3 international partnership trends with Indian higher education institutions

Foreign collaborations with Indian higher education institutions gained a new wave of enthusiasm and excitement with the recent visit of President Obama. This included some major announcements including India-US education summit for next year. It was further propelled by high power delegations of foreign university leaders including the one led by Institute of International Education (IIE) and U.S.-India Business Council (USIBC) and an international conference on higher education organized by FICCI.

Recently some major announcements related to academic collaborations also contributed to positive sentiments:

  • Carnegie Mellon with Shiv Nadar Foundation to offer undergraduate programs in mechanical engineering and electrical and computer engineering. Degree will be awarded by CMU.
  • Indiana University with O.P. Jindal Global University collaborated on several fronts including research, exchanges, executive education, recruitment and conferences for business, law, and public and environmental affairs. However, all of these are non-degree awarding relationships.
  • Strathclyde University with SKIL to start with a Master in Management program to be awarded by Strathclyde. Later they plan to offer 3-year BBA and 1-year MBA programs.

There are three key trends shaping up in international collaborations with India:

  • # 1. Business management programs remain hot favorite:

Business management had been favorite for several interrelated reasons. Business management departments are more entrepreneurial in general and with the increasing importance of India in global economy, foreign B-schools are very much interested engaging with India. Some of the early models of success models namely, ISB and GLIM, have also created a wave of “me-too” kind of aspiration among new programs. Also, business programs command a higher pricing power and prestige and hence Indian partners are also investing more in this segment. However, business management segment is becoming commoditized and there are more opportunities of success and long-term differentiation in other segments including education and liberal arts.

  • # 2. non-US will become more attractive:

Indians perceive US higher education to be of very high standards in terms of quality. Most Indians would prefer to go to a second-tier US institution as compared to a first-tier European institution. However, with the more aggressive outreach by some non-US institutions, perceptions are expected to shift. Recently, a delegation of Canadian universities led by Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) visited India and also Spanish universities consortia announced partnerships. UK universities had been early movers in terms of starting off-shore campuses in India. They were bold enough to not pursue the AICTE approval route or wait for passage of foreign universities bill. Leeds MET, Lancaster University and De Montfort University are already offering British degrees in India. Apart from competitive pressures, the budget cuts and immigration reforms, will push other UK universities to become more open to establish partnerships and off-shore campuses.

  • # 3. non-degree collaborations will emerge stronger:

The recent announcement by Indiana University received good media attention, however, it is a non-degree collaboration involving exchanges. This trend is expected to pick up where institutions will attempt to forge partnerships as a signal of quality and campus internationalization. This also presents a good learning opportunity involved on both sides with limited risks and investments. This trend will be more dominant with among leading US universities who want to engage with India but want to be cautious about their reputational and financial risks involved. Yale’s India initiative is also along these non-degree level partnerships and offshore campus is not an option.

The Economist cited a study by the British Council and the Economist Intelligence Unit and noted that “the biggest new market for western universities is likely to be India.” Undoubtedly, India offers immense opportunities, however, the last mile problem remains in terms of execution challenges and sustainability.

Any thoughts/comments/experiences to share?
Here are some related postings:
Failure of foreign campuses: Recognize the importance of student-decision making
Approaches for identifying international partners

Dr Rahul Choudaha

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