Mumbai attacks could hit overseas partnerships

December 11, 2008

Although it pales in comparison with the loss of life, there are fears that the Mumbai terror attacks may damage links between India's growing university sector and the West.

According to an Australia-based expert, institutions in his country are likely to review their activities in India, particularly in relation to student recruitment, in light of the changed security situation.

A delegation from Melbourne's Monash University was in Mumbai on the day of the attacks. Twenty staff, including vice-chancellor Richard Larkins, had travelled there to sign a research deal with the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay.

The collaboration will focus on mutually beneficial areas such as the development of sustainable water resources, and is one of a growing number of partnerships between universities in India and in countries including Australia, the UK and US.

It is not yet certain whether links of this type will be directly affected by the attacks, but Roger Peacock, founding head of Australia Education International, told The Australian newspaper that institutions were likely to be "much more cautious" about sending staff to India now. This was particularly true for activities such as marketing, he said, predicting that universities would rely more heavily on local recruitment agents to pull in students.

While Australia has about 85,000 Indian students at its universities, the UK is also a major player in the market, with about 25,000 students from India.

This figure is expected to increase rapidly in the next few years, with a British Council report published last week suggesting the number could more than double to 60,000 by 2015.

With universities in developed countries increasingly reliant on overseas student income, any threat to the flow of students would be a major concern.

However, Tim Gore, director of the Centre for Indian Business at the University of Greenwich, said he believed most universities with links in India would adopt a "business-as-usual" approach.

He said: "India is very internationalised and very well integrated in higher education, particularly through its links in research, and it is the intention of terrorists to disrupt that activity. We have to keep this in proportion."

john.gill@tsleducation.com.

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