India needs $400 billion of investment in education over the next decade because it views the sector to be as important as economic growth in moving the country forward, Human Resources Minister Kapil Sibal, has told British ministers and university vice-chancellors.

Mr. Sibal has outlined India’s massive plans in education in meetings with three cabinet ministers and 16 vice-chancellors in London. He has further meetings on Friday with the heads of schools, who will brief him on taking education to the disadvantaged.

Mr. Sibal, who is on a four-day visit to Britain, feels collaboration with British universities will be key to the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s plan to build at least 30,000 colleges and between 800 and 900 universities by 2010.

The role of Britain, which along with the US is a world leader in education, will be to help deliver “quality” to Indian institutions, he told a roundtable with the vice-chancellors of key British universities.

“Our young people need access to higher education. The quality of education is strongly linked to economic growth, which is why we are reaching out to other countries,” said Mr. Sibal after signing seven agreements for collaboration with British higher education institutions.

Mr. Sibal also assured host country ministers that legislation guaranteeing foreign institutions a level playing field with the “unaided Indian private sector” will be passed this year.

“As the world emerges from a global recession, those who have invested in the skills and talents of their people will be far better equipped to create a stronger, more innovative and competitive economy,” the visiting minister said a joint statement with Pat McFadden, Britain’s minister for business, skills and innovation.

“The shared challenges that both sides face in the global knowledge economy, make collaboration in education between the UK and India more relevant than ever,” they added.