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Tuesday, 24 September 2019 04:08
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Ishaan edit 

Foreign universities should have been allowed to set up campuses long ago; while the latest iteration of the draft legislation for this is a highlight of the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) Bill, it has been around since 2010. The government has never officially explained why it has dithered on opening India up to foreign universities, but statements from policymakers would suggest that the high cost of availing education at these campuses was an overriding factor. That should have meant top-billed private universities that charge hefty fees also didn’t come up, but they have, and are thriving. While the BJP had vehemently opposed the Foreign Educational Institutions Bill in 2013, the government has now introduced a provision in the HECI Bill to permit entry and operation for foreign universities. Given that there are over 7.5 lakh Indian students abroad, and annual forex outgo, in terms of tuition, lodging, and other expenses, amounts to $2.8 billion, the move may ensure that at least some of that dollar expenditure by India doesn’t happen. More importantly, it opens up the possibility of India maturing into a regional education hub over the years, quite in the manner that a Singapore has. However, the government needs to understand that this will happen in an organic fashion, and not by insisting on allowing only “highly-reputed institutions” right from the start, as the draft HECI Bill does, according to a report in The Indian Express.

The government must realise that the Indian higher education ecosystem, spanning regulation, infrastructure, talent, etc, may not immediately have an appeal for a Harvard or an Oxford to set up even an extension campus. India must first go through the usual route, of proving that it means business; this would involve allowing bona fide universities that may not enjoy the stellar repute that top-billed ones do, and tweaking the ecosystem to ensure that these thrive while delivering high-quality education to those enrolling in them. Bear in mind, the IITs and IIMs classify as top institutes in India, but none of them figure even in the top-250 ranks in the world. That said, their alumni remain highly sought-after globally, and this has helped in gradually consolidating their international repute. So, even if, say, a second-rung university from the US or Australia was to set up campus in India, it would still lead to an overall improvement in the higher education ecosystem, given not every Indian university is an IIT or an IIM, and the bulk of the Indian higher education institutes are of questionable quality. The positives for the country thus could be significant, even if a non-Ivy League or non-Oxbridge university sees potential in India.

 

 

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