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

August 26, 2014

Will Indian higher education move from stifling regulation to authentic quality assurance?

Indian higher education is in a state of flux due to an incoherent policy framework. For example, recent scrapping of the four-year degree program at the University of Delhi also affected private universities which were trying to bring four-year liberal arts program in India. What is appalling is that quality assurance framework in India is not only archaic and complex, but also lacks the capability to distinguish wheat from the chaff. While private higher education has its own challenges of quality, there are models of excellence that need to be showcased and encouraged to uplift the quality in private sector. Here is a guest blog from Dr. Vidya Rajiv Yeravdekar, head of Symbiosis International University-one of the premier private deemed-university-on unfair treatment of private higher education in India. She asks why toughest regulations are designed for private higher education which receives no funding while there is no oversight of public institutions which get all their finances from government? - Dr. Rahul Choudaha Vidya Rajiv Yeravdekar is an eminent Indian educationalist. She is renowned for her leadership in educational policy, governance, and research. A member of the Central Advisory Board of Education and former member of the University Grants Commission, she has resolutely advocated for driving higher education forward as a top agenda item. Of special interest to her is the subject of internationalization of higher education. She is also the leader of Symbiosis International University, which is at the forefront of internationalization of higher education in the country.

When will Saraswati (Goddess of learning) win Freedom?

In 1947, India won political freedom—Independence from British colonial rule. In 1991, the country won economic freedom, with the advent of the LPG trio—liberalisation, privatisation, and globalisation. We have come a long way since then, but India is yet to win educational freedom.

First things first, we can only reap what we sow—India’s public expenditure in higher education as percentage of gross domestic product is a low 0.6%. For this reason alone, it is important to open the system to competition from non-Governmental sectors. The advancement of private higher education in India has been driven by a very compelling demand in the higher education demographic, and not public policy.

The last decade has witnessed phenomenal growth of the private sector. In the year 2002, India had nearly 4400 professional colleges, of which about 3150—which account for more than 70%--were in the private sector. In the year 2012, almost 64% of the higher educational institutions were in the private sector. This growth is reflected in other parameters as well: As much as 59% of student enrolment in higher education system is in the private sector.

India has four distinct types of higher education institutions: public universities, which are established by the central government through acts of the parliament; state universities, which are established by state legislation; third, private or “self-financed” universities, which are called “deemed-to-be-universities” and are governed by section three of the University Grants Commission (UGC) Act; and private universities in states, established through the Private University Act.

The commonly called private universities do not receive a single rupee for development from the Indian Government. They subsist on the revenues that they gather from tuition fees. Be that as it may, students, who are the most important stake holders and beneficiaries of the higher education system, clearly prefer private universities to public. This is mainly because the private universities offer more with respect to enhancement of the employability aspect of the student’s repertoire. Moreover, private universities generally offer choices in programs that are career oriented such as engineering, management, and architecture, compared with public universities, which mainly focus on “general education” programs in humanities and social sciences.

Notwithstanding the above, the Indian Government reserves its most stringent regulatory measures for the private institutions. Even more bizarre is that public universities, which receive government funding to the tune of millions of rupees, are allowed to operate with only minimal regulations. In an ironic twist, public intuitions, which do not enrol students to full capacity, are left off scot-free, whereas private universities, which are highly selective in their student intake in spite of higher tuition, are burdened with inordinately heavy regulatory mechanisms. It is distressing to note the paternalistic and directorial stance that the regulatory bodies assume in dealing with the “nuts and bolts” of academic processes. 

The recent nation-wide debates and protests over the University Grants Commission’s stand on four-year undergraduate courses is a case in point. The fact of the Commission’s attack on some such programs, without a modicum of investigation into the structure and components of the programs and the manner in which it was carried out, with shocking disregard for the students and institutions can only be considered worrying. 

Also curious is the case that the regulatory agencies come down the hardest on institutions that enjoy solid reputations for quality and integrity: the IITs, IISc, Symbiosis International University, and Shiv Nadar University. Indeed, it is because these institutions have enjoyed greater autonomy that they tower over the legion of low-achieving state universities, which are the way they are partly because they enjoy far less institutional self-governance. One wonders what conceivable purpose is served by the government agencies’ harmful interference, other than, of course, providing the bureaucrats an opportunity to make a show of being engaged with the higher education system. Carl Lewis’ thought comes to mind: “The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts.”

A long standing debate in India relates to the extent to which the Indian Government be duly and justly allowed to intervene in the supervision of the higher education institutions. Increasingly, it is being suggested that the “invisible hand of the market” be allowed more power to modulate the higher education system through the free play of the rising and dipping arms of the scale of demand and supply. It is time that India wakens to the advancements taking place to its East and West. The judgement of quality of education rests with the student, as much as it does with other entities. More and more, it is being stressed that student perceptions and judgement is an important, albeit neglected, marker of institutional quality. Similarly, it is also being put forth the world over that the boundaries between public and private are superfluous and must be relegated to the background. The present day student is well-informed and discriminating, guided as he is by legion of sources, both official and otherwise.

It is about time that the “licence Raj” be made to give way to regulatory methods that allow for authentic quality assurance. It is hoped that in the manner in which Bharat Mata (Mother India) got freedom in 1947 and Laxmi Mata (Goddess of wealth) got freedom in 1991, Saraswati Mata (Goddess of learning), too, will get freedom in the twenty-first century.
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August 23, 2014

Transnational education: what works, what doesn’t? EAIE session

The future of transnational education (or cross-border) is quite uncertain and an overarching question arises for institutional leaders – are your transnational education strategies future-ready? Are they adaptable and sustainable for a complex environment which is primed to be disrupted by learning models like MOOCs? Do your strategies involve assessing the market demand and adapting to the emergence of a new segment of ‘glocal’ students? How do you plan to de-risk your infrastructure-heavy branch campus strategies?

In addition, the issues of quality are always threatening the growth and innovation in TNE. In my article in the recent issue of EAIE Forum magazine, ‘A question of quality in transnational education’, I ask how traditional definitions, expectations and models of quality assurance will be able to respond to an expanding scale and increasing complexity of TNE activities.
TNE is growing not only in numbers but also in complexity. This makes the future unpredictable and raises the importance of informed strategic choices. How can institutions develop informed and adaptive strategies to manage the risks and maximize the opportunities with TNE without compromising its mission? How can senior international officers make strategic choices about best-fit models, markets and partners which are expected to be not only responsive but also need to be impactful within limited budgets.

At the EAIE Conference in Prague, I am chairing a session entitled ‘Transnational education strategies: what works, what doesn’t?’ (Thursday, Sept 18, 13:30-14:30). It will discuss above questions and more from the perspective of three panelists who will bring diverse perspectives on TNE:  
  • Robert Coelen, Vice President, Stenden University of Applied Sciences, Netherlands
  • Nigel Healey, Pro- Vice Chancellor, Nottingham Trent University, UK 
  • Eugene Sebastian, Director Global Initiatives, Monash University.
What are your thoughts? Share on EAIE LinkedIn Group
Author Dr. Rahul Choudaha
I'm also chairing two more sessions at EAIE
Metrics of Success in International Student Recruitment
New Ways of Learning: Digital Hype or Cultural Shift?
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August 10, 2014

Book: Internationalisation of Higher Education and Global Mobility

student mobility and future of global higher education
Internationalisation of Higher Education and Global Mobility is a recent book which brings together perspectives and reflections of several experts in international higher education.

The book is edited by Bernhard Streitwieser, PhD Assistant Professor of International Education The George Washington University Washington, DC.

The book is organized in three major sections. It starts with big picture trends on internationalization and then focuses on the regional perspectives and finally, concludes with institutional experiences.

In the opening chapter, Challenges and Opportunities for Global Student Mobility in the Future: A Comparative and Critical Analysis, I and Hans de Wit take a deeper drive into the nature and drivers of global mobility and how the future of mobility may look like. We look into the dramatic effect of two external events--9/11 and global financial crisis of 2008--on destination countries along with the demographic changes and economic development at the source countries to take a comparative perspective on the mobility patterns.

It includes expert views from
  • Darla K. Deardorff raises several questions about the rationales for engaging in internationalization in her chapter--Why Engage in Mobility? Key Issues within Global Mobility. She argues for the role of research in gaining a deeper understanding of outcomes, impact, access, virtual mobility and a changing global landscape.  
  • Jane Knight argues in Three Generations of Crossborder Higher Education that cross-border education is now in its third generation characterized by competitiveness-driven commercial model and it has moved away from a development cooperation framework and a collaborative/partnership model.
  • Bernd Wächter in his chapter Recent Trends in Student Mobility in Europe takes a closer look into the diversity of mobility patterns in Europe. He illustrates the need for better data collection and analysis to deconstruct the complexity and nature of mobility in Europe.
  • Anthony C. Ogden, Bernhard Streitwieser & Emily R. Crawford in their chapter Empty Meeting Grounds: Situating Intercultural Learning in US Education Abroad critique the traditional programming components of US study abroad and argue for a change in the way transformational learning experiences are conceptualized and assessed for their impact.
In sum, the book is a fine collection of diverse, insightful and critical perspectives from higher education experts on the changing nature of internationalization and global mobility.
Author Rahul Choudaha, PhD
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August 03, 2014

Statistics on enrollment of international students in STEM programs in the US universities

Demand for STEM programs among international students have been consistently increasing as the pathways for career opportunities in the US have been expanding with more jobs and availability of additional 17-months for students on Optional Practical Training (OPT) in STEM programs. In addition, industry demand for new fields like cyber security and data science and pressure to expand new sources of revenue has let to launch/expansion of programs by universities.  

Given below are three insightful slides from SEVP of USICE on enrollment pattern of STEM students in the US.

The statistics reveal concentration by source countries, field of studies and destination states. This poses challenges for institutions not in the natural destination states to attract international students and for institutions in the top states to diversify the source countries of students.  

1. More than one-third (35%) of all international students in the US are enrolled in STEM programs. Nearly one-sixth (15%) of all international students in the US are enrolled in "Engineering" programs.

2. Nearly one-third (31%) of all international students in STEM programs are enrolled in only three states--California, New York and Texas. Interestingly, nearly 45% of all international students in Indiana, Texas and Michigan are enrolled in STEM programs. 

3. Three out of four students (78%) from India is enrolled in STEM program--highest proportion than any other country. Saudi Arabia and China are more STEM-focused than Japan and South Korea. 

Author Dr. Rahul Choudaha 
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