Friday, June 04, 2010

Indian universities explore global opportunities

Some of India's best-known educational institutes are opening branches abroad, hoping to attract expatriate Indians as well as locals by offering professional courses at inexpensive rates. They are initially targeting countries and regions with large Indian communities, such as West Asia, South-East Asia, the U.S. and the U.K., but also intend to branch out to China, Africa and Latin America later.

"Indian education has entered an age of liberalization", said L.K. Maheshwari, Vice- chancellor of the Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Pilani. BITS already has a campus in Dubai, and is ready to open another in Mauritius. Maheshwari said the institute was invited by Mauritius to open a branch there some years ago, but political instability in that country delayed their plans. "Now things are moving and a campus in that country is expected soon", said Maheshwari, adding that BITS has also been invited to Singapore, Lebanon and Syria.

The Manipal University has invested more than US$ 200 million (Rs. 930 crore) to open campuses in Malaysia, Antigua, Nepal and Dubai. The Malaysia campus is a medical school currently but plans are afoot to convert it into a full-fledged university. "Globalization is a two-way process and our institutes going abroad is a part of that. We have plans for Middle East, Africa, where there is an aspiring young population", said Anand Sudarshan, Chief Executive of the Manipal group, whose Indian campuses are located in Karnataka, Sikkim and Goa.

The Amity University is opening two campuses in the U.S. this year. "We started one campus each in the U.K. and Singapore last year, and this time two new campus are coming up in New York and San Francisco", said Aseem Chouhan, Additional President of the Amity education group.

Ujjwal K. Chowdhury, Executive Director at the International School of Business and Media (ISB&M), said his school is opening a campus each in the U.S. and Nepal next year. "An American international college in Springfield is joining hands with us for a campus". Chowdhury expects 60% of students at these campuses to be non-resident Indians or of Indian origin. The rest would be locals as well as immigrant students from other countries. In the US, his institute would offer courses at 40% below market rates. ISB&M and Amity award international degrees at foreign campuses, but BITS offers the same degree it does in India.

Even government-run institutes are not far behind. Last month, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) referred Singapore's request for an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) to the IIT council. It is also seriously considering an IIT campus in Qatar. Although there are no figures available on the number of institutes that have gone abroad, four-five deemed universities have applied to the University Grants Commission (UGC) to open foreign campuses, UGC Chairman S. Thorat said.

Experts are divided on the impact this trend may have on education in India. "Indian education will become richer when it becomes multifaceted and accepts variety", said education analyst Narayan Ramaswamy, who is also Executive Director at audit and consulting firm KPMG. "What is happening right now is perfectly natural and good for the country". But educationist Prof. Yash Pal said private educational institutes going abroad to boost revenues "has no bearing on the Indian education system".

Article by Prashant K. Nanda in Mint, June 4, 2010

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