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India an international education “sweet spot” until 2050s

Expect disruption and new modes of innovative education but now is the time for international education providers to go to India, was the clear message at the Acumen Global Gateway conference in Delhi.

The “next frontier” for international partnerships is in research

With some 750,000 Indian students travelling to study abroad in 2022 – up from 441,000 in 2021 – the current situation is, however, “unsustainable”, Sandeep Chakravorty, ministry of external affairs, joint secretary, told delegates.

“The current model of international education for India needs to change… The one-way traffic needs to change,” he said. “Billions of dollars are being pumped out of the country.”

In another provocative speech, Sanjeev Sanyal, from the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council, who works closely with prime minister Modi, questioned the role of “old-style, legacy” universities.

“We need to educate and skill fast as we can, we can’t wait for a decade to build brick-and-mortar universities like we have in the past,” he said, in an apparent step away from the National Education Policy from 2020 – which opened opportunities for international universities to build campuses in the country.

“We already have too many university campuses on the planet,” he continued.

India has the opportunity “leapfrog” from its overwhelmed higher education system to one that centres around digital, he suggested.

Not all delegates agreed with the statements – Erik Lithander from University of Auckland noted that Indian students leaving the country to study abroad to learn the skills and gain knowledge which will benefit India is something to be “celebrated” – but there was consensus that in the NEP 2020, the government has initiated a “world of opportunity”.

“India is showing [the rest of us] how to hurry up”

Largely, speakers acknowledged that the demographics in India – new statistics have indicated the 1.46bn people in the country makes it the world’s largest country, with it accounting for 25% of the world’s population under 25 – make it an exciting education location.

Sanyal noted, however, that the next 30 years is the “sweet spot”, with predictions forecasting Nigeria will replace India as the most populous sometime in the 2050s.

Pankaj Mittal, secretary general at the Association of Indian Universities, said that there is impetus within the wide-ranging NEP for internationalisation of the Indian higher education system, including for both private and public universities.

The policy, as previously noted, offers up opportunities for branch campuses, dual and joint diplomas and degrees, credit transfer and more, speakers said.

Mutual recognition of qualification agreements with countries like the UK and Australia, as well as AIU’s MoUs with organisations such as UUK, Universities Australia, in Mexico and its portal designed to help institutions find partners in India, will support the internationalisation agenda.

“Slowly, we are making it easier,” Mittal said.

The “next frontier” for international partnerships is in research, Amrita Sadarangani, head of College of Science & Engineering Partnerships at University of Edinburgh in India, stated.

“What India offers as solutions is very compelling for universities,” she told delegates, a comment that Lee Wildman from Queen Mary University of London, confirmed. “That is how we see it as well,” he said during a panel.

“India’s ascent to becoming a research and education superpower comes at the exact time we need it most,” Lithander from Auckland added. “India is showing [the rest of us] how to hurry up.”

“The current model of international education for India needs to change”

An international system in India will also help the country in its aim to attract international students.

In the last several years, the number of international students in India has been hovering around 48,000-50,000 students, Shashank Shah, senior specialist – Higher Education, NITI Aayog, highlighted.

“We have just increased it by about 10,000 in the last 10 years,” he continued, with Nepal, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and US accounting for the top sending countries in 2022.

“If we are to attract the best international students into India, we’ll have to have pedagogical methods and curricula that are of international standards and relevance,” Shah explained, adding that exposure for faculty and administration bodies to international delivery is vital.

GIFT city, where Deakin and Wollongong are set to open campuses focusing on financial education catering to locally situated companies, was given later as an example of a “South Asian hub”, by executive director development, international at Financial Services Centre IFSCA GIFT City, Dipesh Shah.

“There is no lack of international students and scholars looking outside of India for opportunities for research, post docs or studies, but to create that infrastructure here and make India that attractive place, there is a lot of work that does need to be done,” Adam Grotsky of US-IEF concluded.

“There is some great work being done at some institutions, largely private and some elite public institutions, but that is only an area. A lot of US institutions come in and express an interest in sending their students to India for short-term study abroad programs. As of right now, the pickings are a little bit slim.

“We hope that through the NEP more and more opportunities across diverse regions outside the major metros become available for international students,” Grotsky said.

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One Response to India an international education “sweet spot” until 2050s

  1. Thank you for covering our Sannam S4 Acumen Global Gateway Summit in India @PIE News. We were thrilled to have the most committed, visionary and influential speakers and attendees in the Indian-International higher education sector. Whilst the Summit rightly highlighted the opportunities, as your article rightly highlights, this is a period of change and much thought needs to be put in and work needs to be done to adapt to serve the aspirations of India’s youth, its society at large and its industry needs.

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