Education Revolution: Government Move To Allow Foreign Universities A Good Idea, Free Indian Universities Too

  • The Modi governments reported move to ask its thinktank, Niti Aayog, to prepare a framework for allowing foreign universities is a welcome idea whose time has come.
  • Despite being among the world’s youngest countries, India will not reap its demographic dividend if its higher education remains the mess it currently is. No Indian university is currently ranked among the world’s top 200.
  • India is the only BRICS nation without representation in the top 100 global universities. So why not allow Ivy League schools like Yale and Harvard or universities like Oxford and Cambridge to set up campuses here?
  • This would be a breath of fresh air within India’s stilted higher education system, giving more viable options to the two lakh or so Indian students who head overseas each year in search of quality education.
  • Those Indians who can afford it are voting with their feet: the number of Indians going overseas to study grew by 256% between 2000 and 2009. UPA-I also tried to bring in a bill to allow foreign universities, following recommendations from the National Knowledge Commission, but that initiative failed because of opposition from the Left.
  • The time has come for India to take the plunge. One solution is to set up the educational equivalent of free economic zones – where foreign and Indian universities provide cutting-edge education within set parameters and without the heavy limiting hand of the state.
  • These special educational zones can be placed outside the ambit of UGC’s stultifying bureaucratic empire.
  • The benefits of freedom and autonomy should not go exclusively to foreign universities; Indian universities too should be allowed to set up and compete under the same conditions.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared at the Indian Science Congress earlier this year that his government will pay as much attention to ease of doing R&D in India as to ease of doing business.
  • For that to happen, permitting foreign universities and reforming higher education to allow home-grown excellence to flower is essential. This would make India a premier Asian educational hub; ‘Educate in India’ can then complement ‘Make in India’.

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