Pave the Way to Global Hub for Higher Education

Kartik Bajoria, Writer, Educator & ModeratorKartik’s writing offers ideas, suggestions, thoughts and insights into searching for a deeper meaning in bringing up a new, young generation of students who must seek a differentiated identity all by their own so that they can evolve into fully actualized and happy adults.

According to most surveys, the average cost of an American college is approximately $30,000 per annum. That means about 21 lakh Indian rupees, which generally doubles with stay, food and other expenses. Now, we are talking about Rs.40lakhs per year. Multiply that twice, even four times, depending on the length ofone's foreign education degree (undergraduate or postgraduate), and one is staring at this insurmountable figure well in excess of a couple of crores. This presents a huge opportunity for a country like India, an opportunity to build our country as a new global hub for higher education.

The foundation for this is already laid. India is at the cusp of becoming that global hub. But what more can be done? Let us explore the present situation and future steps that can pave the way for us to become the centre for higher education.

Outbound Now Inbound
Traditionally, India was not seen as a fitting option for higher education by most native students. The US, UK, and more recently Australia and South East Asia are centres that attract a vast majority of outbound Indian students to their various colleges and universities for graduate and postgraduate programs. However, this trend, albeit on the rise within India and among Indian students, does not reflect how India itself has emerged as a viable and attractive option for foreign nationals as a destination for their higher education. There has been, over the past decade, a transformational increase in the number of private universities within India. These newer universities and colleges offer an enviable mix of value (in terms of cost of education), newage and current infrastructure & facilities, world class faculty, and a support structure by way of relatively inexpensive living costs; all of which come together to present an enticing higher education prospect that is hard to ignore, especially when compared with other countries that formed the mainstay of foreign higher education. Adding to this, the fact that it has become increasingly difficult to gain admission into sought after Western colleges & programs and still more difficult to solicit scholarships, India then seems to be a much more realistic option.

Economic Power Shift
The other reason for the rising foreign students' influx into India(estimated at 30,000 students in 2018) is the global economic power shift. We live in an era where the established economic status quo is being questioned. From traditional power centres of the Americas and Europe losing some of their clout, jobs, growth rates, opportunities
moving East, specifically to countries such as China and India, more and more foreign nationals are open to the idea of seeking work and settling in Asia. It only follows then as a natural corollary that just the way one sought American education in order to work in America, today, to find employment or business opportunities in India and/or Asia, study here itself. It will ostensibly prepare students better with academics more aligned with local work ethos & requirements, culturally more in sync, and present an opportunity to network in the region while still studying, expediting the jobhunt post acquiring that higher education degree.

The Allure Of Specific Subjects
Over time, Indians have created an enviable reputation as experts in specific areas, particularly Engineering and IT (information technology). It might sound like a cliché but the fact remains. The world over, in the most respected and largest corporations, there are scores of Indians who are in key roles when it concerns engineering and information technology. Sundar Pichai, the CEO of tech giant Google is just one such name that immediately comes to mind. This phenomenon has come about largely because of the robust education base in India specifically with regard to engineering and IT, spearheaded by remark able institutions such as the IITs. Technology, sciences, and engineering streams have been a strong suit of many indigenous institutions for decades together, and it is a reputation that precedes itself, not unknown to potential foreign national students seeking higher education. India therefore is perceived as a great option for higher education in these particular areas of education, and hence attracts many overseas students to come here and take graduate and postgraduate programs in sciences or IT.

India is perceived as a great option for higher education and hence attracts many overseas students to come here and take graduate and postgraduate programs in the sciences or IT

Focus On Research
If there is one facet of higher education that the West is known for, placing immense emphasis on is Research. Almost every well regarded university abroad has robust ethos and generous investment in Research. This is one area where Indian universities and colleges need to up their game. If this is done, and each academic department of a university develops an industry sector related research arm that employs current infrastructure, knowhow, and work that could positively impact realworld problems, Indian higher education would have addressed the one arguably lacking stream of the educational ecosystem.

Marketing Push
Like we see with colleges and universities from abroad, be they from the Americas, Europe, the UK, or further East Indian universities too must make a concerted effort to organize/participate in education fairs, events, where students from the world over can be made aware of them, courses on offer, relatively low fee structure and so on. Without this massive PR push, a lot of what is on offer will remain in the dark, and potentially thousands of students will not even consider the country for sheer lack of awareness.

Finally, as a country, government would do well to engage in a sustained and relentless campaign that makes the country attractive to foreign nationals, starting with allaying many fears associated with India, safety, security and moving the focus then to the more enticing facets of India history, travel, diversity, hospitality. This, combined with ease of visa and other documentation to visit, stay and study in India, will provide a final and much needed impetus to potential students, making it hard to then ignore the country as a viable higher education option.

A vibrant mix of Government as well as Private Universities, over seventy in fact, offer great higher education opportunities to overseas students. These universities and colleges, including Delhi University, Calcutta University, the IITs, also regularly feature on various lists and surveys of global higher education institutions, further in stilling confidence in the foreign student community. If all stakeholders now build on this established infrastructure and reputation by taking a few more measures such as the ones outlined above, there is no doubt in India emerging at the forefront of global higher education.