India plans university for Third World

September 6, 1996

NEW DELHI. India plans to set up a university in New Delhi for students from developing countries on the lines of Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow.

It is the brainchild of Inder Kumar Gujral, the new foreign minister, who, as India's ambassador in Moscow in the 1980s, was greatly impressed by the idea of providing access to higher education to Third World students who cannot afford the more expensive Western universities.

In the heady days of Indo-Soviet friendship, India alone sent hundreds of students to Lumumba University every year. A joint venture of the foreign office and the education ministry, the proposed university is intended to be both a political gesture to the Third World, and an attempt to meet the growing demand from Asian, South Asian and African countries for seats in Indian universities.

Mr Gujral says that on a recent visit to Malaysia he received "innumerable" requests for more seats for Malaysian students in Indian medical colleges. Similar requests have come from other "friendly" countries.

The foreign office has only 200-odd seats at its discretion to offer to foreign students under exchange programmes, whereas demand is many times more especially for professional courses. A court ruling limiting the entry of foreign students to 15 per cent of the number of seats available in a college has made things more difficult.

Although the foreign office sees the proposal as a significant foreign policy initiative, the education ministry is less enthusiastic. Officials say that when they are struggling to find money for the existing universities such ideas are far from their minds.

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