If there is one thing I truly want to do, it is to build a college in India offering access to global education to Indian school leavers. Having studied in India and in the UK, and having spent a few years trying to understand the systems of Higher Education in various countries, I am convinced about the need to develop Global/Local offerings for young people, who have to live and work in a world very different from our own. And, with 5 million more people going to college by 2015, India is the place where this demand will be most acute, and if it is not met, the human wastage most devastating.
Writing about my future plans in December 2009, I wanted to do three things: Do something hands on, get knowledge and experience in Higher Education sector and go back to India by December 2012. I have done the first two things, and though I acknowledge that it is unlikely that I shall pack my bags and return to India in the next few months, this is something I truly want to do and may actually end up doing it when I can get the education project started. I have reached a point, given my family commitments in India, when I know this is something I really want to do. Though I love the English weather (strangely), my friends here and the life I live, I am reaching that point in life when I must have a purpose to serve: I can find no greater purpose than getting this educational institution off the ground.
This does not necessarily contradict what I am trying to do in my day-to-day work now. My work towards building a network of global business colleges is consistent with this goal. Indeed, I believe the college I start in India must be globally connected, and the plan is to situate it within the network of global institutions. I build the network first, now, working alongside colleagues and fellow-travellers from different countries, and in next two years, and then run, hands on, one of the institutions in the most attractive of the global education markets.
I see this existence of network as absolutely necessary, and not just something that fits around my lifestyle. The reason global education projects fail is because of their dependence on rich country universities, which, despite their strong heritage and large endowment funds, often fails to understand and adopt to the realities of global student demand. Most universities operate with a strong home country bias, a form of laziness and bureaucratic paralysis which is cloaked as commitment to quality, that umbrella term which has become catch-all for everything that stifles innovation and new thinking. Within that framework, it is almost impossible to deal with the challenges of creating a global/local offering, which will invariably involve experimentation (a no-no in higher education), risk taking (one can't see career bureaucrats taking risks) and humility to understand the local contexts (another no-no for Western universities, mostly). In summary, the success in creating a global/local offering in India can only be done through new thinking about learning and teaching, quality and curriculum, which needs to be sustained through building of a network based on similar values.
Returning to the Global College project in India, I am now looking for partners and collaborators, and indeed, money, to get it started. In my mind, this runs parallel to my efforts in the UK to create the network, as I intend to join the two together when time comes. I see myself uniquely qualified to do this experiment, having forced myself to global thinking for last ten years and undertaking studies on learning and adult education in the global context. My current efforts are focused on connecting with people who share similar views, and who, through collective resources and networks, can bring this project into being. As I have described before in this blog, the first few programmes that I intend to build for this college are to be in the Digital Industries space, an acknowledged gap in the Indian market and something that aligns very well with what we are trying to do elsewhere in the network, particularly in the college to be situated in London. The idea is to have a range of digital industry focused programmes, alongside Business programmes focused on similar areas, and a number of cross-discipline modules that builds into both, which will then be accredited in India as well as for global awards.
I am at a very similar point as I was in December 2009, the logical end of one project and start of another. I did well as I accepted my new project with all humility, with the acknowledgement that I am starting fresh and without any sense of entitlement. I did put in hard work and tried to learn as much as I can, as fast as I can. And, most importantly, I worked with people, who had different talents which complemented what I could bring on to table, and saw the magic effects of collaboration. This is indeed what I wish to repeat now. I am back to the starting block, taking nothing for granted, seeking out co-travellers who are united in aspiration, and ready to put in whatever it takes.
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