The Indian government has shifted around its priorities, moving the
topic of higher education from a peripheral concern to its key
priority, reports The Chronicle
last week. In part, this reprioritization is due to India's shift from
a mostly agrarian economy to one that the international business world
relies upon for supplying qualified workers. A highly skilled workforce
requires a higher quality of education, and the Indian government knows
The transition from minor importance to main spotlight will not be
an easy one, especially given the highly "centralized and burdensome"
higher education government. "Indian higher education," explains The Chronicle,
"is huge, complex, and full of contradictions…much like the country
itself." With a huge pool of potential students, the country can only
accommodate about 12% of eligible students. 12% may not seem like a
lot, but in a country the size of India, that translates into 22,500
institutions of about 600 students each. 450,000 Indian students study
abroad; the majority of Indian students stay on Indian home turf. Most
of them study in the public system which has been neither motivated nor
pressured to improve—that is, until now.
With the growth of private institutions in India and the growing
role Indian graduates play in the global business economy, even small
public universities and vocational schools are interested in moving
away from a rather apathetic attitude to a more ambitious and
improvement-oriented one. This change is especially true for
information technology programs.
Educational reforms are in order and include:
- Implementing a "choice-based" curriculum.
- Creating and updating new and varied syllabi.
- Establishing an autonomous educational authority.
- Improving the anti-educational-malpractice system.
- Erecting an educational tribunal to fast-track conflict resolution.
- Implementing mandatory assessment practices.
- Ensuring proper accreditation practices.
Changes in Indian educational policy will help encourage American
universities to begin setting up shop in India. India's education
minister, Kapil Sibal, has been described as "reform-minded" and has
"endorsed the entry of foreign universities into the country."
India will benefit from the foreign investment necessary to set up a
university branch on Indian soil, but how will the international
institutions benefit from establishing a base in India?
"A robust presence in overseas markets like India or China could
enhance a college's academic standing, intellectual, prestige, and
reputation," explains another Chronicle
presence in a country brings access to power, people, and
principal"—three strong pulls for a country like the United States.
Sibal has singled out Harvard (his alma mater), MIT, and Stanford as "desirable providers for India."
There are many questions that American institutions need to ask
themselves before making this move: Will fewer Indians choose to study
abroad at the American-based facilities if they can get the same
education closer to home? Who will then fill those empty spots—will
schools be lucky enough to find the right students (who can pay the
high fees)? Will the international university be able to maintain all
its own rules, policies, curricula, and tuition rates? Will American
educational traditions mesh with India's culture and values? How will
the move affect the U.S. partnership with India, not to mention its
relationship with other countries and other schools?
There is a lot to gain, a lot to lose, and lots to consider.
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