There are thousands of MBA colleges in India which charge huge fees and do not even award a legitimate degree. People take loans, farmers sell their lands, all so that their children become MBA graduates… this is what drives these students to such colleges.The only way to keep mediocre universities at bay is to collaborate with good universities from overseas so as to develop infrastructure and exchange knowledge.

Every year nearly 0.4 million Indians go abroad for higher studies spending approximately $12 billion. This leads to not only loss of foreign exchange, but also brain drain as most of these students rarely come back to India after completing their courses.

The primary reason for a large number of students seeking professional education abroad is lack of capacity in Indian institutions. There is no doubt that the situation in Government-run universities in India is not so good. Also, with increasing enrolment in higher education, it is not possible for the Government to provide higher education on its own.
But, private institutions are also not up to the mark. Many don’t have experience and many are trying to just gain money without quality.

Foreign investment in this field will not only check brain drain, it will also help to balance the demand-supply ratio. It will develop competitiveness among private universities to deliver better quality. It will also generate employment and result in inflow of money instead of outflow.

Further, infrastructure will improve. There will be better scope for research as foreign universities have different methodologies to run and generate revenues. They will also help India move towards practical, study-based learning rather than rote learning.

With better technology, teaching methods, libraries and labs, India will become the educational hub for at least the neighbouring countries.

The approach of the Indian government at present is to aspire for good quality education environment by suppressing the profit motive. But actually the correct approach should be attainment of high quality along with the profit motive. Not that foreign players should be given all the powers, but they should be given some liberty if we are thinking world class. We should use profit as a channel to raise the quality of education.

Since India has operated as a relatively closed economy for most of its recent history, there is understandable opposition to the entry of foreign providers of higher education. The feasibility of FDI in education is not in question, but a proper regulatory framework is essential.

A key issue here is how the entry and operation of foreign universities should be regulated. Our existing regulatory mechanisms have not been very effective. Given this limitation, entry should be limited to institutions that are accredited by reputed bodies in their own countries.

The downside of the new policy is that access to the foreign providers' programmes will be dominated by the elite segment of the population, as fees and other conditions of entry will tend to favour them. This could increase the gap between rich and poor. A major problem in India is the non-enrolment of the less privileged into higher education.

With FDI pouring in, such problems are definitely going to increase. Also there are foreign universities that run twinning programmes in collaboration with domestic institutions that do not have recognition at an equivalent level. These therefore turn out to be misleading to students.

So foreign investment in higher education will be an addition to quality education only when a strict accreditation and certification system is set up by the Government’s regulatory body.

The administration should be subject to Government norms in matters of deciding faculty, fees , course structure, intake, etc. Once these things are assured and proper certification and accreditation systems are established, India is definitely going to benefit from the liberalisation of higher education.

(Prerna studied Economics at Jamia Millia University before coming to the Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media, Bangalore.)

Courtesy: Business Line:  April17, 2013




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