Sibal’s FOREIGN EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS BILL: Mere “Rhetoric”?

rhetoric |ˈretərik|
noun
the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, esp. the use of figures of speech and other compositional techniques.
language designed to have a persuasive or impressive effect on its audience, but is often regarded as lacking in sincerity or meaningful content.
.
I admire the enthusiasm of India’s Minister of HRD, Mr Kapil Sibal. Articulate, Suave and extremely qualified… Qualified more as a lawyer, spokesperson for his party and certainly as the type of politician that we need for “Urban” India. He did initiate a whiff of fresh air to the MHRD taking over from Mr Arjun Singh, who was neither Suave nor Articulate though still extremely qualified as a seasoned politician for the non-Urban populace.
.
I also tend to relate to Sibal’s urbanism having lived only in cities, and having been educated at institutions no less. One with congress leaning (yes, not-hiding-this even on my facebook profile), I do instinctively become an advocate for Nehruvian and Rajivic directions that India has taken. “Desh ka neta kaisa ho, Rahul Gandhi jaisa ho” is my slogan too. Rahul is my candidate for the next Prime Minister not just of India but also Bharat and hence tend to expect all Ministers also to act as representatives of all sections of Indians, Urban and non-Urban. It was with this “bias” that delayed my criticism of the Women Bill and also completely silenced the amplification of the natural grumbling on the proposed abolition of the CBSE’s 10th level boards.
.
However, as the policies being hurriedly pushed under a 100 days agenda relates more and more to my expertise, I wish I had a role to play in the designs of India’s education policies.
.
A case to point is the FOREIGN EDUCATION INSTITUTION (REGULATION OF ENTRY AND OPERATIONS) BILL 2010.
.
I know that the bill is not through yet and may not find it easy to get the nod even of the Rajya Sabha considering that unlike the Women Bill, this doesnot have the support of the BJP and certainly not of the Left. Hence, its sailing through both the houses in a jiffy may only remain a Sibal-dream. Even if it is passed, it will require some further compromises diluting its attractiveness to even the non-Ivy League institutions.
.
Since, the final form of the regulation will only be known in the months ahead, I am refraining from the specifics. Hence am analysing the usefulness of the bill only from the objective that it hopes to achieve. Objectives, unlike the implementation, are already known.  If the expectations are hyped, then disappointment will follow at some time. Achievement is not in getting a legislation in place for the sake of change. Kapil Sibal’s ability as a lawyer and a spokesperson of a political party is sufficient background to camouflage the shortcomings by exaggerating whatever positives that the proposed legislations may have. The Sibal charm clearly won Thapar over in a recent TV interview and the Devil’s advocate was all but clapping to the rhetoric being dished out by the minister.
.
The goals are 1) increasing capacity, 2) offering greater options, 3) challenging the current standards and hence improving the quality…
Also are 4) saving Indian forex outflow as students will not need to go overseas as they will now be able to get the foreign degrees in India and 5) India becoming an education hub attracting students from around the world.
.
Are these goals realistic and achievable? Let me go over them one by one:.

INCREASING CAPACITY:

In a realistic scenario we are only looking at a handful of institutions offering handful of programs either on their own or in partnership with local institutions. Indian capacity building requirements are far higher and these few hundred places created in some of the large urban locations will only aid the students who already have options and can afford to “buy” places at alternative locations in India or overseas. What India needs is capacity building at smaller towns and there are many possibilities in doing that including capacity increases at existing institutions and also push in the polytechnic sector. The PPP (Pubic Private Partnerships) are already initiating activities in this area. Kapil Sibal, himself, a few months ago in a program WALK THE TALK had stated that institutions of repute in India are in a position to increase the student intakes. The larger institutions in India have space and infrastructure to do so quite easily. Increasing Capacity can hence not be the excuse for this bill.
.
Historically, branch campuses do not absorb many students. India will have to provide access that Indian needs. It cannot rely on foreign universities to do that.
Philip Altbach, Director, Center for Intl Higher Education, Boston College.
(Quoted in TOI)

OFFERING GREATER OPTIONS:

Students will have more options but not significantly more options. India holds attention for foreign institutions either when they have philanthropic interest or commercial interest. If it is the former then the studies / research will focus on specific areas of academic interest to the institutions and their researchers. For example an institution that wants to study tropical medicine or third world economies may collaborate with Indian institutions. If the institutions have commercial interests then there will be the regular offerings that will attract those who can afford more expensive education (compared to the Indian colleges) and my guess will be that a course like BBA will be the first to be offered as more kids of wealthier families opt for this stream. Is this giving greater course options.  If we are talking of options in terms of institutions, these new-campuses will never be preferred over the tried and tested Indian institutions.  Hence it is giving options only to those who already have the options. Also the quality conscious institutions are reluctant to open offshore campuses as they feel that it will lower their quality.
.
We are loathe to consider creating a satellite campus that would offer a degree programme that did not live up to the quality that we can offer on our home campus. So we are not considering a satellite campus location that would grant degrees in India or anywhere else.
Lisa Lapin, Asst VP, University Communications, Stanford University.
(Quoted in Education Times.)

CHALLENGING THE CURRENT STANDARDS AND IMPROVING QUALITY:

This is possible. However, I don’t think that the new campuses can ever have better teaching staff. The Government sector in India provides security and very generous work culture for academics, which is the single biggest incentive. The mentality of professors in India (I know because my mother was the Head of Department in Economics) revolves around the prestige and security that comes with the jobs. And colleges and institutions draw their prestige from these professors… There is almost a cult following for some of the professors. This is not going to go away. Irrespective of the salaries that are offered, it will be difficult for the “private sector” (Yes, the foreign campuses will be considered private colleges) to be able to compete. A parallel is that despite better salaries offered by Private airlines, Air India remains a preferred employer for cabin crews / ground staff. Some Universities that have opened campuses in the Gulf are finding it difficult to find teaching staff and consequently run some programmes using distance learning and video based classes. TOI reports that “just last month, academic audits conducted by the University Quality Assurance International Board, found serious gaps in various campuses and has threatened to shut some of them down”. Hence what quality improvements are we aiming?
.
The Ivy League may not come. But we will see a range of second-tier universities flying in.
Narayan Ramaswamy, Executive Director, KPMG.
(Quoted in TOI)

INDIA SAVES FOREX AS INDIANS WILL OPT TO GET THEIR FOREIGN DEGREES IN INDIA AND NOT OVERSEAS.

This is so misplaced and displays that the planners have no clue as to why Indians go overseas to study. There is ample evidence that the two of the most important reasons for those from the middle-class for choosing to study overseas are 1) International exposure and 2) Pathway to work/settlement overseas. Both of these are not fulfilled through studies at the Indian campuses/study centres of the foreign Universities. Indian students donot necessarily go overseas because of the label of the degree alone. A few years ago I was hired by an institute in Kolkata to market the London School of Economics degrees that they conducted in the External mode. This meant that the students graduating from the Kolkata study centre would finally graduate with a degree that indicates the LSE branding. I assumed that this will find enough takers to fill up the classes. I was wrong and the institute failed. I currently market the Carnegie Mellon’s full-fledged and high profile campus in Australia. Once again, thought that the brand of this University should be more attractive than the other Universities in Australia. I was wrong again. The local Aussie providers continued to be preferred. People want to study at Carnegie Mellon in USA but not in Australia. This might change with time as the campus establishes itself but there is no love at first sight even though the Carnegie brand is one of the topmost brands in the world and the institute is in a heritage building with full infrastructure.
.
The premise also is that students going overseas to study leads to drain of forex. In short term indeed but in long term, the flow is actually the other way around. There are reports that the inward remittances in some cases begin even when the students start working part time along with studies in some countries. One of the reasons for the huge increase in student numbers to some of the low cost diplomas in Australia, NZ and UK in recent years was this alone.
Students want to experience cross-culture exposure of International campuses; experience of studying and living in a foreign land and certainly the freedom that young experience. All this does not come from studying at the offshore centres.
.
“New Zealand’s spectacular environment and enjoyable lifestyle are a major appeal for international students and these cannot be replicated offshore”
Michelle Waitzman, Communications Specialist, Education NZ.
(Quoted in TOI)
.

BECOME A HUB FOR EDUCATION AND ATTRACT STUDENTS TO INDIA

Can it? It’s far fetched. Even if it does, it can only be if Indian institutions are able to accept and host foreign students and not otherwise. The UAE and Singapore examples are before us. Students from India would prefer the NUS or NTU to any other foreign operators in Singapore. The local government’s two-tier approach is also a hurdle and we can foresee that same situation in India. Academics, Alumni, Research and also the local patronage establish an institution and it takes decades. International students at the foreign campuses in Singapore donot have the same rights as those at local University campuses in Singapore. One University is not allowed to call itself University in their name too even when they have a valid presence as a University. UNSW, which was invited by the Singapore Government and was recruiting students, realised the faulty financials and decided to call it quits very early and UK’s Warwick University too backed out. In UAE, the relationship of the local government with the foreign providers is primarily of a landlord and tenant. There are reports that NYU campus alone costs $300 million in running costs. All the campuses are basically different identical buildings in the knowledge village and the campuses are having difficulty in attracting student from other parts of the world. They are surviving on the local expat population and because there is really no local University of repute. Then comes the tag that we attach to each country. An US University’s campus in Thailand suffers due to the repute of Thailand with a certain type of tourism. Monash has an excellent campus in Malaysia but is yet to become attractive to Indian students since the students associate Monash to Australia. INSEAD, which operates in Singapore and in Abu Dhabi in addition to France, runs each like a home campus and not offshore campus, study centre or subsidiary because they believe that “Offshore campuses can dilute quality and damage the brand name of an institution” (Frank Brown, Dean, quoted in TOI)
.
Harvard Business School has no plans for a campus outside Boston, as we strongly believe that our campus in Boston is an essential part of the Harvard MBA experience.
Anjali Raina, Exec Director, HBS India Research Centre, Mumbai
Quoted in TOI.
.
The aspirations from the FOREIGN EDUCATION INSTITUTION (REGULATION OF ENTRY AND OPERATIONS) BILL 2010 are like “shooting in the dark” and there is a need to stock-take the experiences other nations.
.
What can be a better way to end this blog than quoting Minister Sibal himself.
.
“I Witness”, subtitled “Partial Observations”, published by Roli Books, is the outpouring of a public man who felt driven to communicate his private thoughts in poetic form in the midst of incessant soundbites and perfunctory speeches he had to give in his official role as minister and a spokesperson for the Congress party.
“In a sense, that’s the argumentative Indian who is finding his voice in poetry. These verses are written from many viewpoints – from those of a bureaucrat and a lawyer to a politician and a modern-day commentator of daily life,” Sibal told IANS
.
Turning poetical on his blackberry, he writes about T-20 cricket. (See link)
.
Cricket lovers’ nightmare
Slapstick tamasha
Connoisseurs often complain.
Instant stroke play
Without any foreplay:
This is not cricket, they claim!
.
These lines also apply to a number of initiatives that the Minister has put forward, which to me appear, too hurried and similar to T-20 cricket.
Hope they are not fixed.

20 Comments

  1. This can only work, when an Australian diploma taught in India will give the same points to qualify for permanent Residence in Australia. otherwise you can give this bill to the bin.

    Like

      1. I meant, the main the reason our students go abroad is to work and settle in that country and earn in dollars. what percentage of students come back after they finish their education abroad?
        Why would anyone do a foreign degree in India?
        Yes, if the course done in India can be recognised on the same level as done in that country, then there will be a demand.

        Like

  2. Ravi,

    Your blog has forced me go down to my memory lane, where I started my career as a “lecturer for Financial Management and Accounting” with one of the University in India and later teaching assignments in France. Even today teaching is my passion but is suffocating in an Indian Environment. Let me highlight a few basic realities:

    1. The seniority of a lecturer is decided by the joining date in the job and not by the performance over a period of time.

    2. Teachers are supposed to teach but if the students don’t learn, then also it is a teacher’s responsibility, even at a High Education level. To me this is an absurd concept.

    3. I have seen many colleagues / teachers teaching from the same text book for over a decade.

    4. For betterment, a job can be changed but only in vacation period (2 months), which also means – it is impossible to change a job.

    5. The real boss of the Education provider is not the director but a trustee, who makes a business decision.

    6. A lecturer spends more time for administrative operations and less for academic activity.

    Ravi, I have noted your mother’s background. The academic Environment / culture from East is different from the West and to an extend rest of India. 60% score is really 60% in East, whereas in West 60% score means 45% in reality. Even the Nasoor guide supports my argument and hence we have different sections of the Indian Universities.

    Mr. Sibals initiatives have short falls but are efforts in the correct direction, which gives excellent incentives for a lecturer to improve and peruse their academic goals.

    Like

    1. Rahul, good to see a disagreement. There is no denial that “Mr Sibals initiatives have short falls but are efforts in the correct direction.” Certainly, it offers more job options for younger teachers and that is welcome. Having said this, my point has only been that the goals set by the proposed legislations are exaggerated. It has some positives but those positives have been blown out of proportion. Further, it is hurried.
      I am not saying anywhere that we donot need any legislation but we should have it only for the right reasons. At this time I called it rhetoric for this same reason…
      Will it increase capacity? maybe
      Will it increase options? maybe
      Will it improve quality? maybe
      Will it stop students from going overseas? NO
      Will it make India an education hub? NOT LIKELY

      If the bill was not hurried, the questions that we would be asking would be different and the answers will be YES for all.

      Like

  3. During the last fifty years I have seen the wide gap between pronouncement and their grass-root impact by those in government at New Delhi. Those who know are never seen as Policy makers.Those who do not know the subject act as a decision maker on that topic.Those who know are never chosen to provide appropriate advice.Mr. Kapil Sibal ,himself a Harvard educated person understands the facts.Yet acting as his Political party’s minister has to justify as a lawyer to mention attempts on building infrastructure and educational institutions for a news worthy story .Hence he attempts at bringing FOREIGN EDUCATION BILL.Your blog has rightly pointed at the short falls of the bill!

    Like

    1. I agree that Sibal is intelligent enough to grab the details. However, in a recent interview, Karan Thapar asked him as to the fact that offshore campuses donot allow international experience and exposure and what Sibal replied was shocking. Firstly Sibal stated that all those who go overseas are wealthy enough to travel on holidays and have exposure. This is such a difficult statement to accept. From experience we know that 90% of the students who go overseas have never gone overseas before and to even assume that they come from wealthy families is also not right. Bulk of them take education loans or parents life long savings to go overseas to study… Frankly, Sibal assumes all those who study overseas to be like him… Not true at all. He is in a hurry.

      Like

      1. Ravi
        I had the opportunity to meet a student who claimed to have passed out of a very well known institution from the UK. I was quite impressed and asked him how did he like london?? I had a hard time controlling my laughter when he told me that actually he didn’t even have a passport and had actually done his degree from an institute offering this degrees in Gurgaon. This i am afraid might be the situation in a few years time where students would have paid high fees for a highly undervalued degree..

        One institution which has made a huge name for itself in the shortest possible time has been ISB (HYD) and the reason i think it has done well is because it has built a brand for itself and not marketed itself as a extension campus of the Kellogs Business School..
        It would lead to interesting times..

        On another note for a non-congress supporter i think we live in strange times where the media has become the PR wing of the government. Hence we do not see any criticism of any move which is anti -people. I wonder what happened to those days where the media used to take the government to task for their wrong policies.. Its a dangerous trend where so-called opinion makers become spokespersons for the government. There is almost no credible forum where a non-congress supporter can voice an opinion.. Really no problems with Rahul Gandhi , but when have you ever seen a story where he /Sonia has been criticized.. This Doordarshan mentality can lead to dangerous situations..

        Like

        1. You can’t be right when you say that Sonia and Rahul are not criticised. They are all the time by loyalists of BJP and Narendra Modi. Even right now Baba Ramdev who has turned a politician refers to Rahul as YUVRAJ indicating dynastic politics.

          Having said this, we all remember that the “deemed university” issue where the accreditation is being rolled back is a creation of former Minister of HRD. The education mafia in India is very strong and has a voice too. The Chattisgarh state accreditation for so many institutions was a huge blunder too. Was it not Ajit Jogi as CM then.

          My support to Congress is now getting qualified too.

          Like

  4. Given some unviable clauses of setting up shop in India I am not too sure how many quality foreign institutions would come in to the country. Besides, students would be driven by the urge to experience the real ‘Yale USA’ instead of imagining the real thing at ‘Yale – Kolkata campus’. I would however love to see world-class collaborations in the area of vocational education in India.

    Like

    1. Fully in agreement. India needs greater focus on vocational and polytech sector than degree centric institutions. We also need greater collaborations here. The age old ITI institutions are dying. Across the world, trade skills lead to more jobs than the regular degrees. The Minister makes his first visit to Australia in April and my understanding is that seeking Ozzie inputs in vocational areas is a focus. Having said this, there has to be something for an institution overseas too to gain. They are not the research focussed institutions and the Foreign education bill doesnot allow repatriation of funds. Anyway…

      Like

  5. Well I think it is too early to predict the outcome of our Minister, Mr. Kapil’s venture and will totally depend on the quality of institutes coming here to open their campuses !! We all know India is changing rapidly in all sphere of life and our PM is talking of growth rate of 9-10% in the next fiscal year which also means more money to the middle and upper middle class which drives our market in all sectors, education being one of them. If students are not happy with the quality of the institutes they will rather go abroad for higher studies but if good option is available here and with the changing circumstances I reckon it will be a good opportunity for our students to venture into these new institutions.

    Like

    1. There are “ifs and buts” for sure… I however doubt that we will see this bill mature at all in the current form. Anyway, lets wait.

      Meanwhile, the list line of the blog is HOPE THEY ARE NOT FIXED. There are thoughts behind these words but will leave it for another blog.

      Like

  6. AUSTRALIAN universities have bet the farm on educating Asian accountants. There were 153,000 international students studying management and commerce at Australian universities in 2008, more than half the total enrolment of students from other countries. And if international sales are the business basis for higher education, the income generated by students from four Asian markets – India, China, Malaysia and Singapore – is the jewel in the cash cow’s crown.

    An analysis of commonwealth government figures for 2008 shows these markets accounted for more than 40 per cent of business enrolments in 17 universities.

    In 19 universities, business and management students from these markets made up more than one-third of international numbers.

    Business academics are acutely conscious of the pressure that large international enrolments place on them.

    “Some business faculties are placed in a position where they have to take more students to generate revenue streams,” says Monash accounting professor Keryn Chalmers, president of the Accounting and Finance Association of Australia and New Zealand.

    There is no doubting vice-chancellors rely on the fee income their business teachers produce and the good news is nobody expects enrolments to evaporate overnight.

    The bad news is the days of easy growth are gone as all these countries look to educate more of their own undergraduates and to attract fee-paying students from other countries.

    “In the short term, there will be no great impact on the number of students coming here, but in the longer term there will be changes in global student mobility,” international education consultant Melissa Banks says.

    University of Western Australia business professor and long-time international education analyst Tim Mazzarol says: “The overall market has peaked. National governments are boosting their on-shore capacity.

    “We are now competing against countries that were previously markets.”

    “Some of our key recruitment countries have become destinations in their own right and Australia has a paradoxical relationship with them, recruiting their students yet competing with them for students from other countries in the region,” Banks says. This does not mean Australian universities are losing their appeal; it is just that the rest of the world is catching up.

    According to Banks, the expansion of China’s higher education system and the decline in the birthrate mean growth in demand for overseas study will slow. And China wants to build its export industry, which already hosts 197,000 foreign students.

    Singapore also sees education as an income source, with 86,000 international students enrolled there.

    Malaysia is expanding its system and added 40,000 tertiary places a year between 2004 and 2007. While meeting domestic demand is the primary objective, the Malaysian government is encouraging the big private education system to attract foreign students.

    Japan also wants to get into the industry, if only to give universities people to teach as the birthrate falls. But a shortage of potential students is not an issue across much of Asia.

    India has a long way to go to overcome the consequences of decades of low investment in education, demonstrated by this month’s decision to invite foreign universities to set up shop.

    Vietnam and Indonesia also have an enormous need for higher education, although ambitious parents who can afford to send their children overseas to study are still scarce.

    The above is only the extract. Read the full article on

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/business-education/a-lesson-in-cornering-the-market/story-e6frgcp6-1225844444959

    Like

    1. Jag, This article reinforces my comments on the Foreign Education Bill. India does have a long way to go… Further the type of courses being taught at the offshore campuses are certainly indicative too.

      Like

  7. Dear Ravi,

    Hats off to your brilliant analysis of the much talked about Bill. Hope Mr. Sibal logs on to this blog and has a long hard look at his tenure so far as the HRD Minister. Although I certainly admire the man’s commitment and dedication to bring about positive change in the not-so-flexible political / administration environment in India, I believe he should not rush into strategies that are not water-tight with regards to achieving the goals that have been laid out which forces me to question the “quality of goals” laid out in the first place.

    If one is concerned about the quality of education of a country and wants to uplift the same, then goals such as saving Indian forex outflow should be a mere add-on advantage of a much bigger picture hopefully (I use this example as I agree with Ravi that this will be the only achievable short-term advantage of the Bill whereas other objectives are far-fetched and certainly does not carry high probabilities of achievement).

    I sincerely hope that greater emphasis is placed on improving the domestic quality of Indian (including rural India which forms a substantial part of India that contributes to all that statistics which is used by policy-makers to showcase future exponential growth of strategies they hope to implement) education through organic growth. I am not in a position to recommend exact strategies that should be implemented to achieve the same but I hope time, money and effort is spent along these lines. A great example that does come to my mind with regards to the above is Aditya Nataraj’s initiatives through “Kaivalya Education Foundation” which actually makes sense. Please see http://www.echoinggreen.org/fellows/aditya-natraj for more info.

    I hope more such initiatives are implemented going forward that will actually improve the quality of education and hence the standard of living in a country that is going to have the largest youth population in the world with extremely varying degrees of resources available to them…

    The current focus on bringing Foreign Universities to set up campuses in India is something that should be seen as one of the ultimate phases / objectives / goals of the Indian education space. It first needs to start walking properly (with millions of kids out of school and unable to read or write) before contemplating podium-position in the longest marathon run (Ivy Leagues setting up their 2nd campus in India)!!

    Like

    1. I too admire Minister Sibal’s enthusiasm and the desire to bring about change. The blog is not stating that at all. I also agree with you that he should have not hurried it at all. The tenure of the Government has just started and there is no point to prove that in the first year itself, all the wrongs have been make right. It will lead to more wrongs. I do hope that Ministry of HRD does take note of some of the criticism that has only been made in the interest of the country.

      Like

  8. While the debate will go on at a much higher level, I think very often smaller details are lost in the process like the proverbial ” the battle was lost for the want of a nail”.

    Has any noticed the state of the toilets in some of our colleges and universities, the state of the classrooms and libraries and the state of some of the professors! If the Minister thinks that India is going to a hub that will attract International students, he needs to give some attention to the upgrading of existing institutions and building new infrastructure and allied amenities like housing and provision for students to work part time while studying. He should also be willing to look at the provision of how these foreign students can become permanent residents of India. I am not joking.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s