UGC Proposal: Why India should not outsource higher education to foreign universities. – Fxsad

UGC Proposal: Why India should not outsource higher education to foreign universities.

The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 was a milestone in the history of higher education in India. The policy says “Completely revamping and re-energizing the higher education system…” and “India will be promoted as a global study destination by providing premium education at affordable costs, thereby helping to reclaim its role as Vishwa Guru.” Regulatory bodies have been promoting new policy initiatives to realize this vision. The recently announced University Grants Commission (Establishment and Establishment of Campuses of Foreign Institutions of Higher Education in India) Regulations, 2023, continue the debates on the internationalization of Indian higher education.

In the last three decades, three main factors have influenced the internationalization of higher education. First of all, the prohibitive costs of higher education, especially in developed countries. Indian students have to pay over Rs 70 lakh per year to study at Harvard, Yale or Stanford and more than Rs 55 lakh per year to study at Oxford or Cambridge. Tuition fees alone are 15 times more expensive than private universities in India and 100 times more expensive than most public universities in India. Prohibitive costs prohibit tuition at any foreign university campus for most applicants. The new proposal promotes the NEP’s vision of equity and inclusion because higher education is only available to the super-rich.

Second, the high costs of setting up university campuses make the project impractical. A vision of uniform academic standards across the parent university and international campus is a noble aspiration. However, the reality is that international campuses have become a secondary option, primarily accessible to those who cannot afford admission to the main campus. The quality and excellence of teaching and research in foreign campuses cannot be compared to those in their original locations.

Thirdly, the global landscape of higher education has changed dramatically post-Covid. The idea of ​​brick-and-mortar international campuses has provided a way to build strong partnerships, student and faculty mobility, exchange and immersion programs, joint teaching and research opportunities, collaborative conferences and publications, and online and integrated degree programs. The global mindset around international cooperation has changed.

India has a unique opportunity to become a desirable country for international students. Instead of enabling universities in developed countries to create international campuses, we should focus on becoming an international destination for higher education in our own capacity. By inviting prestigious foreign universities to seek campuses, Vishwaguru’s ambitions will not materialize. We must take the lead 2,000 years ago when Nalanda, Takshashila, Vallabhi and Vikramshila attracted teachers and students from all over the world. We can truly be world leaders in providing high-quality education at affordable prices. Similarly, we can produce high-quality research at relatively low cost. Indian scientists have made a successful mission to Mars with a budget of $74 million, less than the $108 million production cost of the Hollywood film Gravity.

To become a global leader in global education, we must do five things:

One, giving more autonomy to Indian universities, including Institutions of Eminence (IoE). Indian universities, both public and private, are generally highly regulated and poorly managed. The practice of entrenched regulatory bodies dictating to universities what to do must stop. One of the more liberal, progressive and radical public policies is the creation of the IoE. But this policy has not been sufficiently implemented to achieve its objectives. The government should pay more attention to IOs and expand their scope and size so that they become a natural destination for international students.

Two, to establish public and private sector-led international universities in India to cater to the needs and aspirations of international students. India’s Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) is skewed. The national GER is approximately 22 percent but there are states like Tamil Nadu with a GER of 52 percent. We need to reduce the role of regulatory bodies and build more public and private universities across the country with more autonomy, resources and better governance structures. All states should create Special Education Zones (SEZs) and host universities that are global in outlook and outlook.

Three, provide more resources to Indian universities and not focus only on select centrally established institutions. Indian universities face severe resource shortages. The NEP plans to allocate six percent annual investment to higher education and additional resources from the National Research Foundation. The government should encourage CSR and philanthropic initiatives through multiple tax incentives to enable private sector contribution to public and private universities.

Four, the NEP aims to break down longstanding barriers between public and private institutions. But many biases and prejudices persisted, and regulatory barriers did not allow private higher education institutions to operate independently and autonomously on an equal basis with public institutions. Institutional hierarchy in India’s higher education system replicates the caste system. First, IITs and IIMs are ranked highest in the ranking order, followed by central universities. Next come IISERs, NITs and other similar institutes, and they are very low government state universities. Private universities come into the equation after exhausting other types of publicly funded institutions. These deep-rooted biases and prejudices have led to discrimination against private universities.

Five, establish a liberal and progressive regulatory ecosystem for Indian universities to attract international students. If India is to become a desirable international destination for students from developing countries, more than reform is needed in the education sector. The government should improve its visa procedures and FRRO registration procedures. There should be significant improvement in the quality of infrastructure and hostels in the university campus. The safety, security and well-being of the students, especially the girls, must be ensured. Other university towns and academic cities can create a holistic ecosystem that allows students and faculty to study, work and live in these communities.

India’s vision of becoming Vishwaguru cannot be achieved by outsourcing Indian higher education to international universities. In any case, I don’t believe any top-tier universities will set up campuses in India, and for good reasons.

The writer is the Founder Vice Chancellor of OP Jindal Global University.


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