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Exercise Caution

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Any policy change in education should aim at firmly placing us in knowledge economy. Best global universities would help us accomplish this. But, a cautious approach is needed

Any policy change in education should aim at firmly placing us in knowledge economy. Best global universities would help us accomplish this. But, a cautious approach is needed

The Andhra Pradesh government plans to invite foreign universities to set up their campuses in the State. In fact, India is witnessing a protracted debate in academic and policy circles on allowing foreign universities in India. These offshore campuses of foreign universities shall integrate our higher education system into the global education system. Given the craze for foreign degrees, foreign university campuses in India will serve the interests of Indian students. Even the Yashpal Committee felt that such campuses will provide Indian academia interaction with the best minds of the world.

The General Agreement on Trade in Services of the World Trade Organization (GATS) agreement considers educational services also as tradable services. This is precisely because the estimated market for educational services in the world is over one trillion dollars. Education is the fifth largest traded service by the US. In fact, there is nothing wrong if the best universities of the world like Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, MIT or London School of Economics set up campuses in India even for commercial purposes. It is also acceptable if leading corporate giants, specialising in an area, set up training centers or educational campuses in India. But, what is the use if third rate universities of the West set up campuses in India and offer third rate degrees at exorbitant prices, capitalising on the craze that exists among the Indian youth. Therefore, precaution should be taken while allowing foreign universities.

These institutions should be globally reputed and known for academic or professional standards. At least, such universities should be recognised in their parent countries. These universities should not duplicate the courses offered by Indian universities. They should offer such courses in which India lacks expertise. Such courses should be recognized worldwide. The fee structure, admission process, service conditions etc should be in conformity with the Indian laws. Collaboration with our universities should be encouraged. The foreign universities should not be allowed to create undue competition to Indian universities through unfair means. Permissions should be given case by case. They should not be allowed to flood our higher education sector.

Experience with indiscriminate permission given to deemed universities is a case in point. The foreign universities should not become teaching shops but emerge as academic centres for interaction with best global minds. Effective regulatory mechanism should be put in place before embarking upon any policy change. The existing universities in the state should be first strengthened so that the foreign campuses would supplement our higher education system rather than supplant it. A policy on foreign universities should aim at greater enrollment in higher education, access to world-class education without disturbing equity and capacity in the domestic higher education system. Any policy change should aim at firmly placing us in knowledge economy. Best global universities would help us accomplish this. But, a cautious approach is needed.

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