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Indian univs to set shop abroad

When the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, asked for government’s permission to start a campus in Singapore in 2006, it was curtly told to stay home and concentrate on the job in hand. Chetan Chauhan reports.

india Updated: Jun 24, 2009 00:36 IST
Chetan Chauhan

When the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, asked for government’s permission to start a campus in Singapore in 2006, it was curtly told to stay home and concentrate on the job in hand.

Government universities were not allowed to set shop abroad, unlike privately owned institutions, until this May, when Pune University started operations in United Arab Emirates.

The man responsible, then Pune University vice-chancellor Narendra Jadhav, is now a member of the planning commission and is actively pushing the government to let Indian universities go abroad.

The government is willing to go along, shedding its earlier opposition. “We are not averse to amending the university laws defining jurisdiction to start campuses abroad,” said a senior official, not willing to be identified.

The human resources ministry, the nodal agency for education in India, was opposed to state-owned universities going abroad, despite invitations from several countries. Priorities have changed since, because of a leadership change there.

There are very sound reasons for letting state-owned universities set shop abroad. India is a massive importer of education — meaning a large number of Indian students study abroad — causing a huge outflow of capital from the country.

In 2008-09 alone, close to 1.50 lakh Indian students paid $13 billion, enough to build three more IITs and IIMs, for studying abroad as against a tiny amount earned by Indian institutions abroad.

Overseas campuses of Indian institutions can at least marginally bring back some of the money going out with Indian studying abroad. And with time, who knows, they may completely turn the situation.

“Indian universities and faculty can earn money in dollars while improving its international ranking while competing with best institutions in the world,” said Jhadav, who is member in-charge of education at the Planning Commission.

Pune University, for instance, will make a profit of Rs 1 crore in the first year, which would increase manifold once over 50 courses become operational from the second year.

Indian institutions are in high demand in Singapore, West Asian countries and Africa. “Indian institutions like IITs and IIMs have a huge brand value abroad as the alumni of these institutions are top technocrats around the world,” said a senior plan panel official, not willing to be named as he was not authorised to speak to media.

Deemed Universities like Symbiosis and Bharatiya Vidyapeeth have campuses in some West Asian countries and Indian School of Business, a leading Hyderabad based global B-school, has a campus in Singapore.

It’s time now for the state-owned universities.