addition, there are some states like Rajasthan that have both – an umbrella Act as well as a separate Act for each university.

2. A private institute granted the status of deemed-to-be-a-university by the Central Government on the recommendation of the UGC: There are two types of institutions which are granted the status of deemed-to-be-universities – the general category institutions and de-novo category institutions. General route applies to institutions with 15 years of standing and evidence of excellent academics and research. The De-novo route is adopted by new institutions that are subjected to comply with more stringent entry barriers in terms of infrastructural and academic requirements, while enjoying more operational and academic freedom than private universities.

3. A private college affiliated to a Government University: Private colleges affiliated to a government university enjoy the least freedom in terms of administration and academics. Each university has its own set of distinct rules for granting affiliation, though the process of doing so is fairly similar among all universities. Private colleges cannot start admission without first seeking affiliation.

Different regulatory bodies such as Medical Council of India (MCI), All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and the Bar Council India (BCI), among others, manage different professional courses. There are two accrediting institutions– namely National Board of Accreditation (NBA) established by AICTE and National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) established by UGC. UGC Regulations, 2012 mandate that all higher educational institutions be accredited by an accreditation agency.

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