By Manjula Rao

11 June 2014 - 15:53

'India will soon overtake China as the largest population in the world.' Photo by McKay Savage under Creative Commons licence.
'India will soon overtake China as the largest population in the world.' Photo ©

McKay Savage, licensed under CC BY 2.0 and adapted from the original.

What should British universities know when working with their Indian counterparts? Manjula Rao of the British Council in India explains.

India's higher education is on the cusp of massive change

India will soon overtake China as the largest population on earth, and when it does, half its population will be under 30. By the time of the World Cup in 2022, India will provide around a quarter of the world’s workforce. The pipeline of young talent needs training to support India's economy and social cohesion.

However, unlike China, India has under-invested in higher education -- now characterised by an insular, unreformed system, largely ignoring the demands of globalisation. As a result, just a handful of India’s 650 universities enter Asia’s top-ranked 300.

The next decade will likely see changes of a scale unprecedented in India’s history. The new majority government is the first in a generation to have the power and mandate for change. It's still early to predict specific policies. But it is likely that Modi’s administration will devolve resources and decisions to India’s 29 states, merge existing national regulatory and funding bodies, and support private sector growth. We wait to see the stance on the much-stalled Foreign Education Providers’ bill, first introduced in 2010, that could open the world’s largest education market by allowing foreign universities to set up campuses and offer degrees in India.

The UK is serious about teaming up with Indian universities

The UK government is significantly increasing its investment into international educational partnerships. It's extending the UK-India Education and Research Initiative into its third phase, increasing Chevening scholarships funding, doubling the GREAT Education campaign and investing in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) partnerships with the new Newton Fund.

The growth of Indian higher education also offers potential opportunities for UK students to study in India, which will have a profound effect on how employable they will be in the global job market, once they graduate.

Such partnerships cover many areas -- from joint student mobility programmes to faculty exchange and joint research. Universities know that co-authored papers receive higher citations, and international collaborations boost rankings. A partnership with an Indian institution can be a more cost-effective way of attracting Indian students to the UK than scatter-gun marketing.

New partnerships between universities can be fragile -- they need nurturing

Setting up a university partnership is traditionally a hit-and-miss affair. It's often stimulated by personal links founded at academic conferences, or online forums. Partnerships are not without risks. They require consistent leadership, commitment and shared institutional values and status.

India is also a good example of how competitive international collaboration in higher education has become. To keep abreast of this rapidly changing country, there are now more than 50 UK universities with representatives in India -- keeping their partnerships warm, collecting alumni data, eyeing the competition, and scanning the horizon for new partnership opportunities.

In short, a combination of increasing demand from India’s ambitious and growing young population, plus the scale of higher education reform that's needed, equals the largest opportunity in the world for UK universities and education businesses.

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