Only three serving world leaders studied in India, compared to 58 in US
India’s low ranking suggests that unlike Bollywood, yoga and food, education may not be among its key elements of soft power.
Only three serving leaders of countries were educated in India, compared to 58 in the US, according to a new assessment released on Tuesday that regretted the slightly lower ranking of the UK, where 57 leaders studied.
According to the ranking by Britain’s Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), the three serving leaders educated in India are Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar, Bhutan’s king Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk and its Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay. Until 2014, Afghanistan had a president, Hamid Karzai, who was educated in India.
India’s low ranking suggests that unlike Bollywood, yoga and food, education may not be among its key elements of soft power, a concept formulated by Harvard academic Joseph Nye that figures in the discourse of international relations and refers to the ability to exert influence in other countries through attraction rather than coercion.
Since 1947, India has been the site where British soft power in the field of education had considerable influence.
Six top leaders were educated in British universities: Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Manmohan Singh, and Presidents Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed and KR Narayanan.
But this may change in future, since Indian students have been preferring the US, Canada and Australia to the UK in recent years due to restrictive visa policies of Conservative governments since 2010. There has been a drop of more than 50% in the number of Indian students going to the UK since 2010.
The ranking by HEPI showed that after the US and UK, France was third on the list of top ten, with 40 serving leaders of countries having studied there. Russia educated 10 leaders, and Australia nine.
India took the 10th spot with Germany, South Africa, Egypt, Lebanon, Senegal, the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain, where three serving leaders each gained their qualifications.
The UK’s second place in the ranking caused some concern. HEPI director Nick Hillman said, “You build up incredible soft power if you educate the leading lights of other countries. In the past, we have been more successful than any other country in attracting the world’s future leaders.
“But these new figures suggest our position could be slipping. To ensure this does not become a long-term trend, we need to adopt a bold educational exports strategy, remove students from the main migration target and roll out the red carpet when people come to study here.”
Researcher Tom Huxley said: “The government must take student numbers out of its migration target and allow our universities to attract more of the world’s best and brightest to study here. Otherwise, we are at risk of losing our strong links to future world leaders.”