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Guest Column

Published on: July 25, 2022, 3:56 p.m.
Towards becoming a global hub
  • Going global: Manipal University's Dubai campus

By Jagdish N. Sheth. The author is professor, Goizueta Business School, Emory University, and a Padma Bhushan award recipient

Several forces are providing the tailwind for India’s private institutions to become global hubs for higher education in fields ranging from Indian philosophy and medicine to science and engineering. First, India is becoming strategically important in the new world order, especially as a counter-balance to China and Russia. Second, advances in digital technology, including the internet, eCommerce and, especially, online education on Zoom and other video platforms, has increased both access and affordability of higher education including in India.

Third, the western world is distancing from China and Russia where large number of students from North America, Europe, and especially Global South study and get their advanced degrees. Finally, India’s domestic demand for higher education is large and this gives India a scale and scope advantage.

Can private universities attract students both from the advanced as well as the emerging economies? The answer is ‘yes’, and we have several examples. They include Manipal Global Education, which provides medical education to students from the US, Canada, Malaysia, as well as the SAARC countries. Similarly, IIM Bangalore, on its online education platform, provides education to Eastern Europe. Finally, many private universities and institutes have physical campuses in Dubai, Singapore and Australia (Sydney).

So, what can India’s growing private universities offer? This can range from hosting students for short immersion and experiential courses of two to three weeks, to collocating foreign universities on their campuses. Most private universities have large acres of land and can invite foreign universities to open a campus inside their land in India, not just for Indian students but their own students. In addition to in-person education, the biggest opportunity lies in online education.

The internet provides access to global markets and the students can study from their home countries, either from their homes or from their colleges and universities. For example, the first two years of medical education is all about biological and natural sciences to prepare the students for clinical learning for the next three years. The first two years can be online. 

Similarly, many building block courses, such as coding, and new software languages, such as Python, can be learnt online as pre-requisites to a degree in computer science. In general, there is a great opportunity for foundational or basic classes in liberal arts, fine arts, natural sciences and social sciences, given the growing market for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math)-based education. India can be one of the largest education hubs in the world in these basic courses. The popularity of vocational and educational videos on YouTube is a testament of the demand in the marketplace.

How can the private universities prepare themselves for this growing opportunity, similar to what happened in the IT services industry? Here are some recommendations. First, Indian private universities must apply for global accreditations such as the AACSB in management and IEEE in engineering. Second, they must revise the curriculum so that it is contextually relevant to their global students. Third, they must go on a ‘road show’ to educate and promote India’s capabilities in higher education.

This may include a delegation of several universities similar to trade delegates in other industries. Fourth, host or participate in global student competitions or challenges to showcase that Indian students at Shiv Nadar University or BITS Pilani or ISB Hyderabad are as smart as or smarter than any students from other countries.

In fact, we all admire how, in the US, the students of Indian origin just dominate the Spelling Bee competition. Fifth, leverage the Indian diaspora. In most advanced countries, Indian professors are highly respected for their research and teaching. Many of them are heads of departments, colleges and universities. This is across engineering, medicine, public health, management and languages, just to name a few.

Finally, there is large opportunity in Southeast Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe and Central America, where Indian private universities can open their own campuses and establish a regional hub. Manipal University has campuses in Malaysia, Nepal and Bhutan. Several others have campuses in Dubai and other Gulf countries too.

I am fully convinced that India will emerge as a global education hub by 2030, if the private universities collaborate and work together to attract and educate foreign students. This is similar to what happened in the IT services industry and the critical role NASSCOM played in its evolution and growth.

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