A phrase caught my attention recently, while in conversation with a big private corporate group now launching higher education institutions across India, ranging from “a couple of world-class medical universities” to “a hotel management institute in partnership with a renowned Swiss school”.

“Sure, we’re interested in partnering with Stamats Asia,” said the senior administrator. “But it’s going to take us a couple of years; we’re still at the ‘green-field’ stage.” Entangled in the complex bureaucratic web that often accompanies large-scale acquisition of land in India, her state-of-the-art campuses are, as of now, literally, green plots of rural farmland.

Turns out this is no isolated case. Many of India’s new wave of universities, particularly privates, currently languish at the “green field” stage, unable to help address India’s great higher education deficit. Which is a big reason why India represents such significant opportunity for schools in the U.S. and elsewhere, both in the short-term, and, especially, in the long-term.

As a recent article in India’s leading financial daily notes: ideally, India’s Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER)—now at an abysmal 12 percent (around 17 million enrolled students)—needs to be at around 40 percent to ensure global economic competitiveness.* But even a target GER of 30 percent by 2021 would see enrollment grow by an additional 36 million students… requiring that India add more than 200 percent of its entire current higher education capacity, at about $350 billion in annual capital expenditure! And the country’s current annual skills development and vocational education capacity (think adult and distance/online education) is even worse—less than 4.3 million for a working-age population of over 550 million in 2011.

Well, guess what? India’s traditional-aged students, adult learners, and industry professionals—anyone who can afford to—are not waiting around, and neither are American colleges and universities. Consider this:

  • While long awaited “Foreign Universities” legislation slowly works its way through the Indian parliament, the Association of Indian Universities reports, as of 2010, some 630 foreign universities—many, American—are already operating in India in one form or another, despite lack of clear legislative authority!**
  • In their quest for high-quality education, India’s students, across all interests and age groups, are increasingly heading overseas to those U.S. schools who engage with them in persuasive, relevant, and credible ways. In fact, in 2010, American campuses were home to 103,968 of the 200,621 Indian students studying abroad. *** (The second most popular destination, the U.K., only hosted 38,000 Indian students!)

In our next few issues, we’ll examine various approaches taken by schools from the U.S. and elsewhere as they plunge into the “still-blue ocean” that is India. We’ll also explore five ways you might help shape a more effective, efficient, and enduring India strategy for your institution. Meanwhile, we’d love to hear about some of your “India” success stories, and challenges, at vinu.warrier@StamatsAsia.com.

Sources:
* “The Education Deficit”, Arvind Singhal, The Economic Times, New Delhi, February 12, 2013
** “For U.S. Colleges in India, Great Possibilities, Thwarted Hopes”, Karin Fischer, The Chronicle of Higher Education, February 11, 2013
*** Project Atlas, India, Institute of International Education

About the author

Leave a Reply