The culmination of the one-day India-United States Higher Education Summit here did not generate any ‘big bang’ announcements in terms of new agreements penned but it did set in motion the mechanisms for such exchanges in the future that might lead to more U.S. investment into the vast vocational education space in India.
Specifically, and in response to a question from The Hindu, Indian Minister for Human Resources Development Kapil Sibal ruled out top-tier universities coming to India, saying, “I do not think, personally, that we will have Harvard or Yale or Princeton coming in and setting up campuses. I doubt that very much and I do not think that that is our vision either.”
Instead, he said, the Summit, which will be followed up by U.S. Under Secretary Ann Stock leading an academic delegation to India in December and a second Summit next year, will lead to twinning arrangements, joint degree programmes.
After the Summit, top officials on the U.S. side also indicated a strong interest in helping India set up institutions based on the U.S. community college model, which could cater to the “local ecosystem” of various regions in India and boost vocational training, for example in the automobiles industry.
Mr. Sibal also echoed remarks made earlier by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when he emphasised that “fly-by-night” operators would be weeded out and not permitted to invest in the Indian higher education system. He referenced several sections of the Indian Foreign Educational Institutions Bill, including the requirement that any foreign university seeking to invest in India would have to be accredited in its home country, have a 20-year record in the industry and provide a corpus of $10 million as a condition of investment.
Yet, Mr. Sibal indicated that the $10-million-corpus rule could see some flexibility especially in the case of institutions that aimed to impart skills to India’s growing workforce. There were, however, a few concrete developments that emerged after a hectic day of consultations at Georgetown University here.
The joint statement by Mr. Sibal and Ms. Clinton emphasised in particular, that strengthening educator enrichment and exchange programmes would be possible with the Government of India indicating its intention to sponsor up to 1,500 faculty and junior scholars to leading universities and research institutes in the U.S.
While some U.S. universities might be deterred from participating in the investment push into India’s education sector due to the non-repatriation of profits implied by the Indian Foreign Educational Institutions Bill, Mr. Sibal clarified that the main point of this requirement was that the fees paid by Indian university students should not be paid out abroad as dividends to shareholders.
However, officials suggested that even not-for-profit U.S. educational institutions could gain a higher return on their capital in India than they would at home, especially as not all avenues to appropriate a portion of the gains from such investments had been closed off.