Internationalisation in India ‘operating on a shoestring budget’

Director of Indian Institute of Technology Bombay says universities in India are improving but progress will be slow despite government initiatives

October 20, 2018
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Moving slowly: it will ‘take time’ for Indian institutions to become world-class

Indian universities’ internationalisation strategies are still operating on “shoestring” budgets and it will “take time” for the top institutions in the country to reach world-class status, a sector leader has warned.

The Indian government has announced ambitious plans to improve the quality of its university sector in recent months, including a new Institutes of Eminence (IoE) initiative aimed at transforming select universities into world-class teaching and research institutions, and a Study in India scheme to increase the number of international students from 47,000 to 200,000 in the next five years.

The government said that each public university participating in the IoE scheme would receive 10 billion rupees (£110 million) over five years. It has also approved an investment of Rs 150 crores (£16.5 million) in the internationalisation programme for 2018-19 and 2019-20.

Devang Khakhar, director of the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, which was selected as one of six Institutes of Eminence in July, said that universities in the country were “slowly getting there” in terms of internationalisation, but admitted that attracting strong applicants was still a challenge.

Professor Khakhar added that his own institution – which is home to around 10,000 students – has only three members of staff working in its international office, which is in charge of global university partnerships as well as international student admissions.

“It’s such a shoestring operation that…there’s no serious marketing that’s done,” he said.

Professor Khakhar acknowledged that these issues would improve as a result of the country’s new Study in India scheme, which he predicted would result in “more and more public institutions setting up international offices so that they can welcome students”. And he said that IIT Bombay itself would be able to enhance its own internationalisation efforts as a result of its new IoE status – a title that he said is set to increase its budget by about 20 per cent.

However, he warned academics against being too optimistic about India’s higher education progress.

“If you look at the league tables of top universities, the ones that are at the top are there because of the outstanding research that they’re doing. That kind of research and that volume of research requires huge funding. So it’s going to take time,” he said.

He added that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which was ranked fourth in the latest THE World University Rankings, has a budget about 20 times the size of IIT Bombay, which was ranked in the 401-500 band, but questioned whether it “makes sense for India to invest huge amounts” in research.

“It may not make sense to increase the budget of IIT Bombay by 20 times. There are so many other things that the money can be spent on in India – we also have to be careful about how much we demand,” he said.

ellie.bothwell@timeshighereducation.com

POSTSCRIPT:

Print headline: ‘Shoestring budgets’ slow India’s HE progress

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