Monday, August 23, 2004

india's universities are given a free hand to seek foreign partnerships

By Shailaja Neelakantan
(This article appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education in August 2004).

India's universities no longer must obtain permission from the education ministry to seek collaborations with their foreign counterparts. In yet another step to restore autonomy to the nation's higher-education institutions, the government on Friday withdrew a policy, established in 2003 by the previous government, that made such permission mandatory.

The policy shift comes as India prepares to join the World Trade Organization next year. As part of that move, India will be allowed to operate educational institutions abroad, but it will have to open up its education sector to foreign institutions.

Several countries have already approached the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology and Indian Institutes of Management about forging partnerships.

The technology institutes are in talks with Singapore about collaborations with their counterparts there. Other countries said to be interested in partnerships are Mauritius, Sri Lanka, and the United Arab Emirates. Egypt is talking with the business schools about engaging their help to set up management institutes.

India's Ministry of Human Resource Development, which supervises education, has taken a series of steps to bolster the autonomy of universities since May, when a new government, led by the Congress Party, came to power. One of the first measures was to reinstate the authority of the Indian Institutes of Management to set their own fees. The new government also scrapped a controversial policy that required all private donations to public universities to be routed through a government agency.