The news of the US Government’s decision to send students of Indian origin to go back to India when US universities decide to offer programs through online mode. This could be a game changer to Indian Higher Education which has tremendous potential to open up new opportunities for Indian higher education system particularly private universities and autonomous institutions.

This is possible with Central and State Governments support and the support should come in a swift manner which could provide much needed boost to Indian economy at this crisis period where several sectors including manufacturing , IT, ITES are highly stressed.

What is needed at this point is a street smart education reforms particularly liberate private higher education that is capable of converting this huge potential of higher education into a strong business opportunity.

The US Government’s decision to stipulate foreign students attending online classes to leave country has triggered huge uncertainty among students studying in foreign universities and those who have taken admissions in the current session.

This category of students are capable to pay a fee of Rs.18-20 lakh per annum on an average and the statistics reveal that every year 200,000 students go to the US only for higher education leaving other destinations like UK, Canada, Australia etc. This market size is about USD 40 Billion.

Can these students be attracted by Indian Universities and colleges? The answer is Yes with a right set of measures by Indian higher education leaders, state governments and central government.

It also demands a spirit of entrepreneurship, innovation, investments in physical and intellectual infrastructure and and a strong commitment to provide higher education with global standards from the educators or more aptly edupreneurs.

There is need to adopt a multi-pronged strategy covering short term responses, medium and a long term development path where the intellectual infrastructure could be developed over years.

But looking at the opportunity it would look unwise to reform higher education in the next 10 years and beyond. At this point of time, we need street smart education entrepreneurs to drive higher education on to high speed tracks.

At the same time, we need proactive government policy responses like the ones rolled out by Union Government in response to COVID 19 Pandemic.

One of the Key aspects that students get attracted in an education institution, like any service organization- a mall or a five star hotel, is the physical infrastructure, now IT infrastructure and intellectual infrastructure.

On physical infrastructure side, some Indian Private Universities can compete with foreign universities and within a very short period facilities in Universities could be upgraded on par with US Universities, students could be made to feel that they are in Harvard or MIT the moment they enter the campus.

Some Universities have already built similar building designs but we find that only in the front elevation with higher element of photo friendly appearance and rest is typical average mass education scenario. That is not sufficient, the class rooms, hostels, laboratories, libraries, food courts, hostels are to be upgraded with international standards.

Having visited a number of Universities and colleges as a part of expert committees I don’t have any doubt that universities are capable to invest on physical infrastructure and the make over could be completed in 4-6 weeks ! Not an exaggeration- I was a witness as to how the institute get changed before inspections. Those changes were used to temporary and make shift arrangements. But now this opportunity demands permanent change.

Universities need to build Islands of Excellence in their campuses with a completely different architecture and  teaching- learning culture. The faculty members and facilities shall be on par with foreign universities where students are seeking admissions.

The recruitment of faculty should be like IPL Bidding -Go round the world bid for the best pay and bring into university. These academicians shall be provided with complete freedom to lead and develop institutions with global standards.

It is extremely important to insulate the new opportunity from all the ills of current education and allow new global education to meet the expectations of Indian students aspiring to study abroad.

The immediate short-term strategy is to weave academic partnerships with the same universities which are currently losing students.

Another important feature of global higher education is that a majority of top universities have Indian faculty members par excellence. This also indicates how our education lost talent to foreign universities and it is pertinent to initiate measures to regain the lost intellectual capital by ensuring similar working environment and remuneration packages. The Universities should be ready to offer better than the best to those academicians. This will also lead to a situation where faculty working in Indian universities and colleges feel pressurized to fall in line with global standards.

Thirdly, Indian universities need to attract big corporates and develop endowment culture which strengthens bond with industry. Industry endowments in research and teaching domains is almost nil among Indian universities.

The most important factor in this paradigm shift is the proactive role of Government. The Government should support foreign university collaborations and the talent acquisition process pursued by academic collaborations with Universities without placing bureaucratic spokes. Government may encourage setting up Special Education Zones in Universities on similar lines of SEZ.

When Indian Education sector respond to this opportunity it not only turns out to be of tremendous advantage to the economy in the recovery process but also sets new bench marks in providing education with global standards, India stands many chances of becoming global education hub when educationists in India are forward looking and leverage the education with supremacy in IT and ITES industries. Ultimately education to be globally relevant shall be dovetailed with industry with a spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Dr. SK Prasad interacting with dignitaries.


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