Thursday, February 18, 2010


Lot needs to be done at the primary, elementary and secondary levels.

Over sometime now there has been a considerable action with respect to Indian higher education scenario. It seems that the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) is all set to roll the red carpet for foreign universities to set up their world class campuses in India. And the whole new idea has been received pretty well by various stakeholders across the country. According to the Ministry, the logic behind allowing 100 per cent Foreign Direct Investment in higher education is to arrest the continuous outflow of dollars from the economy and also enable expanding higher education opportunities within India which would supplement investments to ramp up the required infrastructure. Currently, there is an annual outflow of around USD 4 billion on account of Indian students traveling abroad for further education. And as far as the capacities with respect to higher education are concerned, the least said the better. Along with the two above arguments, the Ministry of HRD also asserts that the research capabilities would get a boost with these foreign universities setting up their campuses, in India.

On the face of it, the logic sounds profound but then – just on the face of it. That’s it! I beg to comprehensively differ on each argument. Let’s take them one at a time. So, if there is a USD 4 billion dollar outflow, then, there is also an unquantifiable inflow, which ideally should be more than the outflow. Though I would not have the exact number but the number of students taking educational loans from Indian banks to study abroad is quite substantial – which means, the money comes back to India, along with interest, the moment these students start earning.

Moreover, as majority of the students tend to work outside, they also start remitting money to their homes, which is evident from the fact that India gets the largest remittances in the world today. In addition to this, I am really apprehensive of the fact that even if the universities set up their campuses in India, Indian students would still stay back and study in their Indian campuses. As what I understand of the student psyche, they travel abroad more so because it is not just about education but also to do with the destination. So, many students get enrolled in some non-descript institutions across United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and now even in some East European nations.

It is more of a penchant to travel to a foreign destination than anything else. So, whether they can stop these students from going abroad, by setting up their establishments in India, remains highly doubtful. On the flip side, assuming that these universities succeed in retaining the Indian student in India, then it is not that they would not repatriate their profits back home. And when they do that, trust me, this USD 4billion outflow of today would look extremely small.

With respect to the second argument and that is increased investments in the higher education sector through 100 per cent FDI, this is also doubtful. As what I have known so far that most of the Universities who are sitting on the fence, are the ones who are coming here to primarily offer management education. I have hardly heard of anyone setting up a campus for engineering and medicine, and even if there are, there numbers are far too less as compared to that of management. Back of the envelope calculations indicate that the investments required for setting up a management school is relatively much less as compared to that for engineering and medicine. So the entire argument of increased investments completely falls flat! Moreover, if that happens then the entire argument of research also goes for a toss! For then opening of the sector would actually not allow real research, as that happens in centres for academic excellence in technology and that of medicine.

My last and the biggest contention is that the entire initiative looks to be patchy, which is bereft of any holistic outlook. My contention stems from the fact that, no doubt higher education is an imperative and there is a severe dearth in capacities but then things are even worse at the elementary, primary and secondary education levels. And that’s why I find the priorities completely misplaced when there is such a large chunk of population which is still denied of basic education infrastructure. And for those who are fortunate enough to have the access, only 7 per cent of them reach up to the higher education level. So, here we are trying to build capacities for those 7 per cent and not doing anything for those 100 per cent, who have to have access to basic education. In fact, a great infrastructure at the school level would also ensure a larger proportion of students wanting to access higher education, making any amount of investments by these universities also feasible!

But then that’s the way I feel and I am not in active politics, yet …



  1. "But then that’s the way I feel and I am not in active politics, yet" …

    Well I think you should be sir,
    India needs people like you.

  2. How about this solution for the future?

    Indian PM introduces website for school children with 50 Grand Master level child entreprenneur of the week award (52x50) in joint collaboration with major Indian toy makers.