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India opening excites some US varsities, others cautious

world Updated: Mar 28, 2010 16:18 IST
Arun Kumar
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American universities are excited by prospects of expanding their presence in India's growing education market but some prestigious Ivy league institutions like Yale University don't expect to open a campus in the country any time soon.

Vivek Wadhwa, an Indian American entrepreneur turned academic, associated with Duke, Harvard and Berkeley, all with strong interest in India, described the Indian cabinet's approval of a bill allowing foreign varsities to set up campuses in India as a "win-win".

The legislation expected to be introduced in parliament next month for a vote would potentially open a huge market to international educational institutions. "For them, this provides an ability to expand their programmes and make their students and faculty more globally aware," Wadhwa told IANS.

"They will probably end up doing some of their research in India also for the same reasons that major corporations are doing R&D in India - it is much cheaper and brings them closer to growth markets."

But Wadhwa wished "the government hadn't put unnecessary restrictions into the bill, like the requirement that universities not repatriate profits and requiring an $11million minimum investment.

"Tens of billions are already flowing out of the country. So what if some universities make a profit? This is win-win," he quipped.

Yale University, which is currently in discussions with the Ministry of Human Resource Development to advise the government on its plans to set up 14 new national universities in the next few years, however, had a different take.

"We have no intention or plan to open a campus in India at present," said George Joseph, assistant secretary for international affairs at Yale University. "Our focus is on building research collaborations, partnerships, as well as student exchanges."

Declining to comment on the pending legislation, he said Yale preferred other ways of working with Indian institutions.

Joseph also thinks very few top US institutions would take up the campus model. As for Yale, it will continue its existing partnerships like the Yale Parliamentary Leadership Programme and Yale School of Management Leaders Forum.

Blair Sheppard, Dean of Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, however, welcomed the bill to allow foreign universities to establish study locations in India.

"India continues to be a major source of our MBA applicants and represents a significant portion of our student body, and we hope these latest developments make it possible for us to continue to nurture and expand our various partnerships with India," Sheppard stated.

Duke University already has strong relationships within India for many years with "many varied levels of engagement between Duke and India, spanning business, public policy, the environment, and medicine," he said.

The programmes include a collaborative arrangement with the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, to deliver custom corporate education programmes to organizations throughout India and a programme to provide training to Indian Administrative Service officers.

Dr. Mukesh Hariawala, an Indian American cardiac surgeon and healthcare economist, considered the proposed legislation as a very important first step forward.

"I think this will lead to healthy competition and significant improvements to the Indian education system," he said. "After all, tens of thousands leave India to study abroad every year and this leads to an outflow of billions of dollars of capital."

However, Hariawala said India should apply caution in opening the doors very wide to overseas educators initially and suggested running a pilot project to ensure that Indian students and universities are benefiting by this relationship with American universities.