Global Trend: Internationalization of Higher Education

Prof. Chintamani Mahapatra
March 24, 2019


India’s accomplishment in the field of internationalization of education is much less than it’s available resources and ability. Ministries and government departments in India live in silos and coordination among them, if any, is abysmally low. Inter-agency turf wars are rather frequent and pretty unproductive.

Internalization of education in last three decades or so has assumed a role and proportion that was unthinkable earlier. Student mobility and movement of researchers and faculty across borders were dependent on offer of fellowships by foreign countries and a controlled number fellowships/grants given by Indian government, bilateral educational and cultural exchange agreements, participation in conferences and non-optimal utilization of a plethora of Memoranda of Understanding or Agreements of Cooperation between various Indian universities with their foreign counterparts.

Global trends in higher education have radically changed in recent years and unless the government wakes up and takes note of newer developments in the field of higher education, India will surely miss the bus. The United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have made the best use of the forces of globalization to internationalize their educational institutions, colleges and universities. The European Union, especially the Netherlands, France and Germany are not far behind.

International students contribute close to $40 billion to American GDP and share of the Indian students alone is about $5 billion. Marketing education is the latest version in higher education and the above countries are not only competing with one another but also reaping good amount of benefits out of it. The flow of foreign students to Chinese universities, under supervision and support of the government, has also sizeably swelled in recent years.

India’s track record in this field is incredibly meagre compared to its potential. That the Indian students abroad are performing remarkably well is beyond doubt. Indian faculty teaching or doing research in foreign universities are also highly respected literally in every conceivable educational arena. These are testimony to the fact that Indian educational ecosystem is capable of drawing international students in much large number than the present scenario.

The MHRD recently unveiled a plan to promote “Study in India” scheme. The goal is to attract about 200, 000 students from foreign countries for enrolment in Indian Universities by 2022-23. It is more than four times the current strength of foreign students in India, which is about 45, 000. But the target is somewhat too truncated. With more than 900 universities and nearly about 50, 000 colleges and higher educational institutions, India certainly can do more and must aim high.

Some Indian universities, IITs, IISc, BITS Pilani have found a place in the global ranking of universities. But one should be aware that in the geopolitics of education, methods and approaches of ranking are also part of political and business strategies.

There is no doubt that quality of research and teaching in Indian universities need tremendous improvement. There is no denial that corrupt practices in higher educational institutions must be curbed. It is disheartening to know that the University Grants Commission recently identified 279 fake technical institutes and 23 fake universities in various parts of India. It gives a more dismal picture when the report states that 7 out of 23 fake universities were housed in the nation’s capital!

However, the credible performances of hundreds of universities and technical/medical institutions in India cannot be brushed under the carpet. India must strive hard to internationalize higher education keeping pace with the global trends in this field.

The following steps are indispensable in the direction of internationalizing higher education in India:

First, faculty recruitment needs to be based on merit. Second, courses across subjects need to be modified to adopt best practices from other countries. Third, those who pass out must be able to get employment; and that simply means curricula should contribute to employability. Fourth, universities should have flexible and adequate quota for foreign students. Fifth, the fee structure and the facilities should be competitive.

Internationalization can bring multiple benefits to the country. It will bring foreign exchange. Good education at home can contain brain drain, save vital foreign exchange if Indian students can have access to good education in the home country and simultaneously help the country earn foreign exchange. It can prepare the students to compete in the international job market and keep them updated on all latest international trends in their respective fields. It can promote cross-cultural understanding and build social bridges with other societies. Joint research and other academic collaborations will be helpful in tackling global problems and building a more peaceful world order.

There will be difficulties and obstacles. India’s social conditions, economic conditions of masses and cumbersome political processes are challenging issues. Yet, India should not stay far behind when the global trend is internationalization of higher education. The Government of India in any case has now been encouraging universities to generate their own resources and lessen their dependence on the UGC funding. It should soon develop a blueprint and issue appropriate guidelines to enable the universities to internationalize their courses and enrol students from other countries.

Higher education is a matter that would necessitate coordination of Human Resource Development, Finance, Commerce and External Affairs Ministry. Moreover, the Indo-Pacific region should be a focus area to draw foreign students to study in Indian universities and colleges. India cannot aspire to be a global player without internationalizing its higher education eco-system.