World Class

Written by Kirtika Suneja | Updated: Apr 7 2013, 07:19am hrs
The fastest growing segment of Indian higher education, private universities are now increasingly tying up with foreign varsities to bring international standard courses to the country

With the government seeking to enroll 35.9 million students in higher education institutions (HEIs) by the end of 2017, and aspirations of students to study in world-class institutes rising, private universities, supported by corporate India and having strong foreign collaborations, have sprung up at a fast rate in the country. There are several examples of corporates setting up private universities that aspire for high standards of education and state-of-the-art infrastructure for students.

Varsities like Shiv Nadar University (SNU), OP Jindal University and the upcoming Ashoka University are a few examples that cater to students who want to study abroad, but can now undertake the same courses in India.

Consider this: Ashoka University, founded and promoted by business and academic leaders, has entered into a collaboration with the School of Engineering and Applied Science (Penn Engineering) at the University of Pennsylvania.

Collaboration with Carleton College has been formalised and advanced discussions are on with Yale and Kings College. The first batch of students will be admitted in August 2014, says Sanjeev Bhikchandani, one of the founders of the upcoming varsity.

His is not the only university to tie up with foreign institutes. Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and SNU are offering undergraduate programmes in mechanical engineering as part of which students will spend the first and third years of the programme at the SNU campus in Greater Noida and the second and fourth years at CMUs Pittsburgh Pennsylvania campus, with opportunities to undertake summer internships in both the US and India.

Similarly, OP Jindal Global University and Indiana University have collaborated on several fronts. However, this is a non-degree awarding relationship. On the other hand, UKs Nottingham Trent University and Mumbai-based Welingkar Institute of Management Development & Research have partnered for a bioinformatics programme.

UKs London School of Economics & Political Science has come together with the Chennai-based City School of Social and Managerial Sciences. Similarly, SKIL Education and Strathclyde University have joined hands to provide undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in management, while Warwick University (UK) and ITM, Gurgaon, are offering engineering courses. On the other hand, Educomp and Raffles, Singapore, are offering design courses here, whereas GD Goenka World Institute is offering UG and PG degrees from Lancaster University, UK, since August 2009. Core Projects and Oxford University have joined hands to provide teacher training and capacity-building courses.

Lavasa Education Hub in Lavasa City has tied up with Said Business School, Oxford, Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne and IBR, Berlin University, to create a world-class, integrated education destination catering to all segments of society. TeamLease has entered into an agreement with the Gujarat government to set up TeamLease University (TLU) comprising 22 community colleges across the state.

These tie-ups offer students an additional opportunity to gain academic and, at times, practical experience in foreign countries and thereby add to their overall learning experiences, explains Dhiraj Mathur, executive director, PwC.

Many of the private universities which have been set up by corporates seek to cater to students who want good-quality education of international standard. A number of the students going to these universities would have considered going abroad for higher education but would have been deterred by the high costs. These universities will fill that gap, reasons Bharat Gulia, education expert and founder of education services company, Metis.

However, if we compare the fee charged for MBA programmes, foreign universities charge a much higher fee. However, while comparing the fee charged by some of the lesser-ranked global universities, we find that there is not too much of a difference, Mathur adds.

As per management consulting firm Technopak Advisors, these tie-ups and partnerships augur well for the Indian higher education segment because foreign players bring in their body of knowledge, efficient processes and professionalism and thus help impart high-quality education in India.

Private universities are the fastest growing segment of Indian higher education. The number of private universities has gone up from 73 to 191 in the past five years. Private universities, which include state private universities (SPUs) and deemed private universities (DPUs), are now almost one-third of the total number of universities in the country.

They outnumber central universities/institutes and enroll a far larger number of students compared to central institutions. They have not only added a significant enrollment capacity, but brought in much innovation and diversity in the countrys higher education, says Shobha Mishra Ghosh, director of Ficcis education committee.

The private sector has played an instrumental role in this growth, with private institutions now accounting for 64% of the total number of institutions and 59% of enrollment in the country, as compared to 43% and 33%, respectively, a decade ago. State private universities have witnessed an annual growth of 33.8% since 1995.

Private universities have also been at the forefront in the use of technology for university management and even in the classroom. Several of them are hiring faculty from top universities around the world and have developed a good academic environment by adopting innovative methods and strategies to achieve quality and scale.

The only university entry route currently available to private players is as a state private university, which too is restricted to a few states. Moreover, these universities are regional in nature unlike deemed universities, which are national-level institutions.

State private universities are a relatively recent phenomena, with 88 SPUs (94% of the total) being set up in the past five years alone.