Foreign Universities going solo in India – Do we need it that much?
The Indian government has decided to finally allow foreign Universities to operate independently in India, set up campuses and offer degrees without having a local partner—a move renders the Foreign Educational Universities (Regulation of entry and Operations) Bill 2010 immaterial. With the powers vested in it through the University Grants Commission (UGC) Act, the ministry will allow foreign Universities to set up campuses in India and award foreign degrees. Such degrees are going to be considered no less than the degree offered by them in their parent campus and the varsities will be a branch of the parent Institution not an Independent Institution.
What hits you as a reader for the first time is why do foreign varsities actually want to come to India? A huge education ‘market’ and the young demography to grow that further; lower recruitment and research costs; and the opportunity to offer executive education programmes and consulting services to Indian companies are the basic three factors that Mint lists out as the factors behind foreign varsities going for executive centers in India.But yet again the thought is why we actually need foreign investment in education sector that much when it should already have been amongst the top most priority in the list of government expenditures. India currently spends a dismal 3.3% of its GDPon education sector. Being in the top most engineering college myself, I have found it hard to believe why we need to follow somebody else’s footsteps rather than creating our own niche. Acquiring new technologies and spending on research can be the bare minimum we need to start with but here we are calling out for investments instead of fixing the flaws in our system, focusing on the quality control and innovation quotient of the indigenous.
With the liberalizing of education sector, foreign Universities will come set up their branches in India. But the clauses in the Bill state that the surplus cannot be deported to the parent country, showing a clear trust discrepancy between government and Universities (foreign), thus undermining the basic idea of the Bill. Also the government is not going to provide any assistance to the Universities in acquiring lands for campuses, hoping against hope that they will acquire it cheaply and easily! Currently, a foreign university needs to join hands with a local education provider to offer courses and the degrees are not considered foreign degrees. This is indeed a pact beneficial to both the parties, the foreign university gets its publicity and profits and the local partner feeds of the new innovative technologies and style of management and quality it brings.
The educational ‘market’ is expanding at a rate of 18% every year and to tap into this, partnerships might be a hindrance but in providing the knowledge and transferring of technologies does not need the Universities to be forced into competitive markets. Spare a thought for our own leading Universities in India. Whining about how they are not featuring anywhere in the top 200 Universities of the world is an easy thing to do but difficult to blame it on someone or a single parameter. Is foreign investment in educational sector the only answer to this question? I don’t think any other mitigation steps have been taken by the government to find the underlying cause or to improve the situation. While the government is busy collecting heavy deposits from the foreign varsities lining up to invest, I fear the worst-further neglect of our own Universities and greater quality degradation.
I am not acutely opposing the proposal the government has put forward but it would have been good had some remedial steps been undertaken to ensure that our very own Universities will match the quality that foreign varsities will provide and benefit from them.