Students of a Madurai college come out strongly against the proposed Foreign Universities Bill.

The move to permit entry of foreign universities and educational institutions into India has become a contentious issue. Even as the Central Government is on a reform-spree amidst huge opposition, the proposed Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations) Bill 2010 too comes into focus.

What do students think about this Bill? A group of undergraduate and postgraduate students of Lady Doak College in Madurai were invited for a free-wheeling chat to share their thoughts.

Most of the students described the idea of allowing foreign universities to set up campuses in India as “anti-national” as it would pave the way to foreigners asserting themselves in India once again. Their message to the Government of India, Parliament and the Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal was loud and clear. “Listen to the middle and lower class people also. We form the majority in India. Please don’t sell India and don’t treat education as a product for sale,” they screamed.

Ten students from various departments of the college were chosen at random. There was feeble support for entry of foreign universities. The participants were M. Boomika, S. Pachiammal, K. Megala, B. Anjali, V. Uthira, J. Sharon, G. Shasonam, D.A. Catherine Angel, Vaishali and R. Nithya.

May dominate

Meghala, a postgraduate student of social work, and Boomika of B.A. II year social sciences, fumed at the very thought of allowing foreign educational institutions in India. “You have to develop Indian education rather than allowing them inside. Once foreign universities come here, they will dominate our country and education is one field which should never be opened up. It will lead to an inferiority complex and cultural problems,” they argued.

The LDC students, however, did agree that a lot needed to be done to improve India’s higher education system but at the same time “we should not outsource education.”

Inferiority complex

Pachiammal and Uthira of B.Sc III year said the level of foreign participation must end with youth exchange programmes and collaborations. “Adopt, adapt, but don’t sell our country. It is not the rich people alone who matter. Foreign universities will negatively impact accessibility of higher education and our universities will lose their morale,” other students in the group concurred.

The reasoning from students was that it would make Indians slaves in their own country if hundreds of other culture campuses came to India. “They may bring technology and improve quality, but sectors such as education and health must be with the government. Commercialisation should be opposed,” said Anjali of B.Sc (Physics) III year and Sharon of M.A. (English) II year.

“Think of our rural people. Will not our universities and colleges lose sheen when students get attracted with advertisements of foreign universities? Any amount of regulation will not be useful once they come here. In the long run, Indian culture will vanish,” Boomika and Vaishali said.

For quality?

A common question raised was why should India be so obsessed with foreign universities and foreign investments. “Will the U.S. or U.K. allow our universities in their countries? In the name of quality and standards, let us not sell India. Their entry will be a disaster for our country. Do what Indians want,” they said in one voice.

Calling for logical reasoning, Shasanam of B.Com II year and Catherine Angel of B.A. (English) III year said the quality of teaching in Indian colleges and universities would go up if good qualified candidates came to the teaching profession.

The students pleaded for application-oriented education, smart classrooms, hi-tech learning and communication skills. “The foreign universities issue must be seen from the prism of patriotism because in the long run, India will lose its cultural identity. If education becomes business, millions of Indians will lose out and we will be back to colonial era,” these students cautiond.