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Does India need Foreign Universities to Improve the Quality of Education in India As the popularity of many regions in Asia surges among foreign students, it has now become a priority more than ever to launch India as a leading knowledge destination in the region which can draw and accommodate a much larger number of international students.

By Suresh Rangarajan

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Experts estimate that by 2030, India will be among the youngest nations in the world. About 41 per cent of the Indian population, around 500 million are currently within the 5 – 24 years age group. Around 140 million are in the college-going age group, which means that very soon one in every four graduates in the world will be a product of the Indian higher education system. With approximately 762 universities and 48,116 colleges, India currently has one of the largest higher education systems in the world.

These large numbers make for impressive reading, but in a field where "Quality ranks above Quantity", they foretell the structural issues that have constantly plagued the education system in the country. The system, in spite of its many drawbacks counts a number of enormously successful alumni among their ranks like Satya Nadella (the CEO of Microsoft), Sundar Pichai (CEO of Google Inc), Indrani Nooyi (Chairperson and CEO of PepsiCo) and many more who have become International Icons. In fact, the current Presidents of Myanmar and Bhutan and the monarchs of a number of Middle Eastern and African countries too have attended Indian schools or colleges.

Liberalization has bypassed the Indian education sector and it is plagued by a shortage of trained faculty, substandard infrastructure and an outdated curriculum. Industry estimates have revealed that over 360,000 Indian students head overseas to attend college, spending close to Rs 49,000 Cr a year and most of them never return. India currently sends the second largest number of students abroad (2.90 Lakh), the very first instance of the "brain drain" which has deprived the country of crucial human resources and capital.A majority of these students end up paying exorbitant fees for vocational courses at universities that often go bust, dashing their dreams and leaving them with uncertain futures.

In 2016, a single Indian university made it to the Top 200 in the world. Most universities in the country have not prioritized benchmarking their curricula to international standards or seeking programme accreditation through internationally recognized accrediting agencies. Although, a number of administrators claim that these rankings are biased towards Western countries, this observation fails to take into account the performance of China, Japan, Singapore and South Korea in these rankings. When one considers the issue of doctoral and faculty research, again it is quite evident that there is a dire need for a revamping of the existing system.

The Ministry of Human Resources Development, under HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar came up with the maiden ranking exercise for Indian Universities that was listed in the National Institutional Ranking Framework. Itstill lacks some of the most vital criteria used in university ranking exercises globally namely; the number of doctorates awarded, institutional income and the global reputation of Indian universities.

A lucrative business proposal

Thanks to the fact that an increasing number of youngsters in the country are seeking a University degree, higher education is being viewed as a lucrative business. The cost of a decent education in the country has skyrocketed, which has created an imbalance between the dream of higher education and their financial reality. As for government aided colleges, the supply is far lower than the demand, which means that a majority of students are left with no choice but the private institutions.This has also led to another epidemic; the mushrooming of thousands of substandard and even illegal private colleges, which leave these graduates no better off than when they started. There is a stark disparity between the premier universities and colleges and a vast majority of other institutions that are nothing more than educational wastelands. What is even more alarming is that a number of studies state that around 80% of the current crop of Indian graduates are unemployable.

This is an alarming trend for the country that is said to be the world's fastest growing economy, in the midst of ambitious initiatives like "Make in India" which demands a capable and skilled workforce. An improvement of the educational standards could be the very essence of sustainable and double digit economic growth.

A vast majority of academicians, industry experts, students and their parents believe that permitting foreign educational institutions to set up Independent campuses in India can trigger the desired revolution in Indian education. NitiAayog, the Centre's policies think – tank recently cleared a proposal to permit Foreign Institutions to set up independent campuses in the country and the Bill has also reportedly garnered support from the Prime Minister's Office.

The Foreign Tag

Arguments against the proposal include the genuine worry that these Universities could compromise on the quality of education while charging huge amounts of money, banking on their "Foreign Tag". However, a government regulatory body could quite easily ensure that this does not happen and these universities could in fact provide students with viable academic and professional training. This will be in line with the government's mission to have at least 90% graduates readily employable by 2030.

As the popularity of many regions in Asia surges among foreign students, it has now become a priority more than ever to launch India as a leading knowledge destination in the region which can draw and accommodate a much larger number of international students.

Suresh Rangarajan

Founder and CEO, Colive

Suresh Rangarajan K (SRK) has been a passionate & intense start-up professional. A Chartered Accountant by profession he is an Alumni of the Yale School of Management. One of the early adopters of the internet world, he was part of the founding team of Citi-Times JV TimesOfMoney.com. Under his enterprising leadership, remit2india.com went on to become the world’s #1 online money transfer portal & one of the most successful internet businesses in India. SRK then founded an innovative real estate enterprise called Artha. The highlights of his stint at Artha include the path breaking Startup City & Knowledge Park – Emprasa. Suresh founded CoLife in 2016 – a company that offers shared living & workspaces for Indian Millennials. Headquartered in Bangalore, it currently operates across 12 different locations. The company was conceptualised on the bedrock of community engagement, as an effort towards building a networking forum for Millennials to cooperate, collaborate and communicate seamlessly. He was conferred the prestigious Udyog Rattan award and WCRC. Ernst & Young also awarded him the “Trend Setter in Real Estate”. Suresh continues to hold board positions in Artha and Brand Accelerator (a startup marketplace) and advisory roles with more than half a dozen startups including Vear, Ubinga, TherPup.
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