India sends close to 200,000 students to study abroad every year. Increasingly, many of these are undergraduate students going without much scholarship and costing anywhere between Rs 12 million to Rs 16 million. Thus, if you include all kinds of costs, India would be draining itself of about $20-30 billion (The Reserve Bank of India calculates only the fees) in just letting its students seek better institutions.
This is a large forex drain that has to be plugged. In fact, the spiralling number of International Baccalaureate (IB) schools in India is a good indicator of the scale of student aspirants wanting to study abroad.
The only way we can solve this gravitating student community is to provide similar quality education, better facilities, better infrastructure and a qualification that has global acceptance, all of this in India.
To begin with, the challenge can be addressed through twinning programmes leading to dual degree or joint degree programmes. We should also promote student exchange programmes and faculty exchanges with transfer of credit too. The learning that follows would be far richer than what is on offer now. And this will not be achieved if it is restricted to the top 200 global universities.
In fact, it is ridiculous for a country with no single university within top 200 universities of the world to close doors on similar universities. If the world were to put up similar rules for their own universities, nothing would move.
Here are some thoughts:
• Foreign institutions must be provided an open door policy. We must not restrict ourselves to the top 200 universities in the world. The one ranked 1,000th might be a specialist and even world-class in its own domain.
• A tie-up between the 600th-ranked institution in India with a 900th-ranked foreign institution would still add value. As long as both the domestic and foreign institutions are approved by their respective governments, leave the field open and transparent. Water will find its own level.
• Allow joint degrees/dual degrees/sandwich programmes/semester aboard. Just don't interfere in the nature of the tie-ups. And it should also be automatic with no prior approval from regulators.
• Encourage student exchange and faculty exchange. Incentivise them, if needed. Let cross-border culture and learning drive India a notch higher.
• Encourage joint research with foreign institutions. Provide grants for such research. Let the world look at India for its scientific and research temperament.
• What is good for the goose must be good for the gander. Completely open up Indian institutions to offer degrees aboard and allow opening up of Indian campuses aboard. Again, do not put restrictions like the top 100 schools. If the 1,000th-ranked school has some value to offer to a European city, who is the Government of India to disallow the same? Let 1,000 flowers bloom.
On the other hand, this push for creating quality education will also enable India to become an attractive inbound education market. Some of the essential value propositions, such as infrastructure, teaching facilities, diversity and demographics, would be propped up by such tie-ups with partners insisting on quality standards.
By 2030, we should aim to have as many students coming into India as going out of the country. We should fight to retain our students while making ourselves more attractive to foreign students. 'Study In India' must be a clarion call that reverberates across the world. And the beginning has to be made by freeing Indian and foreign institutions from rules that will achieve no effect.
This is the third part of a series of articles on the New Education Policy.
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