Na­maste, neigh­bours

In­dia en­ters international stu­dent mar­ket­place

THE (Times Higher Education) - - FRONT PAGE - El­lie.both­well@timeshigh­ere­d­u­ca­tion.com

Higher ed­u­ca­tion ex­perts have pre­dicted that In­dia will be­come a ma­jor re­cruiter of over­seas stu­dents at last, un­der a new in­ter­na­tion­al­i­sa­tion strat­egy that es­chews the rev­enue- fo­cused ap­proaches favoured by other countries.

The Study in In­dia scheme, launched jointly by four min­istries, aims to in­crease the number of international stu­dents from just 47,000 to 200,000 in the next five years, by tar­get­ing 30 countries across South Asia, Africa, the Mid­dle East and the for­mer So­viet re­publics.

The longer term aim is to at­tract 1 mil­lion for­eign learn­ers to the coun­try.

The qual­ity of In­dian higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions – none is in the top 200 of the Times Higher Ed­u­ca­tion World Univer­sity Rankings – means that it is doubt­ful whether the coun­try’s move will erode en­rol­ment in tra­di­tional hubs such as the UK, the US and Aus­tralia in the near fu­ture.

But, while the coun­try is hop­ing to im­prove the stan­dard of its uni­ver­si­ties via an “in­sti­tu­tions of emi­nence” ex­cel­lence ini­tia­tive, its re­cruit­ment strat­egy is very dif­fer­ent from that of the es­tab­lished play­ers, which typ­i­cally eye the fi­nan­cial re­wards of international stu­dent en­rol­ment.

The In­dian gov­ern­ment said that it would re­serve an ex­tra 15,000 places across 160 uni­ver­si­ties for international stu­dents in the 2018-19 aca­demic year, mean­ing that there would be no ad­verse im­pact on the number of seats for In­dian stu­dents.

It added that the top 25 per cent of stu­dents would re­ceive a full tu­ition fee waiver, and a fur­ther 50 per cent would re­ceive a par­tial waiver of be­tween 25 and 50 per cent, but this cost will “have to be borne by the in­sti­tute con­cerned, based on cross-sub­sidi­s­a­tion or through its ex­ist­ing fund­ing”.

In­dia’s uni­ver­si­ties have his­tor­i­cally been very weak when it comes to in­ter­na­tion­al­i­sa­tion, with a 2017 re­port from the As­so­ci­a­tion of In­dian Uni­ver­si­ties claim­ing that the coun­try’s re­cruit­ment of for­eign stu­dents was “abysmally low”.

But, an­nounc­ing the new scheme, hu­man re­source de­vel­op­ment min­is­ter Prakash Javadekar said that “In­dia can be­come a hub of af­ford­able ed­u­ca­tion for for­eign stu­dents”.

The gov­ern­ment has ap­proved an in­vest­ment of Rs 150 crores (£16.5 mil­lion) for the pro­gramme for 2018-19 and 2019-20. Over time, the scheme is ex­pected to bring in rev­enue.

Ra­jika Bhan­dari, head of re­search, pol­icy and prac­tice at the US-based In­sti­tute of International Ed­u­ca­tion, said that var­i­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions in In­dia have in­tro­duced ini­tia­tives fo­cused on in­ter­na­tion­al­is­ing higher ed­u­ca­tion that have “not re­ally come to fruition”, but this is the first time that the coun­try has made such a strong fi­nan­cial commitment.

In­dia “will def­i­nitely emerge as a re­gional leader” and “a re­gional hub within Asia” for international stu­dent re­cruit­ment, she said, add-

ing that “that spot is cur­rently be­ing oc­cu­pied by China”.

Dr Bhan­dari said that In­dia had sev­eral at­tributes “work­ing in its favour”, in­clud­ing a very large higher ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, a rapidly grow­ing econ­omy, the use of English-lan­guage in­struc­tion and low-cost ed­u­ca­tion.

How­ever, she said that the qual­ity of in­sti­tu­tions in In­dia was “highly vari­able”, with only a hand­ful of uni­ver­si­ties sit­u­ated within the global arena, and added that safety con­cerns and credit recog­ni­tion would be is­sues for international stu­dents.

Hans de Wit, di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for International Higher Ed­u­ca­tion at Bos­ton Col­lege, said that the tar­get of reach­ing 200,000 stu­dents in five years was “rather am­bi­tious”, es­pe­cially given that “the com­pe­ti­tion is far ahead of them, even in the re­gion”.

He added that, while the gov­ern­ment is aware that many pub­lic uni­ver­si­ties have poor qual­ity ser­vices, in­fras­truc­ture and teach­ing, they “still lack a clear plan” to im­prove.

But Pro­fes­sor de Wit praised the coun­try for fo­cus­ing on a select group of countries that have prospec­tive stu­dents who value ed­u­ca­tion but can­not af­ford to go to univer­sity in the West, rather than “try­ing to com­pete…on a global level”.

He added that it will be “in­ter­est­ing to see” how many pri­vate uni­ver­si­ties, which have much higher fees than pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions, will be will­ing to swal­low the cost of waiv­ing tu­ition fees. “At the same time, [pri­vate uni­ver­si­ties] are also prob­a­bly much more ea­ger to have an international stu­dent body” and could see fee waivers as “a long-term in­vest­ment” in driv­ing up the qual­ity of their in­sti­tu­tions, he said.

An­tara Sen­gupta, a re­search fel­low spe­cial­is­ing in higher ed­u­ca­tion at the Ob­server Re­search Foun­da­tion, an in­de­pen­dent think­tank based in In­dia, said that the coun­try’s plan to cre­ate 20 “in­sti­tu­tions of emi­nence” will pro­vide a “ma­jor boost” for the Study in In­dia scheme.

“Since these will be some of the best in­sti­tutes in the coun­try, they will be able to at­tract stu­dents from the tar­geted re­gions. Also, given the au­ton­omy that these in­sti­tutes will en­joy…they will be in a much bet­ter po­si­tion to pro­vide an ecosys­tem of ex­cel­lence re­quired for a global stu­dent base,” she said.

Gaz­ing up In­dia’s sights are set on in­creas­ing its number of international stu­dents from 47,000 to 200,000 in the next five years

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