JAI initiative is a global game-changer

With foreign in India and Indian in foreign facilitated by policy appetisers, Indian in India need their share of the policy pie to maximise their internationalisation efforts.
JAI initiative is a global game-changer

The pace at which internationalisation of Indian higher education is accelerating in a double-barrelled mode is tellingly visible from the policy bullets that are being fired to hit the bull’s eye—the GIFT city entry and the anticipated UGC regulation, enabling foreign universities to establish campuses in India. Indian universities’ foreign campuses in Dubai Academic City or Singapore are pre-NEP 2020 triggers that have set in policy motion the establishment of foreign campuses of IITs in countries like Tanzania, the UAE, Nepal, etc.

With foreign in India and Indian in foreign facilitated by policy appetisers, Indians in India need their share of the policy pie to maximise their internationalisation efforts. The existing regulations of the University Grants Commission (UGC) and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) provide some space for internationalisation of Indian campuses. The extent of autonomy and policy support appear dwarfed before GIFT or other models of IIT engagements. Be that as it may, what lies ahead for the majority to leverage? Some data points before we explore.

The demand for foreign education—short- and long-term—is only getting bigger with post-pandemic bounce-back getting stronger. With 10-20 million students’ willingness and capacity to study abroad every year underwriting the short-term demand, a Wittgenstein Centre study’s promising demand of 
a billion additional post-secondary graduates over the next 30 years—of which 75 per cent are from Asia and Africa, seeking an English-based degree or credential—is a case in point for India.

The Asian share in particular, driven by India and China, is close to 200 million every decade for the next 20 years. With such huge numbers, there cannot be a time more appropriate than now for India to unleash its domestic strength to attract the global student community. Unless the numbers and global commercial undercurrents are dissected fine, we will still be scratching the surface of global education, missing the mystic deep. Much education, however, is social infrastructure and perceived to be 
a charitable endeavour; the global forces shaping the contours of higher education have managed to monetise every square foot of education space.

Here is more.

Given that 70 percent of global demand is in Asia and Africa, the top 200 universities and an equal share of the top 200-500 are from the big four countries—the US, the UK, Canada and Australia. The lion’s share comes from Europe and North American universities in which millions of students around the world aspire to study. As Europe and North America’s continue to build massive enrolment capacity at 
top 1,000 universities, India’s unexplainable clamour for top 500, while many of its own best not figuring in the global 1,000,  needs a relook with high priority as the usual partners in the big four will never have a softening strategy that shall choke their revenue pipeline. Some numbers shall explain why and how we need to reposition our strategy.

In my previous articles, I have pointed the fat financial budgets of the top universities of the world and a few in Asia are matchless in India. Under these circumstances, the global education expenditure (ed-ex) numbers present an interesting perspective. The global ed-ex by end of 2030 is expected to be $360 billion of which 50 percent is tuition fee in the big four while in the rest it’s only 20 percent of the student spend. It is impossible that the big four, whose tuition and accommodation alone constitute 70 percent of student spend, can compete on costs with their Asiatic peers’ equivalent of 50 percent.

This provides a competitive arbitrage for Asiatic universities to value-differentiate not only through its university education but also through its other soft assets like culture, cuisine, lifestyle, tourism, retail, etc. While collaborations with the big four may yield promising results, there is more room for collaborating with the non-big four, which have the potential to leverage on the coherent synergy more effectively. The existing 20 percent share can gradually be increased to 50 percent of the estimated $360 billion for the non-big four if and only if India starts looking in other directions where natural strengths reside in joint-abundance.

India’s university relationship with Japan, Indonesia, the UAE, Africa and Taiwan to encourage two-way mobility in all forms—research, teaching, training and capacity building—by leveraging individual and joint-strengths is a clear win-win for the non-big four. 

In short: JAI initiative—Japan, Africa +Arab nations, and India + Indonesia will be a global game-changer.

S Vaidhyasubramaniam

Vice-Chancellor, SASTRA Deemed University


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