Along with various educational reforms Kapil Sibbal, HRD Minister, Government of India, has introduced the ‘The Foreign Educational Institutional (regulation of entry and operation) Bill 2010’. It allows foreign universities like Yale, Cambridge, etc to set up educational institutions in India.
Kapil Sibbal expects this move to bring about a great revolution in the field of education. The move is aimed at limiting migration from India to abroad for higher education, enhancing the choice for students, increasing competition and establishing a quality benchmark. Many reputed universities have already shown interest in setting up educational institutes in various parts of the country.
This bill however has got many people, ranging from professors to students in a tizzy and skeptical about its utility. Among the major problems seen with this bill is that these universities by the virtue of being extremely expensive will only cater to the upper class strata hence ignoring the middle and the lower classes. Also that children belonging to affluent families would rather spend the ‘extra buck’ and go abroad under the lure of an established name and better lifestyle, hence giving their Indian centers a skip. Therefore the relative value of a degree from an Indian Oxford versus one from the ‘original’ Oxford (so to say) is also brought into question.
However the evaluation of this bill should not be done from the perspective of whether it gets us everything but whether it has an over all net positive. Firstly, there is no reason to suggest that the degree of a foreign university in India will be less valuable then the degree of the same university abroad. But even if the relative status of an Indian center of a foreign universities is less than that of the original center abroad, it still promises to raise the overall standard of higher education in India from status quo by not only bringing the ‘best of the west’ to India but also by giving the IIT’s and the IIM’s, who have a hegemony over the Indian education market, a run for their status hence ensuring a competitive incentive for these institutions to continuously improve themselves. This by all means is a favorable change.
Further more to suggest that it will only cater to the rich does not in anyway pose a valid argument to not welcome these universities, for even in status quo it is only the rich who are able to afford to send their kids to foreign countries. If the upper class, however, chooses to continue going abroad, then these universities will be automatically forced to reduce their fees so as to attract the middle class because they obviously would not want to run empty classrooms. Hence in both cases there is no reason to resist this bill. It either enhances the convenience of the upper class children who have to fly abroad for higher education (and lets not hate the rich, it’s not their fault they were born so) or allows greater choice for all the students in the country who would wish to have a degree from a Yale or a Cambridge but can’t afford to so.
To simplify the issue further one can view a foreign university as just another private university which promises internationally recognized quality education. A large part of the skepticism also may have to do with a certain inherent mistrust of foreign organizations in general. The net positive of this move stands to completely change the culture of higher education in India. While we may have great demands and expectations we must realize that any move should not be resisted simply for the reason it does not provide us everything even though it has a great benefit. The chicken that laid golden eggs is after all a myth.