Trends, insights and research to inform growth and innovation strategies in international higher education.

December 24, 2011

Top Stories of 2011 in International Higher Education

The year 2011 was a tumultuous year for the world of international higher education which is increasingly getting influenced by the phenomenon of globalization. As Jane Knight notes "...internationalization is changing the world of education and globalization is changing the world of internationalization." This year also reaffirmed deep interconnection of higher education with sociopolitical and economic environment. Following three stories further emphasize these trends:

- Increasing reliance on China: 
Chinese students constitute 15% of  3.3 million globally mobile students (~510,000 students) according to UNESCO. The second largest source of globally mobile students is India which constitutes nearly 6 per cent (~195,000 students). Some campuses like University of Iowa are already heavily reliant on Chinese students which constituted half of all international students in fall 2011 (1648/3271). Already, there are concerns about the campus diversity, language issues and role of agents in misrepresentation and recruitment of Chinese students.

- Restructuring of UK higher education:
The UK announced major policy reforms which are influencing the stakeholders at a number of levels. The system is moving towards increasing role of private higher education by allowing students to borrow more money to study at private institutions. The policy directions also aim at re-balancing the research and learning  emphasis at universities which is already receiving a lot of resistance.

- New wave of branch campuses:
Branch campuses described as "...a modern version of the quest for 'gold, God and glory'" were in news again in 2011 with some optimistic and others with pessimistic tone. This time destination for branch campuses are beyond Gulf and included some of the major brand names venturing abroad. This included plans of Duke for China, Yale for Singapore, Carnegie Mellon for  Rwanda and York University's Schulich for India. Winter 2012 issue of IHE has more articles on this theme.


Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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December 18, 2011

Emerging Markets for International Student Recruitment: Thinking Beyond China and India

With more than 260,000 students from China and India enrolled in the US, many American institutions are over-reliant on these two markets for meeting their international student recruitment goals. With the budget cuts, self-financed students are becoming increasingly important and Chinese undergraduate students are a lucrative and fast-growing segment. However, there are already concerns about concentration of Chinese students in some campuses and India had been showing stagnancy in last few years. This indicates that institutions need to look beyond China and India and cultivate other source countries. 
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December 08, 2011

International Student Enrollment from BRICs: Why Brazil and Russia are showing counter-trend to India and China?

A decade back, Goldman Sachs report coined the termed BRICs--Brazil, Russia, China and India. It predicted that "...over the next 10 years, the weight of the BRICs and especially China in world GDP will grow." The predictions seem right not only in terms of GDP but also something completely unrelated i.e. international student enrollment. China and India are dominant in terms of international student enrollment and contributed nearly 84% ( 146,850/175,410) of all international enrollment growth in the US between 2000/01 and 2010/11. 

However, it is surprising to note the counter-trend with Brazil and Russia. The number of international students from Brazil have remained stagnant (-1%) and it declined steeply for Russia (-33%). What explains this counter-trend for Brazil and Russia as compared to India and China?

International student mobility is a complex interplay of many push and pull variables. One such very important variable is advancement opportunities at home which makes going abroad less attractive. This is where Russia and Brazil seem to score well as compared to China and India. Based on Gross National Incomes (PPP$), Russia and Brazil have a much higher standard of living as compared to China and India and hence they are less "pushed" to consider studying abroad. China and India are lagging behind in terms of  overall quality of life and hence they will continue to see more students going abroad in search of better prospects.    

Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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December 03, 2011

The Unexpected Contributors to Growth in International Student Enrollment in the US

Number of international students enrolled in US higher education increased by nearly 175,000 in a decade, according to the IIE Open Doors 2011. This is a robust growth which weathered the impact of 9/11 and then recession of 2008. However, looking closely one notices that this growth is contributed by two unexpected segments--Optional Practical Training (OPT) and "Non-degree" students. In fact, 46% (80,323/175,410) of all growth in this decade was contributed by OPT and Non-degree students.

The proportion of OPT students in total enrollment figures increased from 3.8% to 10.5% in a decade. One of the reasons for this increase is attributed to extension of OPT duration from 12 months to 27 months for STEM students. Given that at least 35% of all international students are enrolled in STEM fields which qualify for extended OPT, many students are opting for this opportunity. This becomes even more pronounced in the case of Indians. In fact, two out of three Indian students are enrolled in STEM fields. This also explains enrollment pattern for Indian students which increased by 25.5% at OPT level, however, it declined for all other levels.

Similar to OPT phenomenon, "Non-degree" students which included Intensive Language Programs increased from 6.2% to 8.2% of total international student enrollment in US higher education. Here the enrollment at Intensive Language programs increased by 24% in Fall 2010/11 as compared to last year. This growth was largely driven by Saudi students. Nearly 29% of all Saudi students are enrolled in Intensive English Language programs  . The "Non-degree" enrollment for Saudi students more than doubled from 3,247 to 6,772.

Dr. Rahul Choudaha

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November 21, 2011

International Undergraduate Student Recruitment: Reversal of Trends for 2015?

Enrollment of Indian students in undergraduate programs in the US for Fall'2010 has declined by ~8% as compared to previous year (IIE Open Doors, 2011). In contrast, China enrollment at undergraduate level has increased by 43%. This translates into increase of 17,055 Chinese students as compared to decrease of 1,188 Indian undergraduate students. Are these trends for Chinese and Indian undergraduate students sustainable? What are the future directions?
Undergraduate Student Enrollment in the US (IIE Open Doors)
                    India   |  China
09/10         15,192  39,921
10/11         14,004   56,976
% change      -8%      43%
I project that beginning 2015, growth directions of undergraduate market for China and India would start showing an opposite pattern (I was quoted on this in the Chronicle of Higher Education). This is the time when India would emerge as a major market for undergraduate student recruitment while China would start showing a decline.

Decline of Chinese undergraduate market: Two primary reasons for decline of Chinese market are changing demographics with decline in population in age bracket 15-19 and over-representation on US campuses. A recent story in the Chronicle highlighted "The China Conundrum" and notes that "The students, mostly from China's rapidly expanding middle class, can afford to pay full tuition, a godsend for colleges that have faced sharp budget cuts in recent years. But what seems at first glance a boon for colleges and students alike is, on closer inspection, a tricky fit for both."
Population in age bracket (15-19) for India and China in million         
                   2010  2015 change % change
India             111 116             5            5%
China            104 86            -18         -17%
          Source: US Census International Programs 
Ascend of Indian undergraduate market: Two primary reasons for increasing growth of Indian undergraduate market are increasing number of rich-kids will start graduating from school and the slow pace of reforms in Indian higher education would not be able to keep pace with demand for quality and ability to pay for good education. I define Gen-Q as children born in late 90’s to the parents working in new-age industries like IT and telecommunications. Gen-Q will start going to college from 2015 onwards and will expect quality and has an ability to afford international undergraduate education.

Given that undergraduate recruitment requires significant amount of seeding and relationship building, institutions should start preparing for this upcoming major shift by cultivating the market in advance.

-Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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November 16, 2011

The Missing Quality and Relevance Mindset

In November, I presented at two conferences on higher education in India--FICCI Higher Education Summit and CII.

At FICCI, I co-presented in plenary session on Internationalization with following speakers:
  • Mr Anand Sudarshan, MD & CEO, Manipal Education  
  • Dr Kavita Sharma, Director, India International Centre 
  • Prof Dame Joan Stringer, Principal & Vice Chancellor, Edinburgh Napier University, Scotland 
  • Mr Nirmal Pal, Regional Director for India, Pennsylvania State University
  • Dr Sheila Embleton, President, Canada India Education Council (CIEC), Canada
My core argument was that India is lacking a quality mindset and internationalization is emerging as a competitive compulsion to inculcate quality. By any indicators of excellence, India is falling behind. It is ironical and embarrassing that with the largest number of B-Schools in the world, India does not have a single B-school which is AACSB accredited (B-school Bubble). Likewise, only 4,300 colleges out of ~33,000 colleges in India have pursued NAAC accreditation. This clearly shows that "voluntary" in the context of Indian higher education means unnecessary burden and there is serious lack of a mindset to achieve to highest standards of quality.

Altbach in his recent article wrote "...academic system as large and complex as India's has almost no “thinking capacity” on higher education." Internationalization will not solve all the complex and enormous problems and has a tendency for remaining concentrated in few institutions and hence the challenge for policy-makers is about enabling internationalization for gaining systemic excellence--bringing both competition and collaborations for improving practices and developing a profession. I am pleased learn that 12th five-year plan will emphasize on not only quality but also recognize importance of internationalization policy for India. (related article on internationalization policy for India).

At CII, I presented in the opening session on the theme of University-Industry partnership. The co-presenters were:
  • Dr SS Mantha, Chairman, AICTE
  • Dr PV Ramana, Chairman, ITM Group
  • Mr P Rajendran, Co-founder and COO, NIIT
  • Dr PV Indiresan, Former director, IIT Madras
The presenters were asked to take a stance on the topic "Whose Stakes are Higher in Academia-Industry Collaborations?" I argued that industry has more to lose by not participating the talent development process. Industry is the end-consumer of talent and has not taken up its fair share of responsibility to shape the future of higher education. I called for a new "industrial revolution" in higher education where industry takes the ownership, co-creates and solves problems rather than blaming universities and government for everything that has gone wrong in higher education. As I mentioned, in my earlier blog posts and presentation in FICCI, Indian higher education system has a long way to go in terms of building a quality mindset, however, industry has a major role to play as a part of triple helix of university, industry and government interactions.

Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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October 18, 2011

Higher Education Collaborations: Investing In Capability Building

Recently held U.S.-India Higher Education Summit in Washington, DC was successful in creating the excitement among the higher education community about the prospects and possibilities in forging collaborations. However, the constraint remains in translating this symbolic event into sustainable partnerships (My earlier article Foreign Universities in India: Who's and Why).

Here, Indian government and institutions have a much bigger role to play in inspiring confidence among the foreign institutions. India does not has to sell the huge potential it offers to foreign institutions in terms of its importance and growth prospects, however it has to communicate that capabilities of Indian policy framework and institutional practices have matured to understand the diversity and complexity of global higher education system.

Some institutions have taken the big leap, while many other remain skeptical and unsure of how to engage with India. Various models of collaborations have been emerging between Indian and foreign institutions. Here is article on examples of US-India collaborations and a more recent article on emerging models of Indian-European higher education collaborations.

During the U.S.-India Summit, I was in Mexico presenting at CONAHEC annual conference (I co-presented a session on North American Student Mobility and a workshop on Quality Assurance in US Higher Education). This was my first time in Mexico and I had an opportunity to visit some of the university campuses (UPAEP, UDLAP and CCU-BUAP). I must admit that campuses were impressive and exceeded my expectations. The experience strengthened my confidence in the institutions and their potential and ability to execute foreign partnerships.

Building global collaborations requires investing in capacity and capability building. An HBR article highlights the need to develop collaboration capabilities as a success factor. It requires "...experimenting to learn what processes and practices work best or by selecting a new partner in order to tap its broader experience of cooperating with others....this willingness to invest in improving partnering capabilities is one of the factors that help successful companies develop collaboration as a new and important source of competitive advantage."

Related articles:
Call for a internationalisation policy on higher education, EDU, August 2011
Finding the perfect international partner, EDU, May 2010
Advantage foreign universities?, EDU, April 2010
Realising the vision of world-class varsities, EDU, March 2010

Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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October 09, 2011

Challenges of Quality Assurance in Cross-border Education

Deficiencies in assessing and enforcing quality was a recurring theme at the University of Wales, according to BBC investigation which began last year. More recently BBC also discovered a scam "in which overseas students are helped to cheat their way to University of Wales-validated degrees and visas is being investigated by the UK Border Agency."  (see the video in the link). In other words, University's model of validating cross-border degrees has turned out to be more business, less quality.

TASMAC London which used to offer University of Wales' validated degrees has shut it's shop leaving 500 students stranded. Now even the future of the University of Wales is being questioned.

Here is another incisive video from last year's investigation

University of Wales example also supports my earlier assertion related to agent debate--any process of "validating" student recruitment agents will be futile. When quality assurance agencies and governments have not been able to vet colleges in their own home turf, imagine the impossible task of validating agents based across the world with pure profit motives and incentive-systems which encourage shoddy practices, biased advice and document frauds.

Earlier, I had also posted about the challenges of quality assurance in cross-border education, especially when profit motive is explicit. The issue here is not with the profit motive as much as the ability to manage risks which comes with it.

Quality assurance systems need to step-up to this changing environment of financial exigencies, entrepreneurial opportunities and technological innovations, to enable growth of cross-border education, while managing the risks it poses to students, education systems and nations. The solution to quality assurance problem is not to "systematize problems" rather offer solutions which encourage highest standards of transparency, enforcement and deterrence.

Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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October 03, 2011

International Student Mobility Trends

My article The Future of International Student Mobility was published in UniversityWorldNews.

International student mobility in the first decade of the 21st century has been transformed by two major external events, 9/11 and the recession of 2008. Today the rationale for international student recruitment has shifted from attracting talent to make the student body more diverse, to seeking an additional source of revenue.

Recruitment practices have been evolving and responding to this new competitive landscape, as can be seen in the increasing number of commercial entities offering recruitment services ranging from agents to websites.

How is this transformation going to shape the future of student mobility?

The US was an undisputed leader in global higher education until 9/11, which forced it to tighten visa requirements for students. Australia and the UK cashed in on this opportunity and were successful in absorbing most of the growth in international students.

Growth in international student enrollment in Australia and the UK would have continued, but the recession of 2008 changed things. It exposed two important issues for international student enrollment in the two countries - the high proportion of international students compared to home students and issues of quality raised by the use of aggressive recruitment practices.

In 2009, international students represented 21.5% and 15.3% of higher education enrollment in Australia and the UK, compared to less than 4% in the US, according to the OECD. This clearly shows that Australia and the UK were over-dependent on international students. This situation of overdependence was the result of aggressive recruitment practices using agents who paid little attention to quality assurance.

There were multiple incidents where fraudulent documents were used by people who were more keen on immigration than education (In the same issue of UWN, Simon Marginson, professor of higher education in the Centre for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Melbourne acknowledged existence of "...migration-related education sector 'scams' involving education agents and students from South Asia. There was a blowout of migration-oriented international students in certain vocational programmes, and instances of corrupt practices and dubious educational provision. This triggered a belated crackdown by the federal government in 2010").

The number of internationally mobile students grew by 1.6 million between 2000 and 2009, according to the OECD. This trend will continue to be driven by the increasing ability of prospective students in countries like China and India to afford foreign higher education. At the same time, their local higher education systems are expanding at a fast rate, but at the expense of quality. This will result in a large number of quality-hungry students who have an ability to pay for their higher education.

However, a complex interplay of variables will make it difficult to predict where this growth will go.

As we have seen, the influence of unpredictable events like 9/11 and the recession on student mobility is far-reaching and global. In addition, government policies related to visa requirements, specifically those concerning financial requirements and post-education work opportunities. Institutions and nations that can adapt to the changing environment will be best placed to make the most of the opportunities and uncertainties involved. Click here to read full article.
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October 01, 2011

University leadership: Finding the right balance between academic and business expertise

The nature of higher education leadership is undergoing change in the US. Demographics of university leaders is graying and a wave of change at the top is expected. According to the American Council on Education survey, the percentage of presidents age 61 and over increased from 14 percent in 1986 to nearly half in 2006 and the average age of presidents increased from 52 years in 1986 to 60 years in 2006. Here is a chart indicating likely retirement of presidents at leading universities in the US. At another level, the changes in the external environment with increasing competition for resources, ability to raise resources. To build a competitive advantage, this may require a stronger set of business skills ranging from operational efficiency to strategic development. Thus, emphasis on business skills may increase in American institutions.

However, in the Indian context, institutions are facing another leaderships crisis and it relates to lack of professionalism and academic values among leaders. The poor quality of Indian higher education and wide-spread corruption at all levels reflects the values of institutional leaders. Higher education leadership crisis is at two extremes--public institutions are entangled with bureaucracy while private institutions are all about bottom-line. In these extremes the core mission of institution and focus on quality is lost. Of course, there are exceptions with some high quality institutions both in public and private sector, however they are less than 1% in a system with more than 30,000 colleges.

The need is to find a balance where academic leadership brings deep understanding of the higher education domain and at the same time has an orientation towards speed and efficiency of business world. Here is my article entitle Academic Leadership: Beyond Bottom-line published in EDU magazine.

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September 24, 2011

The Changing Profession of Admissions: From Counselling to Selling?

Admissions profession is undergoing a rapid transformation in its character, purpose and approaches. A recent report by insidehighered found "Clashes of Money and Values" driven by increasing pressure to look for sources of revenue. This is resulting in importance of full-fee paying, out-of-state and international students (Of course, this shift is more pronounced in public institutions as they are directly affected by state budget cuts.)

Another interesting dimension of the report relates to increasing use of agents for recruitment (one-third of the respondents are considering using agents but do not do so now, according to the report). This supports my assertion that there will be increase in interest for using agents, however it is a risky proposition due to incentive models which promote compromises to integrity of admissions process including document frauds (here is my earlier post). This concern of document frauds is also validated in the survey where nearly half of respondents (47 percent) agreed that agents "often play a direct role in helping international applicants fabricate information."

Admissions at many institutions is shifting from its purpose of finding best fit for the student to finding student with highest revenue potential. This transformation already took place earlier with for-profit institutions. Last month, The Department of Justice sued Education Management which received $2.2 billion of federal financial aid in fiscal 2010. "The complaint said the company had a 'boiler-room style sales culture' in which recruiters were instructed to use high-pressure sales techniques and inflated claims about career placement to increase student enrollment, regardless of applicants’ qualifications."

Another shift in the admissions profession relates to the role of efficiency, predictability and transparency. This is driven by use of data and forecasting for enrollment management. Eric Hoover highlights the change in the role of admissions dean when "he was more of a sage than a salesman...His college's bottom line was someone else's concern; he was paid to counsel students, not to crunch numbers." He adds "A profession that once relied on anecdotes and descriptive data now runs on complex statistical analyses and market research. Knowing how to decipher enrollment outcomes is a given; knowing how to forecast the future is a must." (Here is my quote on use of research and data in admissions in NAFSA International Educator and in the Chronicle)

Given the changing competitive and financial landscape, profession of admissions has to adapt and evolve. While shift towards performance improvement, transparency and efficiency is a welcome direction, compromises to the integrity of the profession is not.


Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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September 11, 2011

International student enrollment post 9/11: This time for America?

International student mobility in the decade following the tragedy of 9/11 is characterized by a rapid growth supported by growing demand from China and India. Australia and the UK had been successful in absorbing most of the growth in the demand driven by aggressive recruitment practices and easier immigration policies as compared to strict visa policies of the US post 9/11.

Size of international student market for Australia grew by 131% between 2002 and 2009, adding more than 350,000 students. Likewise, the UK grew by 67% in the period between 2001 and 2009, adding more than 160,000 students. In contrast, US added about 100,000 students and grew by 19% between 2001 to 2009. This is quite a slow growth for the US given the size of the higher education system.

Another major characteristic of the growth has been over-dependence on top two source countries--China and India.  For example, proportion of Chinese and Indian students has doubled in Australia and the UK from 22% in 2002 to 44%. Likewise, every fourth international student in the UK and every third international student in the US is from China or India. This over-reliance on two markets highlights that countries and institutions have to make sure that they do not lose these markets at the same time develop other markets as a de-risking strategy.

Nearly 385,000 more Chinese and Indian were studying in Australia, the UK and US in 2009 as compared to 2001. This also proves that demand from these markets is increasing despite expansion of the local capacity, albeit at the expense of quality. This is driven several demand and supply drivers as discussed here.

However, the recent recession has significantly altered the mobility patterns in last couple of years. At one level this has compelled US public institutions to more aggressively look for internatinoal students as an additional source of revenue and at the same time Australia and the UK had to tighten their immigration policies for students. This is a beginning of a new decade of growth international student enrollment in the US higher education.

Some of the early reports of fall'2011 enrollment are showing significant increase in international student enrollment. For example, at the University of Iowa first-time freshmen international students enrollment reached record level of 484 this as compared to 388 last year. Likewise, for Arkansas State University international student enrollment for fall'11 crossed 1,000 students for the first time as compared to 780 students last year. Even last year, public universities had shown healthy growth in international enrollment.

A decade after 9/11, US higher education is set to strengthen its leadership in attracting international student. Driven by aggressive efforts by universities and unattractiveness of alternative destinations, US international student enrollment in the US will grow at a healthy rate.


Related reading:
America calling
US is still the most attractive destination
International recruitment agents: Playing with fire?

Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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September 05, 2011

Quality assurance in for-profit education: Tame risks, not growth

"If quality assurance is partly about risk, are for-profit institutions inherently more risky than public institutions?", asks a discussions paper released by Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and UNESCO) based on a recent meeting on for-profit higher education.

The paper looks into the quality assurance challenges and needs with internationalization of for-profit higher education institutions supported by ambitious growth goals and technological advancements with e-learning models. It is becoming increasingly complex to assure quality in a multi-country delivery format. For example, there are 420,000 people outside the UK pursuing UK degrees through a range of models in 100 countries.

I agree with report at one level and disagree on another.
  • Agree: For-profit is indispensable in meeting global demand 
The report notes, "...taking an international perspective, it may be that distinguishing within the private sector between for-profit and not-for-profit institutions is unhelpful.  Public universities become profit-making enterprises when they operate outside their home jurisdictions." It adds, "The key question is what surpluses are spent on. All public institutions are engaged in making cross-subsidies among units. However, the private sector may be more disciplined about the way it reinvests surpluses."
Developing countries are anyways resource constrained and investing in fixed assets for meeting increasing demand is an inefficient way to grow. Private institutions have taken leap in exploiting and adopting online learning technologies and economies of scale which may better meet the needs developing countries. Of course, it does not apply to all level of programs and fields of studies, however, it does hold immense potential.
  • Disagree: "level playing" field for quality assurance and transparency 
The report argues for level playing field for public and for-profit institutions and states "The main plea is for a level playing field. Any good institution starts with the student and builds a business model from there in a transparent fashion." The responsibility of quality assurance is to define and allow only "good institutions", however, many bad institutions flourish. The experiences of aggressive recruitment practices at for-profit sector in the US and collapse of international students market in Australia show that for-profit should be held for much higher standards of transparency, disclosures and quality assurance. The information gap between students and institutions is very high and given the aggressive marketing tactics employed by for-profit, students are highly likely to be misled.

By definition, the primary focus of "for-profit" institutions is to maximize profits and the simple rule of profit maximization is to cut costs (technology) and raise revenues (enrollment). While for-profits have done a great job in bringing cost-efficiency they have also vitiated the confidence about their recruitment marketing practices. A strong quality assurance process is required to  enable growth of cross-border for-profit education, while managing the risks it poses to students.


Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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September 01, 2011

Guest Post: Students from India Crossing Borders for Higher Education by Louis Berends, Ph.D.

Dr. Louis Berends is University Relations Manager, Midwest at SIT Study Abroad. Lou holds a Ph.D. from Loyola University Chicago (LUC) in Cultural and Educational Policy Studies. He has studied at Brunel University (Uxbridge, U.K.), the University of Oxford (St. Catherine's College), and LUC's Rome Center in Italy. He has presented many academic papers at various settings including Columbia University –Teachers College and Harvard's Graduate School of Education. He enjoys reading, music, and anything outdoors.

Students from India Crossing Borders for Higher Education: “Pushed and Pulled” by Reputation, Family, and Field of Study By Louis Berends, Ph.D. 

Each day the world feels a little smaller. To be sure, globalization can be seen in many forms these days – through the McDonaldization of capitalized nations, international assessment of education at all levels, and the ease for anyone to flip a switch and view ongoing wars and uprisings captured on live television. Beyond the definitions that refer to economic linkages and the death of the nation-state, globalization is a process (Rhoads, 2006). It is a process for understanding the world in which we live in – a lens into the complex and interconnectedness of many nations and institutions that have come to define the beginning of the 21st Century. Not only are the forces of globalization (i.e., the internet, technology and innovation) driving current global market conditions, it is also the process that drives the emerging knowledge economy that shapes the future financial landscape (Gürüz, 2008).

One such form of globalization can be understood by examining the process of international student mobility. More students than ever before are studying higher education in other countries than in any other era previous. There are accepted benchmarks that currently exist on measuring international higher education, namely those housed at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics, and the Open Doors Report from the Institute for International Education (IIE). However, all reports fall short in measuring the “why” factor (among other methodological shortcomings). Moreover, how can we measure the elusive question of “why” students pursue higher education outside of their home countries? One such way to conceptualize why students decide to study in other countries is to frame the discussion through “push” and “pull” theory.

 Mazzarol et al. (2002) postulate that “push factors operate within the source country and initiate a student’s decision [and] pull factors operate within a host country to make that country relatively attractive to international students.” In the context of students from India, scholarships, reputation of program abroad, and professional and work-related opportunities can all be considered “pull” factors. Meanwhile, “push” factors may involve family pressures, geographic proximity, and unfair access to local education (to name a few). My current research examines graduate students from India in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) that pursue studies in the U.S. or Australia and the specific decision-making processes experienced and then self-reporting through self-reflection.

In order to fully capture the decision-making experiences of graduate students from India, I selected a mixed methods approach to my research methodology. Samples were drawn from two U.S. universities located in or near a large metropolitan area in the Midwest, and two comparable Australian universities located in Western Australia.

The complexity of measuring student flows in the global market of higher education is vast. Cross-border students can, and continue to be seen as “cash cows” (Marginson, 2002). Understanding the true nature and context of decision-making processes of the increasingly mobile international student is layered with a multitude of considerations. Such considerations relate to the overarching theme of student choice and selection of higher education institutions overseas. There are a wide range of reasons and factors that contribute to the overall decision-making process of students from India. Future studies attempting to extract the various decision-making factors of STEM field students would be wise to design an instrument based on pilot surveys and focus groups with the targeted constituents before implementing large scale research efforts. When comparing students from India that decide to go to the U.S. vs. Australia, higher education administrators would do well in consulting the many experts that exist in the area of international higher education; however, the short answer is, no – prospective students from India are no longer going down under, they’re going everywhere else.
Dr. Berends' dissertation is available at

Picture by Dr. Louis Berends

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August 22, 2011

Will Indian Higher Education Get Freedom from Corruption?

This month, India celebrated its sixty-fourth year of independence, however, freedom from the slavery of corruption is elusive. India has a long history of corruption and some of the recent cases in this "season of scams" are:
  • Commonwealth Games: The Comptroller and Auditor General of India found that the final cost of the Games was 16 times the original estimate of $270 million to over $4billion. The head of the CWG is now serving jail time for charges of misappropriation. 
  • 2G Scam: The Comptroller and Auditor General of India found that the goverment lost revenue to the tune of US$ 39 billion due to corruption and favoritism to particular telecom companies during spectrum allocation. Former minister is in jail and Kapil Sibal replaced him as telecom minister, who is also higher education minister.
I have been writing for a while about the lack of quality and professional standards in Indian higher education. There have been numerous reports about the corruption with Indian regulatory bodies and even institutions working as pseudo-non-profits. Of course,  sheer in terms of money, higher education corruption seems tiny as compared to CWG and 2G scams, but the basic cause is no different. The primary cause is a hyper-competitive environment for resources where compromising on ethics and engaging with corruption is the easiest and fastest way to move ahead.

The scope of corruption is at all levels although the scale differs. Politicians blame businessmen, businessmen blame politicians and common man blames both, but even common man is engaged in corruption when he pays bribe to get some work done.

In this environment any reform or change is an opportunity for more corruption as this cartoon strip from K. Raja shows:

I recently watched a Hindi movie 'Aarakshan’, which blasted the crass commercialization of education in India and how inequality and caste system is even manifested in the business of higher education. It was developed on the background of controversial reservation policy where nearly 50% of seats in public institutions were reserved for students from underserved minorities. I was amazed at how closely it was able to depict what’s wrong with Indian higher education (of course, discounting the melodrama and entertaining songs expected from a Bollywood movie). It simply asked are you participating in the corrupt system or working towards changing it?

Anna Hazare is one man working towards changing the system of corruption. He has emerged as a voice of the middle class which is fed up of corruption. Hazare is asking government to draft a new law an independent ombudsman, to investigate and prosecute corrupt officials. Here is a very interesting debate on NDTV on this topic.

While Anna Hazare movement is not going to solve all the problems of corruption in India, it certainly has shown the frustration of Indian middle class with the rotten nexus of business, bureaucrats and politics. However, the real change lies with one's will power to say no to corruption at any cost. As Clayton Christensen, Professor, Harvard Business School in his article How Will You Measure Your Life? notes "’s easier to hold to your principles 100% of the time than it is to hold to them 98% of the time."

Many of the problems of higher education will get resolved when the blame game stops and individuals and institutions set high principles for themselves by not engaging with corruption at any level. Of course, a solid quality assurance and regulatory system which is corruption-free will make the freedom sustainable.

Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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August 13, 2011

International recruitment agents: Playing with fire?

This week America's second largest for-profit company--Education Management Corporation--was sued by the US government for allegations that it "consistently violated federal law by paying recruiters based on how many students it enrolled", according to New York Times. Education Management is 41 per cent owned by Goldman Sachs and enrolls 150,000 students across 105 schools and clocked an annual revenue of nearly US$ 2.9 billion. If the allgegations are true than this is a prime example of institutionalization of illegal recruitment practices.

A couple of weeks back, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) came out in a public statement supporting commission-based recruiting for international students. APLU is an association of 221 public universities including state university systems like California State University System. Yes, the same commission-based recruiting which is illegal in the US is acceptable in international recruitment--double standards? Although, NACAC continues not to support commission-based agents, its bold stance of common and highest standards of recruitment practices, has been put in cold storage for couple of years.

While NACAC softens its stance, a couple of recent incidents highlighted the risks agency-model presents to the US higher education.

- Visa fraud raid on University of Northern Virginia: Another university after Tri Valley University was raided on the grounds of visa frauds. According to the Economic Times, "We caution them to be alert to the existence of these so-called predatory visa fraud rings and fraudulent document vendors," said US State Department spokesman. Agents have no role to play in this? If a university in the US was able to work-around federal regulations, how does one expects to have any professional oversight or quality control on agents working in other countries? Here is another related proof where founder of AIRC certified ageny was found to be involved in forgerdy and embezzlement.  Now, what standards of documentations and fraud prevention do you think this agency would be expecting from students? (the height of irony is that Oceanic's website reads "we strongly discourage students to use any fraudulent means for pursuing their studies overseas.") Also, what happened to "professionalization" of agents expected from AIRC certificate?

- Australia recognizing agent and institution nexus: According to the The Age, "Senator Evans said in many cases a chain of migration agent, education college, and business owner had brought Indians to Australia to work, the students enrolled in a cooking or hairdressing course as a cover." An Ombudsman has been established for international students in Australia to complain about institutions. Already there are several complaints about agents and institutions, "A tricky area is the obligation that colleges keep an eye open for any misleading activity by agents; for example, an offshore agent who tells would-be students that Australia is still an easy mark for migration.", in an article in the Australian. Aren't the proponents of agent-models saying that Australia has perfected the use of agents?

Why we only hear negative stories like Tri Valley and UNV about agents? Where are the positive stories of how agents helped attracting top quality students? Anyone care to share?

In next couple of years, given the financial strain on public universities and softening of NACAC's stance, more institutions will use agents, however, many will only burn their hands by playing with fire.


Here are earlier posted on this topic:
Agents for international student recruitment: Have we not learned anything from Australia and the UK?
Recruitment agent debate: Are institutions ready for disclosures?

Dr. Rahul Choudaha

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August 04, 2011

Policy reforms in Indian higher education: From rhetoric to results

Higher education reforms in India gained a big boost of optimism with the announcements by Mr. Kapil Sibal in 2009 with his 100-day action-plan. However, policy reforms are yet to move beyond paperwork and rhetoric. There are nearly 15 bills with the government awaiting approval.

Foreign universities bill is one such example which faces several practical issues and it has turned out be a car with square wheels. Even if the bill is approved, there are serious questions about its effectiveness and relevance. Further, there a few foreign institutions like Lancaster University, which decided not to wait for the bill and have started their campus in partnership with GD Goenka. This is a classic example of how a disjointed approach many make a policy irrelevant. In my recent article in EDU magazine, I have highlighted the need of comprehensive internationalization policy.

Uwe Brandenburg in their article “The End of Internationalization” argue that it is time “to rethink and redefine the way we look at the internationalization of higher education in the present time.” It is ironical that the conversations about internationalization of higher education have not even started in India and the advanced world is moving to its next phase of redefining internationalization. It is high time for Indian higher education at policy and institutional level to reflect on how best to leverage the concept of internationalization and engage it to achieve the goals of excellence, diversity and capacity building.

In my another article--Crisis of Confidence in Indian Higher Education?--published in University World News, I argue for the need of solid quality assurance framework to gain confidence of foreign universities in engaging with India. For a foreign university looking for collaborations in India how does it distinguish between 'recognised' and 'unrecognised' institutions? For example, how does one distinguish between institutions like the Indian School of Business, ranked 12 in The Financial Times rankings of business schools, and IIPM, when neither is recognised by quality assurance body--AICTE? How does an Indian institution establishes its credentials with a foreign university in an environment of distrust and lack of quality benchmarks?

To give an investment analogy: in India, it is difficult to tell a junk bond from a blue-chip stock. India is a promising investment market but you have to make sure you know where you are investing. Moreover, India itself has to step up its efforts to create investor confidence and build an enabling investment climate. It's time to get see some results.

Dr. Rahul Choudaha

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August 01, 2011

Innovating the Transnational Model: Thinking Beyond Branch Campuses

Call for Guest Columns:  
I welcome guest post from leaders, scholars, and students on topics related to higher education. I am looking for brief posts (~500 words) which build on published research/book or well supported by data. If you would like to share your research on higher education feel free to reach out to me on rahul [at] .

This guest post is from Sean Angiolillo who earned a BA in International Relations and South Asia Studies from the University of Pennsylvania in May 2011. This post draws from his senior thesis “Importing Knowledge: How Transnational Higher Education Builds Human Capital in India.” Next year, Sean is working as an Academic Ambassador for Dipont Education Management in Shanghai, China.
Dr. Rahul Choudaha

Innovating the Transnational Model: Thinking Beyond Branch CampusesBy Sean Angiolillo
Last year this blog wrote briefly about the “industrialization of education”. Some, such as Sir Ken Robinson, have argued that education models from around the world too often resemble factory assemble lines, where all students receive the same instruction along linear paths. Given India’s tremendous deficits in the quality and quantity of higher education, it might be tempting to identify the “best” model and then scale it up to size, replicating again and again to meet India’s needs.

However, Robinson advocates an “agricultural model”, focused on creating the conditions under which students can flourish. Rather than scaling one solution, the goal is to customize education to better suit individual needs.

Transnational education (TNE) offers a number of new models that can accomplish just this, by creating new high-quality academic pathways for students. While India’s prospects for the branch campus model (never particularly high) have been largely put to rest for now, other innovative models of TNE may be able to contribute to bridging India’s higher education deficits.

Of any TNE model, the branch campus attracts the most attention for its exotic nature. However, more people are realizing that India is not Qatar. New Delhi does not have the capacity (or intention) to roll out the red carpet for foreign universities, to construct new facilities, and to underwrite financial liabilities. The enormous challenges—legal ambiguity, political uncertainty, staffing questions, quality control, and land acquisition to name a few—are more than enough to deter most foreign universities.

Nevertheless, while large-scale branch campuses are highly unlikely, smaller foreign investments and partnerships through innovative models of TNE, which minimize these obstacles, will be exceptionally more attractive to foreign institutions, and ultimately more rewarding for talented Indian students.

While the Foreign Universities Bill continues to languish in Parliament, pioneering institutions have taken it upon themselves to create new kinds of mutually beneficial foreign partnerships. Through a wide variety of creative franchising, twinning, joint programs, and distance education models, more Indian students are accessing high quality education at lower costs.

For instance, a private for-profit institution, Chennai’s National Management School, is partnering with the public Georgia State University’s Robinson School of Business. Together, over 250 GSU faculty members rotate through NMS, delivering intensive modular courses in as little as a week at a time.

In another example, a partnership between Chennai’s SSN College of Engineering and Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University makes it possible for Indian students to spend one year of study in India using Carnegie Mellon courseware and earn a CMU graduate degree with just six additional months of study in Pittsburgh.

The key connecting theme of these transnational models should be higher quality education at lower costs. Each model accomplishes this goal in different ways. Twinning arrangements shorten the length of time needed to be spent abroad. Franchising arrangements eliminate this time altogether, in theory bringing all the resources of a foreign institution to India. Distance education, including programs supported by local partners, utilizes technology to connect learners with instructors. All of these transnational models provide new options to India’s rapidly expanding, higher education-hungry middle classes.

Moreover, while India is not Qatar, it does possess several advantages over other destinations in its transnational attraction, upon which its domestic institutions can capitalize through partnerships. India’s millions of young English-speakers, looking for a role in the “knowledge economy”, certainly ranks the subcontinent near the top of many foreign institutions’ internationalization wish list. Also, transnational models can provide India’s huge diaspora of Ph.D.s with new opportunities for short-term returns.

These innovative models certainly will not solve India’s largest education problems. Nevertheless, given its current educational deficits, and its ambitious goals, India should allow its own institutions to explore and experiment with new models of TNE to augment domestic resources and expertise.

Since the state’s education “assembly lines” have clearly been inadequate to meeting the growing demand and desires of a young population, the least it can do is create a transparent and unencumbered environment for its own institutions to draw upon foreign expertise. If the goal is a “knowledge-driven” economy, India needs to capitalize on these innovations in order to ensure its supply of human capital.
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July 23, 2011

Indian B-School Bubble?

Are Indian B-schools in a bubble as some project about American higher education? (Here is my EDU article). Schumpeter in his recent article in entitled “The latest bubble?” in the Economist, argues that American higher education bubble is already beginning to burst. Specifically, for business schools he concludes “Middle-ranking schools are seeing a significant drop in demand, which they have masked by taking weaker candidates, but which will eventually force them to start cutting back.” He also cites Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal who “believes that higher education fills all the criteria for a bubble: tuition costs are too high, debt loads are too onerous, and there is mounting evidence that the rewards are over-rated.”

With more than 3,000 B-schools, India has three-times the number of B-schools as compared to the US. This difference becomes stark considering that the size of the Indian economy is one-tenth of the US economy. The end result is poor quality of education, oversupply of MBA graduates which in turn increases unemployability and underemployability among graduates.

A recent article notes that according to All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), last year nearly 60,000, or 30 per cent of the approved 200,000 management seats, remained vacant. Also, the number of applications coming in for the Common Admission Test (CAT) for MBA entrance have decreased from 260,000 to 200,000 in the last three years.

This clearly indicates that Indian B-schools are in a bubble. Except top-100 institutions, most will suffer from bursting of this bubble which is characterized by irrational exuberance, oversupply and poor quality.

Interestingly, China is witnessing a boom in B-schools. The reason being that they caught on to the management education quite late and at the same time the size and growth of the economy is able to absorb MBA graduates. For example, there are nearly 230 B-schools offering MBA in China in 2010 while there are more than 3,000 B-schools in India.

Bubbles have a long history of existence around the world and they inevitably bust with severe damage to individuals, society and economy (remember dot-com bubble? housing bubble?). It’s time we collectively make our best effort to reduce the damage from the Indian B-schools bubble. Institutions have to start questioning if they are contributing to expanding the B-school bubble or containing it?

Click below to read my detailed article in EDU magazine.

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July 16, 2011

The New Wave of Branch Campuses

Branch campuses are in news again with some optimistic and others with pessimistic tone. However, this time it is more than Gulf region and also has some big names involved.

After mega launch of NYU, Abu Dhabi, Duke's plans for China and Yale's plan for Singapore are being closely watched. However, both of them have faced resistance from faculty. While Yale faculty is concerned about academic freedom, Duke's faculty is concerned about financial feasibility.

A report in University World News noted "Concerns over the cost of a new branch campus for Duke University in Kunshan, near Shanghai, which is set to open in 2012, has led to vocal opposition from Duke faculty." It adds that "Duke is spending around US$37 million on a new campus in China when more than US$125 million has been lopped off its own budget in recent years, and arts and humanities are facing a $3 million budget deficit this year. Some $5.5 million is being spent by Duke to ensure the facility meets US standards." This is significant commitment from the university and success of this model has implications for other universities considering to start branch campuses.

In India an interesting trend is emerging where foreign universities are starting their campuses in India while Indian universities are going abroad.

Schulich School of Business of York University will be starting it's India campus in 2013. Few other branch campuses in India  include Leeds METLancaster University and Strathclyde.

On the other hand, Amity University is starting its Dubai campus this year. Dubai already hosts branch campuses of Manipal, BITS and IMT.

Philip Altbach in his article The Branch Campus Bubble? reminds us that "A necessary episode to recall is that 20 or more American universities rushed to Japan in the 1980s to start branches, but only two survived." We have also not forgotten fate of MSU, Dubai which had to close its undergraduate program due to enrollment short-falls. In a recent article Francois Therin notes "The future of higher education in the Gulf revolves around the issues of numbers and quality."

Branch campuses are getting a new impetus driven by an demand from countries like India and China and pressures to generate additional revenue streams. However, it will be interesting to see how these branch campuses are defining their target segment of students? Are they all targeting the same segment--self-financed students in management and engineering programs? Is this segment big and unique enough to support proliferation and feasibility of branch campuses?


Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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July 09, 2011

IIPM: Mocking at Quality of Indian Higher Education?

IIPM and Arindam Chaudhuri have been synonymous with advertisements shouting "Dare to think beyond the IIMs!" (Here is Hoot's analysis on IIPM's advertisements). It took audacity (often to the limit of brashness) and entrepreneurial grit to equate oneself with big brands like IIMs. IIPM enrolls more than 5000 students across 8 campuses with more than 400 faculty members.

So, what's the issue? The issue is better understood if you see the advertisements of IIPM like below. What's the brand "promise" to a prospective student? They are most likely to see "MBA/BBA/EMBA" along with major brands like Cornell and Stern.

However, FAQs on IIPM website mentions:
"1. Does AICTE/UGC [Indian regulatory bodies] recognize IIPMs programme in planning and entrepreneurship?
No. IIPM has never sought recognition from any statutory bodies and is proud of its world class course contents. Students bothered about statutory recognition of IIPMs programmes need not apply to IIPM....
2. Does IIPM award an MBA/BBA degree?
No. In India degrees can be awarded only by universities and therefore just like the IIMs, even IIPM (which is not an university) does not offer an MBA/BBA degree."
This disconnect and misrepresentation comes at a huge price to students (In fact, someone has started a website called IIPM is a scam!). IIPM's approach also made some leading brands like Stanford to issue a letter about IIPM's false claims. IIPM is also a classic case of how slow and toothless higher education quality assurance system in India is. Based on complaints, UGC expressed concerns in 2005 and then again in 2010, however, IIPM continues to grow using it's tried and tested method of advertising and ignoring regulation. 

"The University Grants Commission is not happy with the Indian Institute of Planning and Management offering an MBA degree. UGC says no institute in the country can offer a degree course without its approval and IIPM does not have its go ahead.
Advertisements by IIPM in leading dailies across the country have been promising students a degree in MBA. But the fine print in the ad says the institute does not come under the purview of the UGC." 
"...University Grants Commission (UGC) made it clear that the Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM), run by Arindam Chaudhuri, is not recognised by the government or any of India’s higher education bodies"

More recently, Siddhartha Deb wrote an incisive article “Sweet Smell of Success: How Arindam Chaudhuri Made a Fortune Off the Aspirations—and Insecurities—of India’s Middle Classes.”  (I can't even provide the link to the article as court has ordered to remove the article). Of course, Dean Chaudhuri did not like it and sued the author, magazine and Google (yes, you read it right--Google) for defamation. Here is the press release by Caravan magazine which published Deb's article and has been sued by IIPM.

Interestingly, there are many more unrecognized institutions in India. According to a government response, AICTE and UGC have received 101 and 23 complaints respectively about alleged malpractices. We still remember the fuss and attention Tri Valley scam in the US received , however, there are many Tri Valley's in India and nothing is being done. At least, in the case of TVU, it is now defunct, while Indian regulation is restricted to paperwork and rhetoric. In March 2010, "The Prohibition of Unfair Practices" bill was approved by the Cabinet, however it is yet to be approved by the Parliament.

IIPM's approach raises several questions about the profession and quality assurance of higher education in India:
  • Is IIPM misleading students or offering a unique choice? 
  • Is Arindam Chauduri an inspiration or disgrace for education fraternity including faculty and entrepreneurs?
  • What does it say about Indian quality assurance environment? Why worry about foreign universities bill when one can always work-around it?
  • If you are a foreign university looking for collaborations in India, how do you distinguish between "recognized" and "unrecognized" institutions? What are the implications for your institutional brand?
  • How does one distinguish between institutions like ISB and IIPM when both are not recognized by AICTE? (ISB is ranked #12 in Financial Times). What brand risk a foreign institution is assuming in forging partnerships?
This is one issue on which I have more questions than answers. Any thoughts/comments/answers?

Dr. Rahul Choudaha

Related links:

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July 01, 2011

In Search of Self-financed International Students

The number of High New Worth Individuals (HNWIs) have increased by 21% and 12% for India and China respectively, according to 2011 World Wealth Report. India added 26,000 new HNWIs and China added 58,000 in one year. HNWIs are defined as those having investable assets of US$1 million or more, excluding primary residence, collectibles, consumables, and consumer durables.

This expansion of wealthy class means number of self-financed international students may also grow by a healthy double digits. In times of severe budget cuts, this may present a very lucrative opportunity for many public institutions. The expansion of HNWIs is just one indicator of increase of very wealthy, however, self-financed international students may come from the immediate next segment under HNWI, which is even bigger in size.

Both China and India have a hyper-competitive environment to gain admissions into good quality institutions and quality of institutions falls precipitously beyond few top institutions. Many of the kids of HNWIs are not seeking a foreign degree for jobs rather they are seeking it for experience of studying abroad and social prestige associated with it.

Traditionally, India and China had been sending majority of its students at the graduate level where expectations for financial aid are high. With the budget cuts, many institutions are finding it tough to provide financial support. However, children of HNWIs can afford education and hence they are more likely to enroll at undergrad programs which in turn provides a longer revenue flow of four years as compared to one-two years at master's level.

However, the challenge remains in terms of finding these self-financed students. I believe the most effective strategy is to engage universities' current students and alumni through social media. Current students and alum are more likely to have a network which is similar to them in terms of social, cultural and economic background. Thus, creating a community where current students/alum can invite their friends and engage them through social media is the most credible and cost-effective channel. Here is an interesting reading on 10 Ways Universities Are Engaging Alumni Using Social Media and example of The Johns Hopkins.


Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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June 19, 2011

Indian University Admissions: The Crisis of Confidence in Quality

Expansion, growth and access have been the buzzwords for Indian higher education in last five years. However, they all sounds hollow when you hear that some colleges in Delhi University expect 100% marks for admissions. As this cartoon from Manjul shows, "aiming high" has a new standard.

The talent pool aspiring for quality higher education is increasing at a much faster rate than number of institutions with quality. This means that more students with highly competitive academic preparedness are available, however, the institutions with high quality have not increased in the same proportion. According at a recent article in Times of India, number of students with over 95% marks in CBSE (XIIth grade) have shot up from about 1200 last year to over 2100 this year, while the number of undergraduate seats in the University of Delhi roughly the same as last year at 54,000.

Instances like this, question the whole rhetoric that Indian higher education is reforming and expanding access. The reality seems that Indian higher education is regressing as the availability of quality institutions is unable to keep up with supply of talent pool. According to UGC, number of colleges in the India increased by 53% in five years to nearly 26,000 colleges in 2009. If this quantitative expansion of colleges had as significant qualitative element in it then students would have had more confidence in their choices to go beyond the "tried and tested" reputed brands. However, we have a situation of a crisis of confidence and hence many students with high academic ability are aiming for the same set of select few institutions with lowest career risks.

While the private sector has contributed a lot in increasing the access to higher education, it has focused on "money-minting" professional programs in engineering and management and has often done it without much consideration to quality.

This example reiterates the horror stories we have heard from highly selective IIT and IIM admissions that much still needs to be done in terms of instilling quality in Indian higher education and gaining the confidence of prospective students to explore beyond the select few.

Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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June 11, 2011

Agents for international student recruitment: Have we not learned anything from Australia and the UK?

Australia and the UK have been revered for their best practices and proactiveness in using agents for student recruitment. Then came the "trouble" in international student market in Australia and the UK, resulting in tightening of student visa norms. What's the relationship between tightening of student visa and agents? Many agents enabled "short-cuts" (read document frauds) for students in using education for immigration. (Here is my related post where I argue that a handful of self-proclaimed or certified "good" agents are not the industry.)

At a time when Australia and the UK are tightening the student visa, more students are looking to study abroad and agents are hungry for new destinations beyond their traditional favorite markets. At the same time, American public institutions are looking for more international students to meet their budget cuts. This is a perfect storm for the US higher education and international student recruitment practices. The clear direction is that more American universities are using agents which in turn will lead to more students on the campus but many of these students would have used "short-cuts." The next thing we will see is the situation like Australia and the UK.

Sounds like an ominous opinion? So, here is the evidence:

June 2004, UK cracks student visa scam--"fraud involves producing fake documents claiming immigrants are studying at the Tooting colleges in South London so that they can obtain student visas giving them leave to remain in the UK."

January, 2009, Migration fraud 'rife' in overseas student scams--"...shadowy 'agents' offered fake documents for thousands of dollars to naive young Chinese and Indian students....The scam has worked because international students need documents from the colleges they attend and employers with whom they do work experience before they can apply for permanent residency, which is often what they are most interested in."

March, 2010, School is linked to visa fraud--"More than 80 people have been arrested in connection with a language school here that the government says was a front for the sale of fraudulent applications for student visas."

May, 2010, Bogus students facing global crackdown--"'Unscrupulous' recruitment agents who bring bogus overseas students into the UK are being targeted in an international initiative." (Yes, it happened in 2004 and again in 2009-10!!!)

February, 2011,Tri-Valley University: Agencies or students to blame?--"The big rush for higher education overseas, that many hope would eventually help them immigrate to 'greener pastures', has spurred the growth of number of consultancy firms." Related story. (I think Tri Valley is the classic case of "I take the credit, you take the blame").

May, 2011, China Rush to U.S. Colleges Reveals Predatory Fees for Recruits--"Some of the services provided by agents in China violate ethical standards for college admissions in the U.S. About 90 percent of recommendation letters for Chinese students are fake and 70 percent of essays aren’t written by the applicant, according to the Zinch China report."

These are only a handful of the examples where irregularities and frauds were caught. I am sure there are many more which go undetected. I again, call institutions using agents and "good" agents themselves to come forward and disclose data about student profile and performance.

So, I have stated the problem with using agents. But, then what are the alternatives/solutions? Share your thoughts.

Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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June 08, 2011

Indian Vocational and Doctoral Education: Tale of Two Extremes

Indian post-secondary education faces acute problems at two extremes. On the one extreme is the skill-based vocational education and on the other is research-based doctoral education. Both are facing serious quantitative and qualitative challenges in terms of attracting talent, delivering value and meeting the needs of the society.

According to the Ministry of Labour & Employment, 12.8 million people enter labour force annually, however, vocational training capacity is available for only 4.3 million per annum. Further, a report by the World Bank noted that over 60 percent of all graduates of vocational education system in India remained unemployed, even three years after graduation.

Likewise, doctoral education system is struggling with the issue of optimizing quality and quantity. According to the latest official statistics released by UGC, number of PhDs awarded in 2007-08 increased by only 484 as compared to previous year. In the same period, student enrollment in "Graduate" programs (undergraduate/bachelor's programs) increased by nearly 700,000. Despite such a small number of PhD graduates, the concerns of quality and rigor of training of PhDs have been growing.

India needs to addresses these challenges at the two extremes of post-secondary education. In order to address these challenges, five major changes are proposed at societal, policy and institutional levels. These changes are:
  • Recognise the importance of institutional diversity
  • Develop soft and hard infrastructure
  • Create a culture of information for prospective students
  • Collaborate with stakeholders including industry and institutions
  • Focus on quality
The proposed solutions for addressing the challenges with vocational and doctoral education are neither easy nor fast, but they are effective and far-reaching. What are your thoughts?

Here is the detailed article published in EDU magazine:

Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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