CHENNAI: Coimbatore holds the potential to attract foreign universities, especially from African countries, owing to the welcoming atmosphere for international students in Tamil Nadu, said Eldho Mathews, Programme Officer (Internationalisation of Higher Education), Kerala State Higher Education Council (KSHEC), while speaking about the establishment of foreign universities in India at the 13th edition of the two-day ThinkEdu Conclave 2024, presented by SASTRA University, in Chennai on Wednesday.
Mathews also remarked that "Many universities want to come to India, but this year is our election year, so they are cautious about it."
During the panel discussion on the first day of the conclave, themed "Foreign Universities in India: Is It The Gold Standard?", chaired by senior journalist Kaveree Bamzai, Mathews, alongside Amrita Sadarangani, Head of College of Science and Engineering Partnerships, India, University of Edinburgh, and Michaela Küchler, Consul-General of the Federal Republic of Germany in Chennai, shared their perspectives on India’s capability to host foreign universities.
Sadarangani emphasised the growing demand for foreign education in India. “India is opening up not only because of the new education policy but also because of how universities are bringing up new projects,” she said, speaking about expanding the education model in India.
Regarding the current climate for attracting foreign universities to India, Sadarangani remarked, "I think India is the most interesting place to be at the moment. But for a young person getting their first taste of independence, they want to be away and create their own space. And if the family can afford it, that is what usually happens."
Mathews mentioned two Australian universities, the University of Wollongong and the University of Deakins, located in Gujarat, attributing their presence to the Gujarat Gift City initiative.
Mathews pointed out that Indian students often aspire to study abroad as a channel for migration. "The state governments in South India are not doing much to promote and attract foreign universities here. But they have a lot of potential," he said.
Meanwhile, Sadarangani advocated for a diversity of foreign and Indian higher education institutions collaborating to meet India's educational needs regarding foreign campuses in the country.
Michaela Küchler, Consul-General, the Federal Republic of Germany in Chennai, emphasised the qualities an Indian student going abroad should possess. "There are 45000 Indian students in Germany. An open mind is key to learning there," she said.