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India keen to put its universities on global map, says finance minister

The Indian finance minister, Arun Jaitley, believes that for India to be considered an international education destination, at least 20 of its universities need to feature among the top 100 in a global league table.

Indian finance minister Arun Jaitley with UK foreign secretary Boris JohnsonIndia's finance minister, Arun Jaitley (right) with the UK foreign secretary, Boris Johnson. Jaitley spoke with The PIE News during his state visit to the UK

"Notwithstanding the fact that foreign students have started coming into Indian campuses now, we need some iconic institutions"

“We must endeavour to create… at least 10 institutions that are government sector-supported and 10 which are private sector supported which come onto the global map,” he commented, in an exclusive interview with The PIE News.

He added, “It’s only then, that in the competitive environment, we will have our own so-called star institutions.”

Jaitley made the comments during his visit to London to attend a reception hosted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

“People who get educated from [Indian] institutions can become global leaders elsewhere in the world”

Last month, in the Union Budget, Jaitley announced a 9.9% increase in funding for education. Part of the budget is earmarked for reforms in the University Grants Commission, the statutory body set up by the Indian government that is responsible for maintaining standards of higher education.

It proposes to give good quality institutions, identified based on accreditation and ranking, greater administrative and academic autonomy.

Jaitley nodded to the fact that India is already an education destination attracting some international students, but more can be done to augment its quality reputation. “Notwithstanding the fact that foreign students from the region and from places like Africa have started coming into Indian campuses now, we need some iconic institutions,” he said.

He has a clear vision for India entering the $5tn international education market as a premier destination for quality education.

The Indian Institute of Science (IISc) based in the tech city of Bangalore is India’s leading contender, ranked in the top 201-250 cohort in the THE’s World University Rankings for 2016/17, moving up 50 places from the previous year.

The Indian Institute of Technology Bombay is in the 351-400 group. Other IITs and some state universities are among the other 29 universities that feature, but much lower, in the THE rankings.

The QS World University Rankings 2016/17 features IISc Bangalore at 152, IIT-Delhi at 185 and IIT-Bombay at 219. Only five Indian universities rank in the top 300 and only nine feature among the top 500.

“I think India has gradually also evolved into an important brain bank”

However, the road ahead is long and challenging. With five million students studying abroad, every country is revamping its strategies to attract international students. But Jaitley’s vision builds on a strong foundation and in the long-term could help India reap huge benefits as this population of globally mobile students is projected to continue rising.

India wants to not just attract the best students from around the world but also retain its talent. “People who get educated from [Indian] institutions can become global leaders elsewhere in the world, so there is no reason why some of these institutions cannot move up on their own merit,” said Jaitley.

With over 350,000 Indians going abroad for higher education, India is the second largest and one of the fastest growing origin countries for international education. And the UK is the only major market where the number of Indian students has significantly reduced due to stringent immigration norms.

“They [the authorities in the UK] have to realise that when Indian students come here, they subside the educational costs here,” commented Jaitley, highlighting that the “quantum of students coming to the UK is declining and other jurisdictions are available” in the market in which the UK competes.

Meanwhile, India’s finance minister is not worried about India’s ‘brain drain’, he said.

“I think India has gradually also evolved into an important brain bank. Today, India is dominating various economies and we are producing enough to take care of the rest of the world.”

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