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India education: Opening the doors to foreign universities?

India's education minister says the country can't afford not to.

Since taking office in late May 2009, Kapil Sibal, India's minister in charge of higher education, has become the government's most aggressive champion of opening the country's doors to foreign universities. Here he is at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Jan. 31, 2009. (Pascal Lauener/Reuters)

NEW DELHI, India — Since taking office in late May, Kapil Sibal, India's minister in charge of higher education, has become the government's most aggressive champion of opening the country's doors to foreign universities.

In an interview last month, Sibal talked about why he thinks India can no longer afford to turn its back on foreign providers. And he outlined the kinds of regulations that will most likely govern such institutions should a much-debated bill on the subject finally pass India's parliament in the coming months.

India's current laws allow foreign colleges to offer programs in India, but only in conjunction with domestic academic institutions.

Sibal stressed that there are no "preconditions" for foreign colleges that wish to enter the Indian market. "I think any proposal that benefits us and those who want to come in are welcome," he said. "We will of course examine those proposals, and we have to make sure … that quality institutions come in. They should not be looking for quick profits and moving out."

Responding to concerns that some foreign institutions have had about the prospect of dealing with India's notoriously difficult government bureaucracy, Sibal said that they "should not be worried about the normal trappings" involved in setting up a university here because their entrance will be governed by a separate statute that does not involve existing regulatory agencies.

Any foreign higher-educational institution allowed into India — if unaided by the Indian government — will be able to determine its own tuition and curricula, he said. But it will have to seek accreditation in India, and will not be able to repatriate profits.

"We are not going to sort of minutely look at these things to interfere and intervene, but we must make sure their quality is consistent with what we want," said Sibal, who is a graduate of Harvard University's law school and also India's former science and technology minister. "When you set up a course in India it may be Harvard in the U.S., but it has to be accredited here."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/india/091118/india-education-foreign-universities