Brahm Prakash Chaturvedi & Taha Siddiqui

India and United States have initiated a dialogue on collaboration in higher education. With this the debate about the feasibility of foreign universities setting up campuses in India has gained momentum once again.

On October 13, Human resource development minister Kapil Sibal and Secretary of state Hilary Clinton met in Washington DC to discuss the possibilities of cooperation in the higher education sector.

Before this initiative HRD ministry had set up a committee in 2008 in the chairmanship of Prof. Yashpal to advice on renovation and rejuvenation of higher education. In its report in 2009 the committee categorically said that quality universities grow in organic connection with cultural soil and cannot be transplanted mechanically.

Government has also tabled “The Foreign Educational Institution (Regulation of Entry and Operation) Bill, 2010 in the parliament which proposes to allow foreign education providers set up campuses in India and offer degrees.

On the other hand, experts are of the opinion that setting up of foreign universities wouldn’t improve the quality of higher education in India

“Setting up foreign universities in India is just the first step to attract the FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) but improving the quality, the courses and the standard of teaching is far more crucial, says Dr Apoorvaanand, of Delhi University.

We don’t have to make small islands of excellence but create an indigenous education system that takes care of the large student population, he adds.

As it is, govt. has allowed 100 % FDI in education sector since 2000 but according to experts it has not yielded great results in improving the quality of teaching.

Students are also apprehensive that if foreign universities are established in India it might make higher education more expensive. They would rather prefer an Indian university with quality teachers and good infrastructure than a mediocre foreign university.

“ I don’t think I will apply for a foreign university because the budget would be very high, and if am getting good education in my government run college, in my own country then why would I apply in foreign university which is just mediocre in nature, says Sneha, a student of jamia Milia Islamia.

However, some students believe that it would make higher education more competitive. “ I think setting up foreign campuses here would bring world class faculty”, says Siddhanth Manocha of Pearl Academy of fashion. He thinks that the exposure will rise the standard of education in India.

With millions of students ready to enroll in colleges every year, India is still struggling to improve the quality of higher education. Amidst these disparate voices and opinions, one thing is clear that a long consensus building exercise is necessary with the passing of the bill in the parliament.