Hoping for an Oxford degree in India

July 30, 2008

Now that the proverbial Left monkey is off the government’s back, the country’s education system will be among the sectors on the radar of the administration in its push for reforms.

With more than half of the billion-plus population aged 25 or below and foreign players eager to have a share of the lucrative industry by setting up branches in India, the education sector can potentially bring in a huge amount of foreign investment.

school.jpgAnd for many students who would otherwise be squeezed out of the few elite colleges or would have to study abroad, opening up the system could make world-class education available to them without having to leave the country.

So the education minister’s recent remarks that the government may introduce in the August session of parliament a long-delayed bill to allow foreign universities to set up campuses in India will be intently followed by institutions from countries such as the UK, Canada and the US.

High-profile institutions like Oxford, Harvard and Stanford have evinced interest in setting up shop here, apart from hundreds of others.

The Foreign Education Providers (Regulation for Entry and Operation) Bill was cleared by the Cabinet in 2007 but was never introduced in parliament.

The communists, who propped up the government for almost four years, were opposed to opening up the education sector, arguing that the entry of foreign players would benefit only a few who could afford the high fees.

But with an estimated 160,000 students spending $4 billion annually for higher studies abroad, bringing foreign institutes into the country could bring down education costs drastically and make quality degrees available to more. Imagine someone studying in Delhi obtaining an Oxford degree.

Another area of concern is the threat of a deluge of fly-by-night operators who would only eye profits without giving value to education if there is no proper regulation.

On the other hand, too much government control would deter quality institutions who would like to maintain a certain amount of autonomy to be able to function properly.

The answer could lie in the National Knowledge Commission’s recommendation to set up a regulatory body on the lines of the RBI for banks or TRAI for telecom.

With the Bill having a good chance of being taken out of cold storage this year, arguments in favour of and in opposition could be loud. The question remains – will it benefit the intended beneficiaries?

Another moot point – will HRD minister Arjun Singh and Co seek to stuff their quota doctrine down the throat of Harvard once it is in desi territory?

8 comments

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Very positive welcome development.Too much regulation will kill the inititative and any interest foreign universities may have.For the benefit and genuine interest of the society, the regaultory body should be a non government one – composed of prominent academicians, NRIs, entrepreneurs, and social activists – that will provide a good balance of socially responsible governance minus the ‘BABU RAJ’.Second, the government should not be charging steep taxes to foreign institutions as that will increase the cost and make it prohibitively expensive for the common man to afford education in these foreign universities located in India.

I think the last point needs to be taken care off most, that is the scariest part of future of education in India..

Posted by ONP | Report as abusive

“Meritocracy Ayatollahs” should know that Harvard fills 40% of its intake through affirmative action(different from reservation but principle remains the same).President Bok,the longest serving president,has written about the benefits for not only the students-both the recipients and non recipients of this measure but also about improved standards which diversification brings to the world of academia.

Posted by VIP | Report as abusive

excellent if it really goes thru.will create great opportunities to Indian middle class but brilliant students.

Posted by rajiv n shah | Report as abusive

In the US, education has become big business. As a result, the promise of higher pay with a higher degree has faded. (See the Forbes article, “The Tyranny of the Diploma” http://www.forbes.com/forbes/1998/1228/6 214104a.html). Most colleges and universities in the US operate as non-profits…yet they are run as big business hiding behind the rules of non-profit.It seems the foreign universities may be more driven by the market potential of India’s masses rather than the goal of higher education.India would be wise to hold foreign schools to meet or exceed educational requirements with curricula relevant to India’s social needs and goals. They should require a diverse student body to protect against educational elitism. Consider a partnerships requirement with existing Indian institutions as a way to upgrade the Indian education system. Another idea to consider is requiring a percentage of earnings be reinvested in Indian education. The sound approach would be one of mutual respect and mutual benefit. Government regulation should following the “Goldilocks” rule of not too much, not too little, but “just right”.My teaching experiences in the US and Asia (S. Korea, Japan, Philippines, P.R. China, Thailand) found many students going abroad to study in the West. They return with a Western education and wholly import Western culture and force fit it to their native land. It seemed so inappropriate to import and use Western psychological tests in Asia without adaptation or modification.Education, (from the Latin, “ex” and “ducere”, to lead out) tends to be more of a “pouring in” with professors as fountains of knowledge and students as empty vessels to be filled. Education can be an enlightening process with professors and students learning from each other. In the case of foreign universities, the cross cultural opportunity can be potentially awesome. Or it can be one of cultural imperialism where the prestige of a foreign university so dominates the scene that it becomes a pattern of one-way streets: foreign education flowing in, Indian cash flowing out.A key advantage for having foreign universities in India is to give Indian firms the opportunity to be first in line to recruit and hirer graduates. When studying overseas, graduates are often approached by foreign firms first. This means that there was cash outflow from India for the education, and a reduced “inflow” of returning students resulting in a greater loss for India’s intellectual resources.

Posted by GKL | Report as abusive

There are too many British universities offering worthless bits of paper which has totally destroyed the value of degrees/diplomas.Hence the high rate of unemployment amongst recent graduates in Britain.Does India want to go down this route?

Posted by Salauddeen | Report as abusive

Education is not a zero sum game, where you talk about ‘cash outflow from India’ for the education, and a reduced “inflow” of returning students. There is an outflow since the existing local ‘players’ do not deliver the same ‘value’ or ‘service’ in all respects – infrastructure, quality of teaching, openness as the foreign universities. There is a lot to be learned from the western education system and I think the intelligent western educated India student know exactly the best of both! He has studied in a rote system and know exactly what is good and bad. Just like the other industries India has excelled in, let the best in first whoever they are! and then the best local talent will match up one day. Do not be afraid of competition, openness is the need of the day.

Posted by VR | Report as abusive

Even if you pass the bill, and have the phorein institution in India. The cost for the education still will remain a distant dream for the many and many Indians. The debate is not for a FORIEGN DEGREE but education and how to educate.

Posted by Bikash | Report as abusive