In­ter­na­tion­al­i­sa­tion in In­dia ‘op­er­at­ing on shoe­string bud­get’

Di­rec­tor of IIT Bom­bay says in­ter­na­tion­al­i­sa­tion re­mains a big chal­lenge. El­lie Both­well re­ports

THE (Times Higher Education) - - CONTENTS - El­lie.both­well@timeshigh­ere­d­u­ca­

In­dian uni­ver­si­ties’ in­ter­na­tion­al­i­sa­tion strate­gies are still op­er­at­ing on “shoe­string” bud­gets and it will “take time” for the top in­sti­tu­tions in the coun­try to reach world-class sta­tus, a sec­tor leader has warned.

The In­dian gov­ern­ment has an­nounced am­bi­tious plans to im­prove the qual­ity of its uni­ver­sity sec­tor in re­cent months, in­clud­ing a new In­sti­tutes of Emi­nence ini­tia­tive aimed at trans­form­ing se­lect uni­ver­si­ties into world-class teach­ing and re­search in­sti­tu­tions, and a Study in In­dia scheme de­signed to in­crease the num­ber of in­ter­na­tional stu­dents from 47,000 to 200,000 in the next five years.

The gov­ern­ment said that each pub­lic uni­ver­sity par­tic­i­pat­ing in the IoE scheme would re­ceive 10 bil­lion ru­pees (£110 mil­lion) over five years. It has also ap­proved an in­vest­ment of Rs 150 crores (£16.5 mil­lion) in the in­ter­na­tion­al­i­sa­tion pro­gramme for 2018-19 and 2019-20.

De­vang Khakhar, di­rec­tor of the In­dian In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy Bom­bay, which was se­lected as one of six In­sti­tutes of Emi­nence in July, said that uni­ver­si­ties in the coun­try were “slowly get­ting there” in terms of in­ter­na­tion­al­i­sa­tion, but ad­mit­ted that at­tract­ing strong ap­pli­cants was still a chal­lenge.

Pro­fes­sor Khakhar added that his own in­sti­tu­tion – which is home to about 10,000 stu­dents – has only three mem­bers of staff work­ing in its in­ter­na­tional of­fice, which is in charge of global uni­ver­sity part­ner­ships as well as in­ter­na­tional stu­dent ad­mis­sions.

“It’s such a shoe­string op­er­a­tion that…there’s no se­ri­ous mar­ket­ing that’s done,” he said.

Pro­fes­sor Khakhar ac­knowl­edged that th­ese is­sues would im­prove as a re­sult of the coun­try’s new Study in In­dia scheme, which he pre­dicted would re­sult in “more and more pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions set­ting up in­ter­na­tional of­fices so that they can wel­come stu­dents”. And he said that IIT Bom­bay it­self would be able to en­hance its own in­ter­na­tion­al­i­sa­tion ef­forts as a re­sult of its new IoE sta­tus – a ti­tle that he said is set to in­crease its bud­get by about 20 per cent.

How­ever, he warned aca­demics against be­ing too op­ti­mistic about In­dia’s higher ed­u­ca­tion progress.

“If you look at the league ta­bles of top uni­ver­si­ties, the ones that are at the top are there be­cause of the out­stand­ing re­search that they’re do­ing. That kind of re­search and that vol­ume of re­search re­quires huge fund­ing. So it’s go­ing to take time,” he said.

He added that the Mass­a­chu­setts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy, which was ranked fourth in the lat­est THE World Uni­ver­sity Rank­ings, has a bud­get about 20 times the size of IIT Bom­bay, which was ranked in the 401-500 band, but ques­tioned whether it “makes sense for In­dia to in­vest huge amounts” in re­search. “It may not make sense to in­crease the bud­get of IIT Bom­bay by 20 times. There are so many other things that the money can be spent on in In­dia – we also have to be care­ful about how much we de­mand,” he said.

Mov­ing slowly it will ‘take time’ for In­dian in­sti­tu­tions to be­come world-class

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