More than 50 foreign universities have evinced interest in opening their campuses in India, and are waiting for the passage of the Foreign Educational Institutions Bill. One of them is the U.K.-based Middlesex University. The Vice -Chancellor of the university, Michael Driscoll, spells out his plans for India.

The prestigious Middlesex University in the United Kingdom is one among nearly 50 foreign universities waiting to open its campus in India. With the Union Ministry of Human Resources Development making it clear that it would take forward the Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations, Maintenance of Quality and Prevention of Commercialisation) Bill, many renowned higher educational institutions abroad have evinced interest in opening its campus in the country.

Middlesex University is one of the popular higher education destinations for students around the world. In an exclusive interaction with The Hindu-EducationPlus in Kochi, Michael Driscoll, Vice -Chancellor of the university, said that “Middlesex University will be delighted to come to India, if the government green signals its request.” Prof. Driscoll said that the university’s mission “is to provide opportunities to people to get in to higher education”. Excerpts from the interview:

The Indian government is planning to open its doors to foreign educational institutions to launch campuses here. Could you elaborate on the university’s plans to set up a campus in the country?

I think the Indian government is just about to open up the opportunities for international universities like Middlesex to deliver here. That will help ensure that people have access to university education. India faces the same problems that many emerging economies face. Although the economy is going well, the governments are unable to keep pace in terms of opening new universities and expanding universities. You have to increase the number of universities. How is that going to happen? It’s very difficult. The only way is to liberalise the system and encourage development. Young people in India will welcome that. The only option is to go abroad. It’s costly. A way to provide mass participation in higher education in India is to find a growing system.

There will be a role to be played by private and international universities. We are a not-for-profit university. We have no shareholders. Everything that we take from student as fee or government grants goes into the education.

Our mission is to provide opportunities to people to get into higher education. Most important is not to deny opportunities for higher education. We are working very closely with existing partners like JSS in Mysore. The venture in Mauritius is also a joint venture with JSS. They have also a campus in Noida. We are going to start providing Middlesex programmes on that campus from September 2010. We are already beginning to develop those partnerships. We have started working with higher educational institutions for the benefit of partners and most importantly for the benefit of students.

Middlesex University has expanded its horizons by reaching out to many countries across the world. How do you plan to develop Middlesex education abroad?

We have a small campus business school developing in Hong Kong. We have relationships with Xinhua University in China where we have twinning programmes in business management and IT and so on. We have accreditation and franchise relationships with universities in Eastern Mediterranean. We have 2,500 students in Athens, 2000 in Cairo. We are also in talk with potential partners for opening campuses in places like Uganda, Kenya, and Malta. So it’s developing very quickly. That is the growth we are looking for increasingly outside of the U.K. We have a wholly operational campus in Dubai. There are lot of Indian expatriates working in Dubai. Students in India are also coming to Dubai. It’s cheaper than London. At the Dubai campus, students take exactly the same courses, curriculum and same exam as in London. It’s not a different version. It’s identical to what we do in London. It’s a bit warmer than London. Apart from that, it’s very similar. People who may not be able to go to London for three years can go to Dubai. It’s a bit cheaper.

Competition among international universities in delivering higher education has gone up considerably, with many nations trying to woo students from various countries including India. What are the factors that help Middlesex University in attracting students from across the globe?

We are not Oxford. We are not Cambridge. We are clear about what we are. We are not providing a brand that is elitist. Universities measure themselves by the people they turn away. But our ethos is to try to expand opportunities and not to reject people.

That is the driving principle. But the important thing is we offer high quality British degrees. I think the British B.A., B.Sc. and the Master’s programmes are highly regarded around the world. Middlesex has an exemplary record in terms of quality assurance in our teaching. We have an absolutely outstanding report in the last institutional audit by the quality assurance agency in U.K., which regulates higher education and audits teaching. So what we can offer students essentially is excellent quality degrees with curriculum that is relevant to the sort of careers that they might see themselves going into. We also work closely with employers. Most of the courses are of the vocational type. And they are accredited by professional agencies. Growth has been very rapid. Applications this year are up probably over 100 per cent. So it’s been very rapid. The number of acceptances we had is only 40 per cent. We have 22,000 students on our campus in London. About one in five is an international student.

Which are the most sought after courses by Indian students in Middlesex University?

You won’t be surprised, it is IT. We have lot of students who want to do specialist IT courses. They are very popular. Beyond that, business and management are very popular. Then we get a lot of students doing a wide range of courses like social sciences and health sciences. But computing and business are the two main ones. For India, it is computing. For china, it is business. The relationship is slightly different.