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Sunday, Dec 15, 2019

In the big leagues: Indian colleges enter global alliance

A growing umbrella of Indian institutes of higher education are signing on to work with foreign varsities to create common practices, pedagogy and policies.

education Updated: Dec 04, 2019 19:33 IST
Dipanjan Sinha
Dipanjan Sinha
Hindustan Times
(Shutterstock)
         

A growing umbrella of Indian institutes of higher education are tying up with Ivy League universities to create common practices, pedagogy and policies, in an alliance run by College Board, which administers the Scholastic Assessment Tests or SATs. The SATs, incidentally, are now being held across 58 cities in India, having been introduced as an optional criteria for some colleges in 2018.

“The alliance is a platform for connecting innovative Indian universities, universities around the world, and secondary schools in India to expand access, inclusion and excellence in the transition to higher education,” says Linda Liu, vice-president (international) at College Board.

Currently, a total of 30 Indian universities and nine foreign ones, including Columbia, University of Cambridge and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, are part of an alliance. Meets are held twice a year to discuss industry best practices, exchange programmes and collaborations.

Eight new institutes joined the alliance this year. Among them was Mumbai’s Jai Hind college.

“The dialogue has just started, but one aspect of the alliance that we are very much looking forward to is the exchange of ideas on interdisciplinary studies,” says principal Ashok Wadia. “We keep talking interdisciplinary studies and have made some moves in that direction, but are nowhere near what a MIT has achieved in this regard. From their experience, we can learn how to tackle hurdles, what works and what doesn’t.”

The alliance also helps Indian universities collaborate with each other, Wadia points out. “A number of private universities here are really fast-moving and forward-looking and this can be a good platform for us to work together. If we can have faculty and student exchanges with international institutes, why not do the same amongst ourselves,” he says.

Ashoka University was one of the first members of the alliance, and has begun accepting SAT scores as one of their admission criteria.

“In India, we have way too many tests for different streams, and multiple state boards with different approaches to grading. In such a situation, we find the SAT a good standardised test,” says Vineet Gupta, founder and trustee of Ashoka University.

Gupta says that the though the alliance is still too young for any major tangible collaborations to have formed, “the platform allows us to exchange ideas on admission policies and ways to make our institutes more diverse and inclusive.

The fact that a lot of schools attend the summits too helps us understand the struggles they face in preparing their students for higher studies and vice versa.”

GOODWILL FUNDING

The SATs also open up access to the College Board’s scholarships. One of the stated aims of the alliance is to provide more Indian students with access to quality education. Under the College Board India Scholars Program, high performers from low-income backgrounds will receive full tuition waivers and an opening to study in alliance institutes. This has also encouraged Indian institutes to join the alliance.

“Supporting meritorious students from low-income groups is very much in line with Shiv Nadar University’s vision. SNU already has a rural students scholarship scheme, and fully funds students from particular schools selected at SNU. College Board scholarships could help us reach out to more students from economically weaker sections,” says vice-chancellor Rupamanjari Ghosh.

Students are responding as well. “Compared with 2018, member universities have collectively seen a large increase in the number of Indian students submitting SAT scores, as well as in the number of students from neighbouring countries like Nepal, as well as the Middle East, submitting these scores,” says Liu.