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Top US varsity, B-school look to expand India footprint

University of Chicago, regularly rated among the world’s top varsities is looking for land in Delhi for a research hub; its B-school dean, an Indian, is scouring to tap Indian student demand.

india Updated: Nov 17, 2012 21:04 IST
Charu Sudan Kasturi

University of Chicago, one of the world’s top universities, may soon open a centre in Delhi, as a part of efforts to globalize its student, faculty and research footprint in India, the world’s largest higher education market after China.

The university is currently searching for land in the capital for the centre, which will focus on research and faculty collaboration and exchange, but will not – at least immediately – offer degrees, Sunil Kumar, dean of the prestigious UChicago Booth School of Business told HT on Saturday.

“One of my focus areas as dean is to strengthen the perception of the Booth School in India,” Kumar, born and educated in India, said, in an interview on the sidelines of the HT Leadership Summit, where he spoke on the challenges facing Indian higher education.

UChicago is consistently ranked among the world’s top 10 universities in the QS World Universties ratings and the Times Higher Education Universities rankings and has produced 32 Nobel Laureates. UChicago’s economics department – which trained economists like Milton Friedman and Paul Samuelson among others – is considered among the best in American academia. And the Booth School is globally rated in the same league as Harvard Business School and Wharton, and has the second largest endowment among all American B-schools. Yet, Kumar accepted, the Booth School does not enjoy the same perception that other top line B-schools like Harvard, Wharton or the London Business School enjoy.

At a time when most American universities are increasingly relying on international students – particularly from China and India, which already contributes 5% of Booth’s student population – that perception battle is critical.

“I don’t see any actual problem in terms of either the faculty we have or the number or quality of international applications we get. But there’s definitely a perception issue,” Kumar, who studied at the Indian Institute of Science Bangalore, said.

UChicago is the latest among top American universities that have publicly shown interest in increasing collaborations with Indian institutions, setting up centres and in some cases even in offering degrees. Yale and Columbia – both Ivy League varsities – already have research centres in India. Duke and Virginia Tech are also planning to enter India. But a complex and opaque web of regulations and the government’s inability to legislate the Foreign Educational Institutions Bill, that aims to streamline regulations for universities like UChicago, have in recent months blunted the enthusiasm of top foreign varsities in India.

“If you want to truly compete in the global marketplace, regulating institutions based on their outcomes makes more sense to me,” Kumar said. “Keeping people out at the beginning doesn’t make sense.”