Worry over Wigan's foray in India

June 28, 1996

The British Council is worried that an ambitious bid by a further education college to establish a chain of distance-learning outposts in India could backfire.

Wigan and Leigh College has set up a company in New Delhi to build links with Indian private education and training institutions and set up business partnerships to support its franchising plans.

Advertisements have been placed in the Indian press by the company, Wigan and Leigh College (India) Ltd, which is backed by around Pounds 1 million in private money, offering "a golden investment opportunity" for anyone with up to Pounds 36,000 to spare to help run Wigan and Leigh institutes "anywhere in India".

Dominic Scott, head of education promotion for the British Council in India, has written to the college expressing concern at the form of advertising and the quality control of "such an ambitious and wide sub-franchising network".

The college has assured the council it is confident of its quality controls. But, Mr Scott added: "We will have to be vigilant, because India is an important new market for British education and one false move could harm its potential."

The promotional literature describes Wigan and Leigh as "the fifth largest further and higher educational institution in the United Kingdom" and "one of the most reputed colleges in the UK".

The college is planning to establish three centres to run distance-learning diploma-level courses in business management and finance. But it is hoping eventually to expand its operation to other centres offering degrees and MBAs.

The British Council has warned the college it will be keeping a watch on the quality assurance arrangements applied to multiple links in the franchising chain. If the college were to offer MBAs in India, up to five institutions could be involved: the college itself, its Indian company, an Indian institution, a degree-awarding university in Britain, and an accrediting institution. Wigan and Leigh MBAs are currently awarded by Southampton Institute and accredited by Nottingham Trent University.

Frank Brogan, Wigan and Leigh's vice principal for business development, said the college had a good track record of franchising in Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong.

"India will be on a much bigger scale simply because of the size of the population. Obviously we are looking carefully at how we can ensure appropriate quality assurance arrangements are in place," he said.

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