It’s been just four days since the 17-year-old IIAS School of Business and Informatics, Calcutta, announced its MBA in Informatics programme. The institute has already been flooded with queries. Ask it why and communications officer Ratnavali Datta replies, “The reason for the interest lies in the fact that we are launching the programme in association with Virtual Global University, Europe, and European University of Viadrina, Frankfurt, Germany.”
The IIAS School of Business is not alone in the initiative to tie up with foreign institutes. Recently, the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, announced its high profile tie-up with Cardiff University that may also extend to management programmes offered jointly by both institutes.
It’s really a sign of the times. Today, foreign education providers are more than willing to enter into alliances with Indian educational institutes. And Indian institutes are jumping at the chance to get into such partnerships because of the tremendous demand for “foreign” degrees among students here.
Says Dr Giri Dua, managing director, Training and Advanced Studies in Management and Communications (TASMAC), Pune, which has tie ups with several foreign universities, “The global acceptability of a foreign degree without the hassle and the phenomenal expense of studying for it in a foreign country is tempting to many students. Also, with Indians working globally and also working for multinational and transnational companies in India, a foreign degree is perceived to be highly desirable.”
A study conducted by the National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration (NIEPA), New Delhi, on behalf of the ministry of human resource development on “Foreign Education Providers in India” in 2004 revealed that there were more than 130 Indian institutions collaborating with foreign institutions. Tamil Nadu had the maximum number of such institutes (23), with Chennai cornering the bulk of them. Maharashtra was the second largest destination of foreign education providers (20), with the maximum concentration being in Mumbai and Pune. Delhi came third with 19 such institutes and West Bengal fourth, with 15.
And their numbers are growing. Under the recent World Trade Organisation (WTO)- General Trade Agreement Services (GATS), education has become a social and a tradeable service. This implies that India is obliged to allow access to foreign institutes. Industry reports say that the Indian graduate market is attractive to most foreign universities because of the growing population in the age group of 18-24 years, out of which only six per cent are absorbed in the higher education system. Hence the demand is very high for internationally benchmarked English medium education. Agrees Dutta of IIAS, “Thanks to the rising aspirations of the Indian middle class, it doesn’t mind paying a bit extra for a degree that is internationally recognised. The big advantage is, of course, that you stay right here and get a world class degree.”
According to NIEPA officials, foreign institutes usually follow four modes to enter the country ' setting up a franchise, twinning programmes (where a part of the course is done in the host country and the rest is completed at the collaborating institute in a foreign country), programme collaboration, and offshore campuses. While there are no offshore campuses in India at present (although Yale and Stanford have expressed interest in setting up shop here), there are several instances of the other sort of tie ups.
The Arindam Choudhury-managed Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM), Delhi, for example, has tied up with the Brussels-based IMI Institute. IIPM’s postgraduate and undergraduate management programmes have degrees conferred by this institute. Likewise, TASMAC, with branches in Bangalore, Calcutta and Delhi has tied up with Wales University, UK, to offer its management programme, and the L.N. Welingkar Institute of Management Research in Mumbai has introduced collaborative undergraduate and management programmes with Temple University of the US.
The host institutes ' and their students ' are said to benefit from the faculty, expertise and the knowledge base of their foreign partners.
States Dua, “The syllabus of TASMAC is prepared in conjunction with the syllabus at Wales University, but we keep in mind local conditions as well.” For example, when it comes to case studies, many more indigenous ones are included. The delivery systems may also be different for while foreign universities encourage independent learning, Indian students are accustomed to a lot more lectures and tutorials, says Dua.
At IIPM, after a year and a half of studying in India, students are taken on industrial tours to countries in Africa, Australia and Europe. According to the institute, this benefits students enormously.
As Deepa Diksit, associate dean, IIPM, points out, “It is one thing to discuss a foreign country on paper, it is quite another to actually spend some time understanding its systems. When most companies today work with multi-cultural teams, an international degree is helpful.”
Agrees Dua, who also states that such joint programmes work out much cheaper than pursuing the same course in a foreign country. Of course, an international MBA would be much more expensive than an Indian MBA. Even so, it is value for money when you compare the cost with that of studying abroad.
For example, while an MBA programme in the UK may cost around '20,000, the same programme in India would set you back by about '3,000.
Students too are lining up to avail of these “Indian made foreign degrees”. Says Prathamesh Nalawade, a first-year student of International BBA at Welingkar Institute of Management: “I am from a science background and would have opted for an engineering or a computer science course. But the prospect of an international bachelor's management programme seemed much brighter, so I decided to enrol for this course.” And how does he find the programme' “The best thing about it is that we don’t study, we learn,” says Nalawade, who plans to work in the US after he graduates.
However, every student opting to study under such programmes ought to be aware of a few disconcerting facts. According to the NIEPA report, while institutions such as the London School of Economics, University of Warwick, Edinburgh Business School and Cardiff University have high rankings in the home country, many other institutes which may have entered into partnerships with Indian institutions are not rated too high. Among the US institutes with which Indian institutions have tie ups, only four appear in world rankings and seven appear in the home country rankings. The majority, however, do not feature in any list of rankings at all.
Also, there have been cases when students have been promised international exposure, only to find out later that the collaborating foreign university was not even recognised. Dua says that the most common way to trick students is to use the twinning programme. Many do not reveal the hidden costs to the candidates, which include funding if he or she wishes to study abroad. Which is why experts in the field advise students to check the credentials of the university before opting for any twinning programmes.
That apart, everyone feels that tie ups with foreign institutions will become more numerous in the future. As Diksit points out, an international graduate will be considered a specialist and will therefore never be at a loss for job opportunities.
In fact, the day may not be far when a degree from the Harvard Business School can be pursued in India.