Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Government plans global entrance exam for foreign students

India plans to establish an entrance exam for foreign students seeking admission to educational institutions in the country, even as it lobbies international rating agencies to improve the rankings of its universities. The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) will allow institutions offering engineering and similar courses and other universities, including private ones, to participate in the project, said two government officials with knowledge of the development.

The ministry will “start an international entrance exam for aspiring students from foreign lands,” said S.S. Mantha, chairman of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the technical education regulator in the country and the body that will conduct the test. “Initially, Africa and geographies where Indian diaspora population has a good presence could be the target,” he said.

“Internationalisation is one of the priorities and the ministry has (had) few rounds of discussion with stakeholders,” said one of the government officials mentioned above, declining to be identified. “Lobbying or engaging with international agencies is one thing but that does not mean we will not reflect on areas where we are not doing well.”

Institutions will be allowed to admit 15% more students than their permitted number of seats, as well as fill up seats that fall vacant by admitting more foreign students. “We will allow institutions to charge foreign students double...what Indian students pay as fee,” said Mantha.

While institutes will be allowed admission relaxation and fee benefit from the coming academic session that begins in a couple of months, the first such entrance exam is expected be conducted by the end of this year.

Students from West, South and Southeast Asia are attracted by the lower fees in India compared with Europe or the US. Mantha said the proposed entrance will be similar to the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) of the US. AICTE will conduct the test.

While preparing rankings, foreign agencies look at areas such as research and heterogeneity of classrooms, Mantha said. “We need to promote our own education system well. Unlike the perception, several Indian institutions are top class and students from less educational facility regions can benefit from our move,” he said.

In the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings of 2012-13 published in the UK, only three Indian institutes were in the top 400 and the best of them was the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) at Kharagpur, which was at 226-250 slot. The other two were IIT Bombay and IIT Roorkee. In the Academic Ranking of World Universities conducted by China’s Shanghai Jiao Tong University, only the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, figured in the top 500.

The best ranked Indian institute in the THE rankings, IIT-Kharagpur, fared poorly in international outlook. On a scale of 100, it scored 16.1, whereas the fifth-placed Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US has a score of 81.6 in that metric.

While more than 100,000 Indian students go abroad to pursue higher education every year, less than 10% of this number come from abroad to pursue higher education in India. Of the total foreign students in India, technical institutes such as engineering and management schools have around 2,500 students, according to official statistics.

India is already in talks with international rating agencies about improving the ranking of its schools, Mint reported 22 May. Fundamental issues need to be addressed to improve India’s standing, experts said.

“Only lobbying or engaging with ranking agencies may not be the solution to India’s poor standing in university ranking. We have to address the fundamental issues like research and international students in Indian campuses. Before we engage with anybody, we must understand the rules of the game,” said Enayet Kabir, associate vice-president and education practice head at consulting firm Technopak Advisors.

Source: Mint, May 28, 2013

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