Globalising India’s Higher Education

by Mar 4, 2023Education0 comments

Reportedly, Australia’s Deakin University is set to become the first foreign university to enter India via an independent campus in Gujarat’s GIFT City. It is going to be officially announced during the forthcoming visit of Australian Prime Minister Anthony Norman Albanese visit to Ahmedabad.

But then It is not the only University that is coming to India to have its own campus. Many others, including global brands like Oxford and Cambridge, are also said to have shown interests in setting up campuses in India.

According to University Grants Commission (UGC) Chairman Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar, foreign universities with Indian campuses can only offer full-time programs “offline” — and not online or through distance learning.

“A panel shall assess each application on merits, including the credibility of the educational institutions, the programs to be offered, their potential to strengthen educational opportunities in India, and the proposed academic infrastructure, and make recommendations,” Kumar said recently.

Foreign universities will also be able to control the admissions procedure, the cost of attendance and the repatriation of their cash. However, they will need to ensure the quality of education taught at their Indian campuses is on a par with the standard of teaching at their main foreign locations, according to the UGC Chairman.

It may be noted that the outflow of Indian students to universities abroad has skyrocketed in recent years. Better educational quality and outcomes abroad have driven the increase, as well as factors such as higher standards of living, gaps in the Indian education system leading to a supply-demand imbalance, and upward income mobility of Indian households.

A report by India-based business consulting firm Redseer on higher education abroad estimates that the number of Indian students opting for higher education abroad grew from 440,000 in 2016, to 770,000 in 2019. That is set to grow to around 1.8 million by 2024.

Overseas spending was poised to grow from current annual $28 billion to $80 billion (€18.5 billion to €74 billion) annually by 2024.

Iqbaljeet Singh Bains, a Senior Investment Specialist, says that Indian students going abroad for higher studies, especially in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and management domains is not a new phenomenon. That is the reason why the Indian government is trying to open doors for Indian students and academics to get international exposure.

The recent policies/regulations on internationalization are changing the dynamics of the education ecosystem:

1. University Grant Commission (UGC) Regulation is offering Twinning, Joint, and Dual Degree Programmes through collaboration between Indian universities and Foreign universities.

2. Upcoming regulations by UGC (Setting up and Operation of Campuses of Foreign Higher Educational Institutions in India) Draft Regulations, 2023 (ongoing public consultation), will allow foreign universities to have physical campuses in India- with the freedom to devise their admission process and fee structure.

3. National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 stipulates various measures, which include facilitating research/teaching collaborations and faculty/student exchange with high-quality foreign higher educational institutions (HEI) and signing of relevant mutually beneficial MOUs with foreign countries; setting up of an International Student Office at each HEI for welcoming and supporting students arriving from abroad.

4. Scheme for Promotion of Academic and Research Collaboration invites talented foreign academics to improve the competitiveness of the Indian Education system.

5. Global Initiative of Academic Networks aims to increase the footfall of reputed international faculty in the Indian academic institutes, and further invite international academic excellence into India’s higher education institutions.

6. Leadership for Academicians Programme facilitates partnerships with foreign universities to provide training for Indian academics.

Bains provides a few interesting facts about this education sector. India is the second most populated country and has the world’s largest population, in the age cohort 5-24 years amounting to 580 million people. The education sector in India is estimated to reach $ 225 billion by FY 2025 from $ 117 billion in FY 2020. The online education segment in India is also growing rapidly, with a CAGR of 20 percent.

India’s public expenditure in the education sector has been 3 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the government aims to increase it to 6 percent as early as possible.

According to the All-India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) 2019-20 more than 70 percent of the colleges in India are managed by private players.

India will have the largest number of people of college-going age by the next decade.

Currently, there are 1113 universities in India with a 27.3 per cent Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER). One of the key targets of National Education Policy 2020 is to raise GER to 50 percent by 2035 which means India will require an additional 900 universities to meet this target. India’s Education sector also requires a greater inflow of finance to attract talented teachers, innovation, and better infrastructures. Foreign direct investments (FDI) and opening External Commercial Borrowing (ECB) could be the routes to overcome these challenges.

As of 2022, nearly 1.3 million Indian students were studying in the USA, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Germany. There is a high probability that if India allows setting up physical campuses, a lot of these institutions would want to tap the huge Indian market. It is against this background that the Modi government inviting foreign institutes to set up campuses in India so that India will retain Indian talent and promote economic growth in the country.

Viewed thus, setting up of foreign universities here was unavoidable in the age of globalization, though some critics believe that India should be a leader in international education by tapping into its reserves instead of asking foreign universities to raise the bar.

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