The Union government needs to have an open dialogue with the managements of private universities before allowing foreign education providers to enter the country, said G. Viswanathan, chancellor of VIT University.
Delivering the Nani Palkhivala Memorial Lecture on the topic “The Business of Education” here on Saturday, Mr.Viswanathan said that the cost of education could shoot up if foreign providers were allowed to offer higher education in India.
He pointed to the example of Qatar and Lebanon, where he said foreign universities were offering programmes at more than 20 times the price of a local ones. “I don’t want to oppose foreign education in India, but the government must consider what will happen,” he said. “Before making a final decision, I would request the government to talk to us.”
However, he also noted that the government may allow for-profit educational ventures if it decided to let in foreign players. Currently, private colleges and universities can only be set up by educational trusts or not-for-profit companies. “If for-profit is allowed, we may get a level playing field then,” he said.
Mr.Viswanathan advocated the voucher system, which would involve the government paying for students to learn at any institution of their choice, whether private or public.
More universities are needed in India, to bridge the huge research gap between India and the developed world. Infrastructure, faculty and research funding need to be improved, in order to increase the number of academic papers, journals, and patents coming out of Indian universities, he said.
Noting that India’s entire research expenditure for a year was only 5 per cent of Harvard University’s annual research budget of Rs.25,000 crore, he urged a culture of donations to educational institutions, especially by their alumni.