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 Video Claims to Show Shi'ite Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

While not yet independently confirmed, brutal killing already has gotten attention of Islamic State followers on social media More

After Six Years, Little Change for Niger Delta's Former Militants

Nigerians who laid down arms in exchange for government amnesty subsidies fear program may end with upcoming presidential elections More

Vietnam Pushes for More Educated Drivers to Curb Road Deaths

Transportation officials hope that making a greater effort to get drivers to learn the rules of the road will reduce fatal crashes More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planeti
X
George Putic
March 04, 2015 8:51 PM
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More