‘The UK must go to India’, new British Council report urges

Thursday 13 February 2014

A ground-breaking new study has revealed the huge opportunities for UK education providers in India over the next ten years – but also sets out the competition from other nations in establishing themselves as partners of choice in India’s drive for progress.

The new report ‘Understanding India – the future of higher education and opportunities for international co-operation’ draws from over fifty in-depth interviews with higher education leaders, academics and policy makers in the country.The report has been produced as the Indian government’s ambitious 12th five-year plan for their education sector, which attempts the biggest transformation of higher education in the nation’s history, begins to take effect. As several pieces of legislation work their way through the Indian parliament, the report identifies the four broad challenges facing Indian higher education, and the clear opportunities for UK education institutions and private providers to support the Indian HE sector in their mission to reform and expand the system.

Lynne Heslop, the British Council’s Senior Education Advisor in India, and author of the report, said “The growth of the Indian higher education market has been well documented over the last few years, but we wanted to examine this extraordinary policy environment and the reality of these reforms from the perspective of those operating within the Indian system. Several big reforms are about to begin to have an effect, and it is clear that the UK’s education providers have a great opportunity to work with Indian providers and establish long term partnerships for mutual benefit. But this will require the UK sector to come to and reach out to India in wider and more diverse partnerships. More UK students and faculty need to come to India. 

“India will have the largest tertiary enrolment in the world by 2020, and is a hugely important part of the future graduate talent pipeline - we can’t sit back and rely on this talent to continue coming to the UK. Other countries are also looking to capitalise on these new opportunities, and the UK will miss out unless our sector can increasingly engage with India in India” Ms Heslop said.

While the UK benefits from large numbers of ambitious Indian students seeking to study in UK institutions, this growth is dropping and becoming increasingly unpredictable.  The report found that inward recruitment to the UK does not represent the best opportunity for the UK to engage with India in the long term.

The report identifies current and emerging areas for UK-India collaboration across the Indian HE sector as a whole, and finds that at present, UK engagement is too narrowly focussed.

• The Indian institutions which educate 97.5% of Indian students have very few links with the UK. 

• Although there are successful schemes in place for the UK sector to work with senior Indian academics and researchers, the perception was that early career researchers and students were lacking opportunities. 

• There is a clear demand from Indian universities for UK students and faculty to spend time in India and frustration over the one-way flow of Indian students to the UK. 

• The low quality of teaching and learning is a key challenge to Indian ambitions, and the UK has yet to be substantially involved in this issue through partnerships and digital learning technologies. 

• There is strong desire from the Indian sector for collaboration in the social sciences, humanities and arts, as well as in STEM disciplines.

• Whilst the UK sector has been working with Indian central government institutions, the real growth opportunities are likely to come from State governments, as the Indian education sector becomes more devolved out of New Delhi.

Richard Everitt, the British Council’s Director of Education in India, said “The Indian government is rightly trying to capitalise on their demographic opportunity with hugely ambitious plans to increase their higher education system’s capacity to support 40 million university students and create 500 million skilled workers by 2020. This can only happen through greater international engagement, and opportunities for long-term shared benefits are immense. But many countries recognise this, and are willing to engage. If the UK is serious about having a productive 21st century relationship with India, then education is the sector through which we can build that relationship.”

The report will be launched today at Senate House, University of London, at a reception attended by a delegation of Indian higher education leaders. The guest of honour will be Dr. David Landsman OBE Director TATA Ltd UK.

Notes to Editor

The report is available here: http://www.britishcouncil.org/education/ihe/knowledge-centre/policy-thought-leadership/report-understanding-india

For more information, please contact Tim Sowula, Senior Press Officer, British Council on +44207 389 4871 or tim.sowula@britishcouncil.org

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