Coming home to get a foreign degree

Updated: Sep 30 2006, 05:46am hrs
Picture this: By 2010, on that great stretch of road called the Mumbai-Pune highway, along with the BMWs that are going to be test driven there, you might find dotting the horizon, campuses of foreign universities. That is, if the 100% foreign direct investment (FDI) in higher education is passed as law by Parliament. Some of the foreign institutions may have reservations about reservation of seats as required by the law of the land. Says Bakul Dolakia, director, IIM Ahmedabad, If they do comply (with the law of the land), it will create a level-playing field. Yale and Harvard had expressed an interest in the past to set up a university here. At the moment the whole matter is on hold. However, that has not deterred some .

Says Billie Mullick, India Project Manager, Schulich School of Business, York University, Canada, We are aware of the 100% FDI being considered. We are considering a full-time presence here in the next couple of years.

The University already has a Mumbai office and it is now looking at a site between Mumbai and Pune. So, instead of paying (Canadian) $ 80,000 for tuition and living expenses for a 16-month management course in Canada, you could be paying one-quarter for the same course in India and have a visiting faculty from all over the world which is something that the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad does. Says Prof M Rammohan Rao, dean, ISB, In the one-year MBA course that we offer, students that are admitted average some of the best GMAT scores. Ours is a global curriculum and the visiting faculty includes teachers from the London Business School, Carnegie Mellon University, UCLA and Stanford among others. We stressing on entrepreneurship learning.

He feels the government should be less restrictive and allow foreign players to come in. Students view ISB as an institution that offers global faculty and curriculum at a vastly watered down cost, although the fees amounts to about Rs 14 lakh per annum. Says Yashovardhan Gupta, 34, who has a GMAT score of 770, and comes from a business family, I had got admission in Cornell and Carnegie Mellon University among others. However, I found a global curriculum and faculty in ISB here in the country, so decided to stay here. This is echoed by Major Biju Mohan Das, 29, who served as a dentist in the Army, before joining ISB, Apart from offering a global curricula, ISB is much cheaper in tuition cost and living expenses, than if I had done a management course abroad. According to a Parliamentary Standing Committee report on higher education tabled recently in the Lok Sabha, The international trade and investment in higher education has attained growing importance in recent years with a global market estimated at $ 27 billion in mid-1990s. The US, France, Germany, UK, Australia are the main exporters while China, India, Japan, Korea, Taiwan are the main importers of higher education. About 1.2 lakh students went to study abroad from India in 2004 (UNESCO figures), of which the US received the highest. And to prove this, students thronged the 2006 New Delhi MBA fair.

So, the big rush is still there and it may make sense for foreign varsities to set up campuses in India to tap it. Says Akash Gupt, associate director, PricewaterhouseCoopers, 100% FDI in the education sector is already under the automatic route. However, the challenge is that only a Trust/Society entity can be used for this purpose. The automatic route applies only to shares, and not to members of society or units in a trust, which require FIPB approval. The key bottleneck is that the Ministry of HRD has not firmed up its position on setting up of Foreign Universities in India. The automatic route for education sector was approved in 2002 and Western International University, India was set up under these guidelines. Charu Modi Bhartia who heads it, had told FE earlier that the terms and conditions of the government and AICTE are highly restrictive. Says a FICCI official, Currently only 10% of the eligible students who pass secondary school (17 years-20 years) are in higher education unlike 80%-90% in developed countries. By 2015, if we want to increase this to 20% we have to strengthen our school system so that a level playing field is created for everyone and then rather opt for reservation in institutions like the IITs and IIMs where a minimum competence-level is required to keep up with the tough curriculum. This is echoed by Hema Raghavan, former dean, students welfare, Delhi University, who pointed that the school system should be strengthened and those who really are competent to go for higher education should be filtered out, from those who wish to go for technical and vocational courses. Says Ulrich Podewils, director DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service), Indian and German universities should develop joint-degree programmes. We are not looking to having campuses in India. Similarly, France has signed MoUs with Association of Indian Universities for mutual recognition of degrees. Says Philippe Martineau, attach for scientifique and university cooperation, France has a new law on immigration which allows Indians to stay and work for 2 years after studying in French universities. The UK and Australia also offer similar incentives.

Non-brick and mortar courses such as the week-long advanced management programmes run by All India Management Association, on now for four decades, have plenty of corporate takers. It costs Rs 2.5 lakh and faculty from Stanford and Kellogg come and teach professionals from HLL, ITC, Thermax etc, says Kamal Singh, director, Centre for Management Research, AIMA.

But the expected gold rush may still be some way off. Sushma Berlia, president, PHD Chamber of Commerce & Industry points out although there is a lot of hype concerning FDI in India, there is no queue of foreign investors waiting to invest in education in India. To tap the expected gold rush and meet the latent demand, the government may need to make some hard decisions soon.