The news comes as the country prepares to roll out an internationalisation plan that will also see several Asian and Middle East countries targeted in the drive.
A number of the Asian giant’s universities including the prestigious state-owned Indian Institutes of Technology were keen to set up campuses on the continent as soon as the government publishes enabling regulations in April.
According to Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar chairman of India’s University Grants Commission the commission was encouraging institutions to set up campuses abroad, identifying African countries, the Gulf region and Asian countries of Thailand and Vietnam as fertile grounds.
Among other things the UGC and the institutions are buoyed by the huge presence of the Indian diaspora population in the countries, and the fact that the country’s more than 1,000 universities have a wide range of programs to offer including highly-reputed IT courses.
“There is huge potential for setting up campuses in African countries. Thailand, Vietnam and a few Gulf countries, there is immense interest and the opportunities are immense too. It is just that we have not had any enabling regulations so far,” Kumar is quoted saying by The Times of India.
“We have in India a huge university ecosystem. There are outstanding universities, both in central government, state government funded and private universities. We want to encourage these varsities to set up their campuses abroad,” the chairman added.
“Some countries are coming forward to provide the infrastructure to our universities to set up their campuses.”
Several of the country’s IITs, including in Madras and Delhi, have been receiving requests to set up campuses in African countries including Tanzania and Egypt, and from the Middle-Eastern and South Asian countries, whose identity he did not disclose.
While IIT Delhi is considering setting up a campus in UAE, IIT Madras is exploring options in Sri Lanka, Nepal and Tanzania. IIT campuses are also in pipeline in Egypt, Thailand, Malaysia and the UK.
Currently the chairman disclosed, the main obstacle remained the absence of necessary regulations laws to allow the institutes set up branches abroad.
A method was being worked on, he further explained, to ensure that the IITs are able to establish foreign campuses without breaching the law that set them up under the Council of Indian Institute of Technology.
The Asian countries of Nepal, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, occupy the top three positions in terms of the number of international students in India according to data portal Statista. Other countries include the US, the UAE, Bhutan, Sudan, Nigeria, Tanzania and Yemen, the US being the only country outside the developing world in the top 10 list.
“Some countries are coming forward to provide the infrastructure”
The number of overseas students enrolled in Indian higher education institutions fell by 2.6% in the last two years from 49,348 in 2019/20 to 48,035 in 2020/21 according to The Indian Express, quoting data by All India Survey on Higher Education.
Out of the number around 15,000 in 2021 were African according to the Association of African Students in India, with 4300 of them coming from the three African countries in the top ten list.
The drop was attributed to lack of employment opportunities for international students who have graduated from Indian universities, unlike in European and North American destinations of UK, Germany, the US and Canada, where they are free to work a specified period.
India has been stepping up efforts to internationalise its education, especially since the launch of the NEP in 2020. The January release of draft regulations to allow international universities to set up in the country is the latest.