Visiting Minister for Human Resource Development, Kapil Sibal, is testing the waters in the Unites States to discern whether American universities will support an ambitious Indian initiative to roll out 14 new universities focused on innovation.
"The young demographic advantage that India has needs to be converted into a dynamic economic advantage by providing the right education and skills," Sibal told DNA, on the sidelines of an event in New York.
"We need to provide for foreign investment in the education sector. We need to bring in education providers who have experienced hundreds of years of quality education and have systems in place to provide quality education," he added.
Sibal intends to have new laws in place by next July that would open up India's educational system to foreign players. The bill still needs to be approved by the Indian parliament and the government needs to dismantle regulatory roadblocks to make the education sector a draw for foreign universities.
Taking cues from the minister, British, American, Canadian and Australian universities now have an eye on India. America is the partner country in the two-day "Higher Education Summit 2009" starting on November 6 organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI). Sibal will touch on his roadmap for education at the summit.
"We're trying to increase our engagement in India," said Richard Levin, president of Yale University, who will give the keynote address at the summit in New Delhi. "It's a country that is emerging as one of the leading powers in the world, and we want to build a broad and deep set of connections with it."
India may be interested in the lessons the Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly), has to offer about how to efficiently move innovation out of the laboratory and into everyday life. The engineering, applied sciences and technology institute involves undergraduates in research projects for government and industry — an opportunity more typically extended to graduate students.
"This trip is less about meeting students in India. We meet students all the time. They come to us in significant numbers," Jerry Hultin, President of NYU-Poly, told DNA.
"This is more about the roadmap of education in India, especially the future of how education, innovation and the growth of corporations in India can join together. We think a business incubator is one way of encouraging innovation among our students. We are creating an environment that integrates academics and the commercial world."
NYU-Poly is looking to partner with Indian universities. "We would do some conversations with educational institutions like the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad and others. There is a potential for teaming up. This is a learning trip for us to better understand where India is headed and how we can help," added Hultin.
He has been at the front of creating New York University's campus in Abu Dhabi. "New York University's priority right now is building this new campus in Abu Dhabi and 2010 is the first class. It will take a few years to complete. I think then we will sort of watch how things develop in India and see what would be the next best step. Not right away," said Hultin.
Another American university already has an Indian partnership in place. Carnegie Mellon has for the past eight years offered a master's program at the Chennai-based Sri Sivasubramaniya Nadar School of Advanced Software Engineering. Students fork over $53,000 for the 18-month program — 15per cent lower than if the coursework were done in the US. They spend six months at Carnegie Mellon's Pittsburgh campus.
Pennsylvania State University and University of South Florida are also attending the summit to scout for partnerships. The US receives more students from India than from any other country, a trend that continues to impact the economic and diplomatic dialogue between the countries. With 10 times more colleges than any other country in the world, the US is the most popular student destination earning over $13 billion a year from foreign students.