Friday, September 20, 2013

For Indian academics, foreign varsities' entry means strong tie-ups, sharper research and best of global faculty

The government's recent move to allow foreign universities to establish campuses in India is seen facilitating collaborative research and opening up the domestic academic environment to the latest pedagogies and curriculum of the West even as global varsities learn more about a major emerging market economy. The move could benefit millions of meritorious students who are rejected from the system due to the lack of seats in colleges. Ivy league institutes, which have ruled out any immediate intention of opening campus here, will continue to enhance their research tie-ups with local institutes and forge new forms of collaborations. Some Tier-2 institutes could also make an entry.

"Existing relationships rely mostly on institutional initiative and faculty-to-faculty collaboration. Having these world-class institutions in India will give a boost to high-quality research being done in the country," says Ajit Rangnekar, Dean, Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad. Once the foreign universities are here, more collaboration will take place on varied fronts and Indian institutions will benefit from some of the modern pedagogic styles of these institutions, he says. Moreover, there will be better opportunities for the Indian talent pool in terms of faculty and educational experts.

Several of India's top management and engineering institutes, including the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and ISB, already have various tie-ups with global varsities through faculty, student exchange and research. The government's move will further strengthen those associations and lead to exploring new tie-ups.

IIT-Delhi, for the first time ever, is likely to offer a joint degree programme with Toyo University of Japan. The institute currently has research partnerships with Toyo University in bio nano. "Some other universities have also expressed interest and we are trying to look at various ways to collaborate," says Anurag Sharma, Dean-Academics at IIT-Delhi. Research collaboration would be a key area once some of the global institutes register their physical presence here, says Suneet Tuli, Dean, Research and Development at IIT-Delhi.

IIT-Madras, which already has a joint doctoral programme with the National University of Singapore (NUS), is in the process of forming similar associations with University of Passau, Germany, Michigan State University, and NTHU Taiwan. These tie-ups to offer joint doctoral degrees include faculty collaboration, coaching, serving on each others' doctoral committee, etc. The value of co-existence lies more in research and other forms of collaboration, says Prof. R. Nagarajan, Dean - International and Alumni Relations at IIT-Madras.

Last week, the government opened the doors for top foreign universities to set up campuses in India and award degrees, giving Indian students the opportunity to study in global institutions without leaving home or spending a fortune. The move has been welcomed by Indian institutes, academicians, and industry leaders. Among several associations with global institutes, IIT-B and Monash University in Australia have a tie-up in the form of the IITB-Monash Research Academy, where students are doing doctoral research. "IIT-Bombay's associations with international universities are primarily focused on postgraduate education and research. There may not be immediate opportunities for such interactions while these universities are starting up here. However, in the longer-term, we may seek collaborations in areas of mutual interest," says Prof. Devang Khakhar, Director, IIT-Bombay.

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge is in India to explore research partnerships with Indian institutes, academia and industry. The university is working with IIT-Bombay, among others in India, in the field of nanoscience and nano-technology. "We are looking for serious partnerships with Indian institutions based on excellence. Our focus will be on research and deep collaboration to jointly tackle some of the world's recent problems," says Prof. Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, Vice-Chancellor, University of Cambridge. This is also an opportunity for top institutes to showcase their research. "IIMs will get the opportunity to showcase their academic professionalism and research," says Prof. S. Raghunath, Dean-Administration, IIM-B.

However, the institutes that are likely to benefit most from global varsities opening campuses in India would be those that do not yet have access to global universities, says IIT-M's Nagarajan. Under the proposed rules of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), foreign educational institutions -- before setting up campus in India and being notified as a Foreign Education Provider (FEP) under the Universitiy Grants Commission (UGC) - would be required to maintain a corpus of a minimum of Rs. 25 crore (Rs. 250 million). The rules also provide for penalties ranging from Rs. 5 million to Rs. 10 million for FEPs that contravene any provision of these rules or UGC Act, and the forfeiting of the corpus fund.

But these rules are a cause for some concern. The government must come up with a differentiated policy for top schools in order to attract them here in the interest of long-term collaborative relationships and establishing a technologically-savvy infrastructure, says IIM-B's Raghunath. "Of particular concern is the requirement that all the new institutions must conform to UGC standards. Unless UGC recognises merit and accordingly adjusts its compliance requirements, India runs the risk of alienating high-quality foreign players," says SP Kothari, Deputy Dean, MIT Sloan School of Management.

MIT Sloan School of Management, like other top institutes including Harvard Business School, Stanford Graduate School of Business, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Cambridge University have ruled out the possibility of opening campuses here. They are, however, keen to continue engaging with students, academia and industry here through research, faculty exchange, and executive education programmes.

Source: The Economic Times, September 20, 2013

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