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Foreign Universities: Let’s Experience them here

Globalisation provides better services to people worldwide and helps increase GDP. On the other hand, it may increase the unemployment rate since it demands higher-skilled work at a lower price. However, since we live in a globalised world, we must make use of the positives and mitigate the negatives. Consequently, collaboration is the vehicle.

 

One very important initiative of the Government of India coming from within the National Education Policy (NEP), 2020, was approving in principle, entry of foreign universities and setting up campuses. The NEP says, “A legislative framework facilitating such entry will be put in place, and such universities will be given special dispensation regarding regulatory, governance, and content norms on par with other autonomous institutions of India.”

 

This is very encouraging indeed. However, the provision must be taken with a little bit of caution. The country has more than 45000 colleges and 950 universities. Will they be affected and if they did, how will they be protected, though the larger question will be, in a free market, should they be protected at all? Will such protection drive the quality to the common denominator? Obviously, those that provide quality must stay and those that don’t, must shut shop. An important question will be if such a process is akin to commercialising education?  We have some very good institutions that we can be proud of. Otherwise, most are mediocre. Raising standards of such institutions must be everybody’s concern.

 

Some of our good students leave the country for better facilities and better education. The recent QS World University Rankings, notes that the number of Indian institutes in the top 1,000 dropped from 25 in 2019 to 21 in the current year with only three figuring in top 200. Should we be worried about these trends and what needs to be done?

 

Globalization enhances the student’s ability to acquire and utilize knowledge. It enhances access, assessment, adoption, and application of knowledge, to think independently, to exercise appropriate judgment and collaborate with others. However, it must not raise undesirable consequences, affecting the peace in society.

 

Jan Aart Scholte, a Professorial Research Fellow in the Centre for the Study of Globalization and Regionalization. once said, ‘Some people have associated “globalization” with progress, prosperity and peace. For others, however, the word has conjured up deprivation, disaster and doom’ These are profound words.

 

The Pandemic moved education, online. Whereas one saw Hybrid and Blended learning models grow, their implementation was sketchy. Those who collaborated and built alliances, succeeded in overcoming the negatives imposed by the pandemic. The future will call for even more collaborations both in digital infrastructure, and those between the people. Learning and knowledge grow when there is exchange of ideas and are not inhibited in any way. With that as the context, the entire higher education today seems to be going international, cross-border, offshore, and borderless.

 

Educationists and the intelligentsia have been debating, for a good two decades now, a steady rise in mobility in higher education. Students, faculty and research scholars have been travelling across the seas, for academic pursuits for many years. The regulators have allowed twinning programs in both virtual and regular mode for years now, though the policies have never been clear. This allowed mobility of both faculty and students between departments and campuses, and development of multi discipline education hubs. The cost was however prohibitive. Why not formalise the arrangements that have existed albeit fragmented, to those that are more robust? Is it time the foreign institutions and universities are allowed to set base in the country? Or at least allow their offshore campuses to be set up?

 

There are larger questions to answer however. Which institutions or universities must be allowed? In which disciplines and sectors should they be allowed? Will they be for profit or not for profit? Who will define what the profits must be? Will it fowl with the constitutional provision of education being non-profit entity? How will these affect the Indian education in the long run? How will the social equity be addressed? Will the ideological ethos of Indianness be compromised? Above all, will the good institutions set base in the country ever?

 

There are no policies or worthwhile regulatory frameworks currently to answer the above. In as much as saying that enabling provisions for teaching, learning, award of degrees and diplomas and assessments are imperative, and that the FDI policy in education be simplified, Quality Assurance too must be rigorously pursued.

 

Global education brings together, various methods of teaching from institutions across the world, encouraging adoption of sustainability goals, even as it brings global industries together.  One consequence of such partnerships is that it prepares students for multi-functional and multinational leadership roles. Foreign collaborations can help design curriculum with current international pedagogies. They may offer varied subjects and specialisation that help bridge skill gaps.

 

It is even possible that students become aware of multicultural awareness and may integrate various ideologies from different societies in order to be true global citizens. Even as it provides an opportunity to learn from multiple sources, some challenges in acquisition of diverse knowledge, and learning pedagogies help learners behave better in uncertain situations.

 

India thrives as an information and knowledge society. Within the global context, a system-based thinking, to understand the world business eco-systems, will be required. The interdisciplinary, multi-disciplinary research approaches are critical to achieving comprehensive understanding of complex realities facing the world. Entry of foreign institutions and universities will certainly help our faculty and students face these challenges. Besides, the students can be exposed to new cultures & traditions, get access to world class education, learn new languages, work in multicultural teams, enhance personality and gain valuable life skills.

 

The country needs massive investments in education so the quality bar is raised manyfold. Research facilities need a quantum growth. The state funding being what it is, it is imperative that the doors are opened to both foreign funding and adopting their successful systems.

 

The recent budget did well to give a few pointers. Promoting foreign direct investments (FDI), opening up the External Commercial Borrowing (ECB) to strengthen the capital pool in the education sector are all worthwhile initiatives. A greater inflow of finance to attract talented teachers, innovate and build better infrastructures are all stressed upon by the finance minister. However, an enabling regulatory framework is needed. Is it difficult? Let’s remember what Nelson Mandela said. “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

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