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Indian billionaire urges gov to open doors to foreign providers

G P Hinduja, co-chairman of the Hinduja Group, a UK-based conglomerate valued at $25bn, has urged India’s government to pass legislation allowing foreign providers to establish universities in country.

Photo: Ville Miettinen

G P, along with his brother Srichand, were declared the richest men in Britain by the 2014 Sunday Times Rich List

In a letter to Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani, Hinduja said that to improve the quality of higher education in India, international universities must be allowed to set up campuses.

“The Hinduja group has been approached by several prestigious educational institutions for working together here,” he said in the letter. “We are willing to do so, but a policy framework is needed for foreign institutions to operate.

“There is a felt need to bring in legislation to allow credible and high ranked foreign universities and institutions to bring in their academic and research culture into our education system”

“There is interest from foreign universities who sense the demand and the potential,” wrote Hinduja. “There is a felt need to bring in legislation to allow credible and high ranked foreign universities and institutions to bring in their academic and research culture into our education system.”

G P, along with his brother Srichand, were declared the richest men in Britain by the 2014 Sunday Times Rich List with a net wealth of $20bn.

At an event in Mumbia last month, Hinduja underlined the lack of globally recognised institutions in India where university capacity needs to expand from 14 million to 40 million places in six years.

“We have been boasting about the Nalanda and Takshshila universities. But, today, we don’t have any that will even come in the list of top 100 universities in the world. To improve the quality of education we need to collaborate with foreign institutions.”

A report released by the British Council last year advocated for more foreign involvement in India in the face of stark demographic growth.

Hinduja’s calls chime with the report which noted that Indian institutions which educate 97.5% of Indian students have very few links with the UK.

In order to meet demand, the Indian education sector must overcome low enrolment figures, low quality of teaching and learning, constraints on research and inequalities in access to higher education, the report warned.

However, the “Foreign Education Providers Bill” proposed in 2010 which would open doors to foreign providers has been stuck in a stalemate for five years.

Government policy, until now, does not allow foreign universities to set up a base in the country. Rules require foreign education providers to set up campuses as non-profit companies.

“To improve the quality of education we need to collaborate with foreign institutions”

Current collaborations are in the form of faculty exchanges and digital distance learning.

The day after the letter was made public, an official close to Minister Irani said she is prepared pick up the legislation to support the establishment of foreign institutions in country.

“We will have to go through the entire process — circulating a Cabinet note, discussions with the legislative department, then Cabinet approval, then vetting by the standing committee, before the Bill can be taken up for discussion and passage by Parliament,” the official told the Economic Times.

“We don’t know for sure if all of this can be completed in the course of the Budget session, but these bills are on the priority.”

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