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Foreign Universities – Academic and administrative audit

India should lay down guidelines for the foreign education service providers to maintain quality standards in higher education and ensure relevance of the courses offered to the priorities of the country.

By Prof. P.S. Bisen

December 01, 2009

In this millennium, the world will witness a borderless society. Global competition and cultural transformation will become the order of the day. Free flow of information will open up new vistas in the field of conventional and profession­al areas. To maintain the competitive edge in the field of higher education, it will become necessary for India to:

  • To develop a long term vision and share it widely.
  • To generate a sense of challenge and commitment.
  • To share information and build networks.
  • To ensure quality assurance, productivity improvements and technology developments, aimed at improving the quality of life of the people.

Productivity signifies a combination of efficiency and effectiveness of a system. It is in fact the efficient and effective use of penitential resources. In a generic sense, however, it is still defined as a ratio of output to the input of various resources. It seems that at the start of the century, education policies are dominated by the idea of sale, in the shape of sophisticated public relations and marketing in the form ofelaborate information and control system. Instead, the most of important and central to the planning of educational policies should be the notion of academic productivity; per­haps even fecundity.

Just as in the case of any commercial venture, in academics too, we should evaluate productivity both in terms of quality and quantity. Being the second largest nation interms of population, India is rich in manpower resources. The pool of science and technology personnel in the country is one of the largest in the world, ranking third. However, in terms of productivity indicators (e.g. personnel per 1000 population, investment per personnel, rate of commercialisation of out­puts etc), India comes off rather poorly. When its large manpower resource is measured in term of economic and demographic standards, India turns out to be one of the mediocre in the world.

It would require a thorough in-depth evaluation of the present state of affairs in higher education to achieve higher levels of productivity. Planning must be done in order to cater to the needs of the consumers of higher education. Achieving the desired objectives in the realm of higher education will require high degree of dexterity and sophistication, strict disci­pline, high level of commitment and an equally high level of motivation for achieving the objectives from the government agencies.

Taking cognizance of the present scenario, we have to work under the following terms of references in order to plan for higher education for new millennium for the country:

  • Critical assessment of the on-going foreign study centres.
  • Critical assessment of the need and formulation of procedures and guide­lines for opening and monitoring study centres by universities within State/Country and in foreign land.
  • Examining the legal aspects for opening study centres outside the pre­scribed jurisdiction of respective universities.
  • Suggesting the relevance of collab­oration of private sector and laying down the required conditions and crite­ria for improving the economic and quality aspects of the university pro­grams.

If put in a frame of questions and answers, the picture would be as fol­lows:

Why are the foreign universities are opening centers in India?

Answer: To do business and earn money. The huge population size of India is a special attraction for any foreign country. The foreign universities are try­ing to take the advantage to fill up the vacuum since the Indian universities/colleges, from the point of infrastructure and management are not in a position to cater to the huge student population (which grows at a rate of about 15 per cent per annum). Students explore the alternative approach of getting higher education from open universities from Indiaand abroad.

Technology and liberalisation have globalised quality competitions and have encouraged free competition of products and services including higher education.

Why do students prefer to join cours­es offered by the foreign universities?

Answer: Glamour of foreign degree attracts a few clients. They consider that a degree from such universities will enhance their potential to settle abroad.

Students of Indian origin from abroad who are not getting admission in foreign universities abroad and relatives of NRIs in India perceive degrees from such institutions as a passport to settle abroad. Sometime students are forced to take admission in such institutions by default. In addition, students from other developing countries (Africa, Middle East, Southeast Asia) find it lucrative to earn a degree from such institutes in India where cost of living is relatively low.

What is standard of education in these centers?

Answer: There is no data available to find an accurate answer to the question. However, if we look into the status of the foreign universities offering degrees through study centres, it becomes apparent that most of them do not have a good rating in their own country. They recruit faculties who are not even qualified for getting an appointmentin a standard Indian col­lege. The standard of examinations is quite lower than that of Indian universi­ties.

Most of these programs are for awarding degrees. They do not provide quality education, which is an exclusive criterion for employment in the market.

Why do Indian students join higher studies in foreign universities?

Answer: They want to obtain quality edu­cation and get an employment abroad. However, they have to face a lot of hardships in order to get admission. Also, in most of the cases, admissions are self-sponsored, at least in the initial period. There are provisions for scholarships but the number may be less than the required and the competition to get it is tough too. During pre-independence era it was a usual for Indian students to go to England for higher and professional degrees. Today, Indian students are moving to all parts of the globe to pursue higher education. Conclusion - Migration of people from one place to another in the quest of education and knowledge will always take place.

Whether opening up of centers by foreign universities will deteriorate or uplift the standards of higher education?

Answer: There is no data available to us regarding the courses offered by these centers and the measures they adopt for quality assurance.

What will be the economic impact of opening and operation by foreign uni­versity centres?

Answer: There will be outflow of Indian resources. The quantity has to be worked out.

Should we put a ban on opening of study-centres by foreign universities?

Answer: Before coming to a concrete answer, let us have a look at Sethuraman case in Madras High Court. The court, in its orders dated 11/09/1997, considered the legality of operation of foreign edu­cational institutions offering substan­dard education. The court had observed that the courses and the training given by foreign educational institutions are actually helping Indian student to get better training and knowledge in order to secure employment or enrich their knowledge prima hide they are not causing any irreparable loss either to the students community or to the interest of the country. Moreover, it was stated that prima facie, there is no provision in the law to ban the opening of study centres. It was also stated in the order that so long as Indian institutions are not conferring foreign degrees to students, section 22 of UGC Act, 1956 cannot be applied. Further, all such institu­tions and colleges were directed by the court to ensure that the advertisements, brochures, prospectus issued by them should ascer­tain that the certificate/diplomas are not rec­ognised by the Government of India, State government, UGC, AICTE or AIU.

A core group of experts has recommended that it would not be in the inter­est of the country to ban or to restrict or to impede the operations of the foreign universities. However, it would be appropriate to outline flexible mecha­nisms for clearing the proposals of fo­reign education.

Criteria for suitability of operations of a foreign university in India could be:

a) relevance to education programs to the priorities of the country,

b) the reputation and accreditation of the university in its own country and university’s will­ingness to offer programs in collaboration with the recognizing Indian institutions.

It is being realised that, we can neither restrict foreign programs in India nor can we stop the transfer of money under the present conditions. Reserve Bank of India hasexpressed its difficulty to stop the remittances of course fees of bona fide cases.

Policy guidelines for foreign pro­grams in India, which the government may plan to implement either as such or in a modified form as and when neces­sary:

Consistent with the basic principles of expanding foreign education, we should lay down specific guidelines for registration of foreign education service providers. Amongst other things these may include the following:

  • Restriction on the type of legal entity that can operate,
  • Limitation on the remittances,
  • Compulsory investment of a por­tion of surplus on R & D,
  • Non-discrimination in salary structure on ground of nationality,
  • Pre-appraisal of the foreign edu­cation service provider by a designated agency,
  • Transparency in admission proce­dures,
  • Provision for seats for resident Indian,
  • Earmarking of academic/non­ academic posts for resident Indians etc.
  • The Institutions will be encour­aged to obtain comparability / equiva­lence of the award offered by them with the awards conferred in India and will also be encouraged to form association for self regulation. These guidelines will initially be issued as administrative orders and later forti­fied through specific provision inrelated legislation along with provision for penalty and forfeiture for violation / irregularities.
  • Institutions and programs offered should be properly accredited in own countries and awards recognised as equivalent to awards given for their on ­campus programs.
  • They shall avoid gross commercial­isation consistent with the principle of no profit no loss for education services laid down by Supreme Court of India.
  • They shall maintain minimum stan­dards as laid down by the concerned agency and will be subjected to external quality review by designated agency.
  • They shall furnish all information about operation in order to maintain transparency.
  • There shall be a mandatory registra­tion of foreign education service providers with a registering authority at such terms and conditions and following such procedure as may be provided.
  • Operations of the foreign educa­tional institutions should enable positive cross cultural exchanges and not have deleterious effect on Indian culture and ethos.
  • These institutions should be open for participation to all the citizens of India irrespective of caste, class and creed.
  • The RBI should review the proce­dure of account transactions on tie-up arrangements with foreign universities.

Should we plan to open centers abroad?

Answer: Yes. It will provide competitive environment to improve our internal efficiency and external goodwill. This move will provide a testing ground for Indian values and culture. It will also help generating resources for quality higher education. However, before taking a concrete decision in this regard, we must realize that such centers will be a success only if we can deliver quality education.

To plan for quality education in a vast country like India in this era of globalisation, there is a need for a two-pronged evaluation of higher education - academic audit and administrative audit – which will tell us:

  • Where we are vis-à-vis the other countries in terms of higher education,
  • What are the nagging factors that have acted as impediments in development of higher education in India and
  • How to eliminate the factors and plan for assurance of quality education for the present millennium to sustain our quest for knowledge and academic productiv­ity.

The result of the academic and administrative audit will act as guidelines in the allocation of funds and as an aid to the evaluation of higher education insti­tutions at all levels. In essence, quality assurance is about ensuring that standards are specified and met consistently for a product or service. In its simplest form, quality in university teaching would be that which satisfies the prima­ry customer – the student.

(It must be noted here that in an obvious sense, students consume or experience teaching. But those who have to be satisfied include the funding agencies, employers, government and the society as a whole. All of these may in some sense be identified as customers of higher education.)

The author is a former member of the University Grants Commission, New Delhi and is a former Vice-Chancellor of Jiwaji University, Gwalior. At present, he is Chairman of the Vikrant Group of Institutions.

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