I wrote about the case for allowing foreign universities to be allowed to operate in India. In this connection, I mentioned the Foreign Higher Education Providers Bill, which has appeared in different names and versions since the 1990s before the Indian cabinet and parliament and never went anywhere. I argued that though the foreign providers have more or less given up on the Indian government providing a workable legal framework and settled for various expedient semi-legal arrangements with politically influential education barons, the jobs and skills crisis should force Indian policy-makers to rethink the approach.
However, even if this conversation is reopened in the new parliament in 2019, simply passing the bill as it was proposed wouldn't get us anywhere, and this point is worth belabouring. Several reasons for this, including that the bill in its current form is unattractive for any foreign provider, and it is unlikely that anyone would prefer to operate within such a framework. India is indeed attractive for more reasons than one, not least because a quarter of new students going to college in the next decade may do so in India, and it is the second-largest source of students studying overseas in the world. But the vastness of the Indian market alone is not going to tempt a university to take the risk of getting itself into endless bureaucratic knots, as the bill in its current form and Indian government's general approach promises to be, and risk its reputation at home. A simpler, leaner approach is certainly needed, and it is worth exploring what this could be.
Indian approach, as it stands, displays what happens if private sector consultants meet public sector bureaucrats to produce a policy. It combines worst of both the worlds - a neo-liberal obsession with university rankings with entrenched love for license raj. Therefore, it limits itself to Top 400 universities in the world, acknowledging three league tables but not defining any specific criteria, and then lays out a set of daunting criteria that demands the 21st century equivalent of a Harvard president prostrating himself in front of an Indian Assistant Secretary of some description! It expects the universities to make huge capital investments in India without having the right to any repatriation of surpluses, and that the university would have to operate within the Indian regulatory system which the government itself has acknowledged to be counter-productive (why else would India need to create a separate category of its own institutions, the Institutions of Eminence, which are to be regulated differently to be able to compete globally?).
One can possibly the see the hand of vested interests in such a policy, and therefore, if and when the conversation is reopened, one needs to be looking at the policy, aligning it with India's strategic needs and creating right incentives for right universities to open campuses in India. 'Universities' are a catch-all label we are used to, but, while making policy, it pays to be mindful of the diversity of the sector and what different kinds of universities can bring. Opening the door to top 400 universities sound attractive, but considering that this would exclude many universities from Asia which are better geared to handle the sorts of challenge India faces, or that this would exclude many fine universities which are more technology focused, that kind of categorisation is madness. The wisdom of tying policy with the vagaries of commercial league tables is also questionable. Asking the universities to come to India and make capital investments without a hope of repatriation of surpluses betray a lack of understanding how universities operate, and asking them to submit to Indian regulations as it exists today defeats the whole purpose.
So, here are 7 policy ideas for Indian policy-makers to consider, which may make the approach simpler and more consistent, attract the right universities to come to India and contribute towards India's strategic needs. I am working with colleagues to develop these into fully fledged policy proposals; below is a short summary of the same.
1. Hence, the new set of ideas have to really start from the beginning: Which universities should be allowed into India? The simple answer is that any university that is fully accredited as a degree-granting institution in a country whose quality assurance system is acceptable to India should be allowed to operate in India. This approach will take away the vagaries of league tables: The proposed legislation was unclear about what happens if a university drops out of the ranking. Indeed, if a university loses its accreditation in its home country, that would be a separate and more serious matter, and provisions around this would be more defensible in courts of law.
2. As India has proposed a separate regulatory regime for Institutions of Eminence, allowing them greater autonomy, it should also create a separate regulatory body for foreign providers, which will align its regulatory approach with some of the key countries and process frameworks (such as the Bologna process). This body should be able to approve any campus or partnership proposal, clear investments with Cabinet approval and regulate the operations.
3. One of the most daunting aspects of the Indian regulation is that education is a joint subject and both the Union government and the states can make policy. However, this is hardly unique and there are central institutions in India which, while they may be located in the states, fall under the Central government. In fact, the states often compete to host the central institutions, as they bring educational options, jobs and investment. The approach to foreign institutions should be similar, and indeed, as it happened in some other industry sectors, the states may be allowed to opt out. It is likely the opposite would be the case - the states would vie to host good institutions. This, than the ranking based systems, is a better filter to ensure only the institutions deemed desireable come to India.
4. The other problem with education in India is that the government tries to stipulate the fees. It is incompatible with private investment, and so far, the government has tried to maintain the system by allowing monopolies of a sort for accredited institutions. But this leads to inefficiencies and corruption, and not many foreign institutions would be amenable to such controls. But these controls are completely unnecessary for the foreign institutions, as they are unlikely to charge very high fees in India. Competition with Indian institutions, and other foreign institutions, and indeed, with their home campus, is likely to keep the fees at an acceptable level.
5. India doesn't allow For-Profit institutions in higher education, which means that the government loses out on tax revenues as hugely profitable institutions don't pay taxes. It may make sense for the government to let foreign institutions to set up as For-profit companies, tax their profits at the prevailing rate. It may be worthwhile to reconsider whether the indirect taxes, the General Sales Tax, should be levied on Higher Education, as this would burden the students. One may consider this to be a zero-rated category, as it is when the service is provided by a charity. Indeed, this may mean a backdoor route to allow For-profit Higher Ed, but considering that these institutions are likely to be fully accredited institutions in their home countries, the risk is minimal. [One may point out that American regulatory structure is fragmented, and there are many 'universities' which may not be considered as such elsewhere, but the easy way out is to define which regulators are acceptable to India]
6. The above will also mean that the entities set up in India should be allowed to repatriate any surpluses, under the usual conditions applicable to other businesses. This should not be objectionable, as the taxes will be paid on any such surplus. Besides, we should not overestimate the profitability of a university campus, at least in the first few years of its operation. This is hardly going to be billions leaving India, and it is very likely to be offset by the savings made from students opting to study at home.
7. Opening the possibility of foreign campuses in India should lead to India acknowledging the foreign degrees from these universities at par with Indian degrees, and allowing such degree holders to apply for jobs in government. India should also seek reciprocal recognition of Indian degrees, either through bi-lateral arrangement or by participating in a global process such as Bologna, so that Indian degree holders also get treated at par in other countries. This may indeed help Indian lawyers, doctors and nurses; this may mean giving small privileges at home but gaining significant concessions above.
Now, these proposals assume that the Indian government is open to globalisation, which is a lot to ask in the current state of the world. But that is exactly the point: India has been a big beneficiary of globalisation, and even the current government while being culturally nativist, is globalisation-friendly as far as the economy is concerned. This is unlikely to change, and whatever happens in 2019, the globalising approach is unlikely to go away. The challenge is elsewhere: Opening up a sector which has been a fief of a few powerful players is the central challenge. However, as I mentioned elsewhere, the jobs and skills crisis is likely to be the catalyst of change, and vested interests can be overcome in the face of a crisis.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
There is no other city like Kolkata for me: It is Home. The only city where I don't have to find a reason to go to, or to love. It is one city hardwired into my identity, and despite being away for a decade, that refuses to go away. People stay away from their homeland for a variety of reasons. But, as I have come to feel, no one can be completely happy to be away. One may find fame or fortune, love and learning, in another land, but they always live an incomplete life. They bring home broken bits of their homeland into their awkward daily existence, a cushion somewhere, a broken conversation in mother tongue some other time, always rediscovering the land they left behind for that brief moment of wanting to be themselves. The cruelest punishment, therefore, for a man who lives abroad is when his love for his land is denied. It is indeed often denied, because the pursuit of work, knowledge or love seemed to have gotten priority over the attraction of the land. This is particularly
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
India's employment data is sobering ( see here ). The pandemic has wrecked havoc and the structural problems of the economy - service sector dependence, uneven regional development and health and education challenges - are more evident than ever. Something needs to happen, and fast. To its credit, the government acknowledges the education challenge. Belatedly - it took more than 30 years - India has come up with a new National Education Policy. It is a comprehensive policy, which covers the whole spectrum of education and perhaps overcompensates the previous neglect by advocating radical change. As I commented elsewhere on this blog, it shows a curious mixture of aspirations, cultural revival and global competitiveness put under the same hood. However, despite its radical aspirations, the policy document often betrays same-old thinking. One of these is India's approach to foreign universities. The NEP makes the case for allowing foreign universities to set up operations in Ind
It's not often that I get to do things I like, but, as it happens, the lockdown came with a little gift. I was asked to develop, by an Indian entrepreneur with a strong commitment to education, a framework for a Liberal Education for one of his schools. And, as a part of this exercise, I was asked to develop a critique of Indian Education, if only to set the context of the proposal I am to make. I claim to have some unusual - therefore unique - qualification to do this job. I am, after all, an outsider in all senses. I have lived outside India for a long time, but never went too far away, making it my field of work for most of the period. I have also been outside the academe but never too far away: Just outside the bureaucracy but intimately into the conversations. I worked in the 'disruptive' end of education without the intention to disrupt and in For-profit without the desire for profit. Along the way, the only thing I consistently did is study educatio
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
Nations are ideas. We try to fashion them as territories. But how can a river, a mountain ridge or sometimes an imaginary line in the middle of a field can explain the wide division in the lives, thoughts and futures of the people who live on different sides? Nations are not the people too. Indeed, people build nations and become its body. But the soul of the nation is an idea: People come together on an idea to build a nation. While that's what a modern nation is - an idea - and that way exceptionalism is not an American exception, very few nations are as completely defined by an idea as Pakistan. There was hardly any political, geographic or military rationale of Pakistan other than the idea of an Islamic homeland in South Asia. [In that way, the ideological brother of Pakistan in the family of nations is Israel] This, abated by the short term political calculations of some backroom colonialists, created a modern state which must be solely sustained on that singular idea. Reli
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.