News / Asia

India Woos Foreign Colleges as Population Clock Ticks

FILE - Indian students study inside the Delhi University campus in New Delhi.
FILE - Indian students study inside the Delhi University campus in New Delhi.
Reuters
When 19-year old Pavitra Singh, one of the 20 million students currently studying at India's many colleges and universities, gets her degree in two years' time, she fears it will not be enough to secure a job.
 
Indian employers tend to agree. Many say graduates from local universities are often unemployable because job seekers do not have the skills they want. This feeling is one of the reasons New Delhi is trying to fast-track legislation to allow foreign colleges, which have so far been largely shut out of India, to open their own campuses in the country.
 
On the cusp of a boom in its working-age population, India is racing against time to raise the quality of its education to prevent a demographic dividend from turning into a demographic curse.
 
“It is absolutely urgent,” said Tobias Linden, the World Bank's lead education specialist in India. “The people who will make up the youth bulge have already been born. This is not a hypothetical situation. They might just be one, or two, or three years old now, but taking action to help them when they become 18 - those moves have to start now.”
 
Over the next two decades, Asia's third-largest economy will add up to 300 million people to its workforce, an increase equivalent to almost the entire population of the United States.
 
That prospect offers hope that India, currently struggling with its weakest economic growth in a decade, can finally follow in the footsteps of the likes of China and the Asian Tigers.
 
A generation ago, these countries made good use of their growing workforces by training young people and putting them to work in export-orientated manufacturing, generating economic growth that was the envy of the world.
 
Best Chance
 
India's working-age population will not peak until 2035, in contrast to China, where the working-age population topped out this year, brokerage Espirito Santo Securities says. Labor forces in South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore will peak in the next five years.
 
Such demographic factors offer India “the most compelling conditions for economic growth the country will, we argue, ever have”, the brokerage said in a report. “Yet demographics are not destiny.”
 
Attracting foreign colleges to open campuses in India is one solution for a university system that India's planning commission says is “plagued by a shortage of well trained faculty, poor infrastructure and outdated and irrelevant curricula.”
 
Despite a surplus of workers, employers across sectors say local universities do a poor job of preparing graduates for working life. None of India's universities feature in the world's top 200, the 2013/14 rankings by the London-based education group Quacquarelli Symonds show, versus seven from China.
 
Furthermore, many Indian universities rely on rote-learning and fail to teach the “soft skills” that are increasingly important in India, where the services sector has driven the economic growth of the last two decades, recruiters and students say.
 
“We don't learn here - we are just taught to mug up, so it's hard for us when we go out to find jobs,” said Singh, an undergraduate at one of the country's largest private colleges, Amity University, referring to the teaching style employed across India.
 
“I'm worried that when I get to my first internship, I won't know how to do anything,” Singh continued.
 
Foreign universities have been largely shut out of India; they are only allowed to open research centers, teach non-academic courses or offer degree courses with a local partner.
 
Now, the government wants to offer them the more lucrative option of opening their own campuses.
 
Catch-Up        
 
India's Ministry of Human Resources and Development is trying to issue what is in effect an executive order, which would leapfrog a bill that has been stuck in parliament since 2010, just one of the casualties of a legislative logjam that has paralyzed Indian policymaking over the last two years.
 
Despite skepticism from many institutions that India will be able to change its game with elections looming by next May, some foreign universities are keen to push ahead with campuses.
 
“A campus in India has always been our vision and that is our plan,” said Guru Ghosh, the vice president for outreach and international affairs at Virginia Tech.
 
Virginia Tech plans to launch a research center near the southern Indian city of Chennai in spring 2014, and hopes to set up a campus within 3-5 years if the rules do in fact change, according to Ghosh.
 
Under the proposed rules, non-profit foreign universities that area among the top 400 worldwide would be able to open campuses. The rules need a final sign-off from the law ministry, which could take up to three months, according to R.P. Sisodia, joint secretary for higher education at the Ministry of Human Resources and Development.
 
While India has dithered, other Asian countries have moved ahead, with foreign universities in Malaysia and Singapore already attracting Indian students.
 
Spokespeople for Stanford University, the University of Chicago, Duke University and the U.K.'s University of Northampton told Reuters they had no plans for a campus in India, even though they all have or plan to have research centers or offer courses on a local campus.
 
“The environment has not been a welcoming one thus far and people have looked elsewhere,” said Vincenzo Raimo, the director of the international office at Britain's University of Nottingham, which has campuses in China and Malaysia. “Anyone who's going to open there [India] needs to be brave.”
 
Foreign colleges could enroll only a tiny portion of India's students, but their presence would put pressure on domestic counterparts to improve, higher education experts say.
 
India's planning commission has set a target of creating 10 million more university places in the next few years and boosting funds for the top domestic universities to try to elevate them to the ranks of the world's top 200 by 2017.
 
If India fails to harness its population boom over the next two decades, its demographics could be “a disaster - not a dividend”, Espirito Santo said.
 
“A major shortage of jobs in the economy, or a skills mismatch, would create a young, angry and frustrated population,” its report said.

You May Like

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid