The good, bad and ugly faces of FDI in Indian education

“It may not automatically lead to the upgradation of university education in the country. Developing nations like India should be concentrating more on empowering the universities through public-private partnerships,” said development scientist and VC of Kannur University Prof P K Michael Tharakan. He pointed out that the university system in India was quite uneven with a set of institutions like the IITs, IIMs and some universities on a higher plane whereas most other universities did not possess even basic infrastructure. “The emphasis should be to make university education more accessible,” he said.

Uruguay Round fallout

Former Vice-Chancellor of Kerala University Dr B Ekbal said the present move was part of honouring the General Agreement on Trading in Services, a treaty which resulted from the WTO’s Uruguay Round negotiations. This will make education more of a trade and he feared that all the institutions will have to be extended subsidies at par with Indian universities. “Instead, we should have ideally restricted ourselves to academic associations like twinning and teacher exchange programmes,” he said. He expects those institutions which normally target the NRI sector also to jump en masse onto this “foreign bandwagon”.

However, former VC of Mahatma Gandhi University Dr A Sukumaran Nair felt that opening up the foreign universities was the best that could happen to the higher education sector. He pointed out that Indian students who studied abroad had already built a reputation for themselves. Hence if the campuses were at home, it would enable a large number of students to prove their mettle.

Welcome, say VCs

VCs of four reputed universities and two former VCs in coastal districts of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi favour foreign universities. Manipal University Pro Chancellor Prof H S Ballal, while welcoming foreign universities, hoped that there is level playing field and only good universities come. “Every year about 1,60,000 students go abroad, mostly to US, for study. The arrival of foreign universities may succeed in stopping this in part.”

Yenepoya University VC Syed Akheel Ahmed argued that India has no option but to welcome the foreign universities considering the fact that the Gross Enrolment Ratio of India in higher education is only 12.4 per cent compared to 23 per cent international average and 55 per cent of the developed nations.

Nitte University Vice Chancellor Prof (Dr) M Shantharam Shetty said the only way to keep mediocre universities at bay is to collaborate with good universities so as to develop infrastructure and also exchange knowledge.

Mangalore University VC Prof T C Shivashankar Murthy believes arrival of foreign universities will not affect Indian universities as the high fee structure of foreign universities will prove a deterrent. He believes Indian universities can compete with foreign universities depending on which universities come to India.

Mangalore University former VC K M Kaveriappa welcomed healthy competition. “The arrival of foreign universities will help Indian universities to grow further. To be in the race, you have to compete and if you are not good, you will be eliminated. ”Citing the mushrooming of MBA and BBM courses in the last couple of years, he said many colleges closed down in a short span of time. However, all rules applicable to Indian universities should apply to them, including reservation,” he said.

Eyeing management

Prof B M Hegde, former VC, Manipal University, noted the many fake universities abroad, especially in Australia, which dole out worthless degrees. In that sense, the foreign universities Bill is welcome. He said foreign universities are keen to come to India simply because their existence is threatened due to the economic recession and drastic reduction in students from the Gulf. “Foreign universities are  eyeing only management education,” he felt.

UGC, AICTE may feel heat

Entry of foreign universities does not pose any threat to IITs or IIMs where the standard is quite high. But the University Grants Commission and All India Council of Technical Education that together run and manage various Indian universities and colleges, may feel the heat as they have in recent times fallen from grace and been discredited for more than one reason, argues Prof Sujoy Basu, ex-Director, School of Energy Studies and ex-professor of Electrical Engineering, Jadavpur University. Entry of famous universities or colleges as Imperial College, London will throw up a major opportunity for Indian students to pursue their studies here, because such international colleges are noted for their global merit and standard. That they would surely plough back a portion of the profit into India for their own sake, goes without saying, Basu points out.

Since these foreign colleges are expected to function without any political interference which is unfortunately a bane in West Bengal, it will translate into a major success story within a few years.

However, there should be some regulatory mechanism before the government opens the gate for their entry.

Foreign Exchange loss

“In principle, globalisation of higher education is welcome” but the issues go beyond that, says Col Dr G Thiruvasagam, Vice-Chancellor of University of Madras, one of the oldest in the country. However, allowing foreign universities to set up campuses here “without any strict regulatory measures will certainly discourage the existing systems and institutions,” he said.

The Constitution’s emphasis is on providing equal opportunity to all, but it is not clear whether the foreign universities would take care of the needs of the underprivileged sections, he said adding that there were already criticisms that our higher education system “is not affordable to the common man”.

Also, a large number of International students coming to India for higher studies fetched good foreign exchange for our Government. If the foreign universities set up shop here, international students would go to those campuses resulting in foreign exchange loss for us, he explained.

Mysore waits

Likely entry of foreign players has evoked mixed response in Mysore, home to a 90-year-old university and three more, including Dr Gangubai Hangal Music University, which is to be set up. Dr M Chindananda Gowda, former VC, Kuvempu University, feels competition may be good but our own varsities need to be strengthened. IT and BT companies have shown the world that Indians are knowledge rich. Our education did not come from US or UK; it was from our own Taksha Shila University.

Devanura Mahadeva, writer, said we have been sold lies since centuries and to say that foreign universities will help us get better is another sheer lie. Education, decades ago was the preserve of a particular community. This will assume a new form with only rich accessing higher education since foreign universities sure want to make money when they come.

Prof V G Talawar, VC, Mysore University, noted that globalisation has touched every sector and education is no exception. Competition can always bring out the best, provided they are on level playing field.

Prof J Shashidhar Prasad, former VC of Mysore University, said as per National Knowledge Commission’s recommendations, the country has to start 1500 more universities. But bringing in foreign universities to meet the need would be disastrous.

Allow the good ones

Kuvempu University former VC S P Hiremath said In India, only eight per cent youth enter universities where as in western nations it is 23 per cent. The Indian Government, therefore, is aiming to increase the percentage of students pursuing post-graduation to 15 per cent. Hence, establishment of foreign universities would be a boon to enhance the standard of Indian education.

University of Agriculture Science Dharwad in-charge Vice-Chancellor H S Vijaykumar said select foreign universities of high repute alone should be allowed into India.

Inputs: R Gopakumar, Thiruvananthapuram; Ronald Anil Fernandes, Mangalore; Prasanta Paul, Kolkata; M R Venkatesh, Chennai; Preethi Nagaraj, Mysore; Raju Vijapur, Hubli.

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