For years now, thousands of Indian students have been going abroad annually, for higher studies, in the fond hope, not always substantiated by reason that they can get value for money. It all began with the establishment of British rule in India, and the beginning of a new approach towards education. As Lord Macaulay saw the situation, an Indian educational system hardly existed and “a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India”. In submitting his views to the Governor General’s Council , Macaulay argued that the aim of education sponsored by the government should be “to form a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect”, which showed not only his ignorance but his racial arrogance as well.
As he saw it, “all the historical information which has been collected from the books written in the Sanskrit language is less valuable than what may be found in the most paltry abridgements used at Preparatory Schools in England.” A decadent India accepted this assessment. For years it was to England that the rich in India sent their children to study whether it be to Oxford, Cambridge, London School of Economics or elsewhere in the country.
Sixty five years later that inferiority complex still persists. It is claimed that Indian students go abroad mostly to English-speaking countries that include Australia, Canada and the United States, for one of two or both reasons: one is to get one’s educational qualifications a higher rating. The other is to get a chance to acquire citizenship and permanent living in the country of their choice.
According to available information the number of students studying in the US went up by 94,563 to 103,260 in 2010-2011 and those studying in Britain has nearly doubled between 1999 and 2009 to 19,205. In 2006, of the 123,000 Indian students studying outside India, 76,000 chose the US and the country of their choice, followed by UK, Canada and Australia at a total cost of about 13 billion dollars a year. In all, about 4,50,000 Indian students are apparently studying abroad at great cost to the Indian exchequer. And to think that way back in the eighties India’s total foreign exchange reserves were a bare two billion dollars! Not all students going abroad get admission to class universities. Some third rate universities, as from Australia, reportedly send their Public Relations men to India to recruit Indian students and, in practice, cheat them. Students come to know of it too late. Worse, Indian students in Australia in particular have been victims of racial hatred. Presently even British Universities, it is apparent, are not above cheating as was recently noticed when London Metropolitan University’s license was revoked because of “systemic and serious failures”, leaving hundreds of Indian students in distress and disarray. What is worse is that, according to a poll, 70 per cent of Britons want a limit to be put on intake of Indian students to British Universities. In such a situation, why should the government of India allow itself to be deprived of ten billion dollars year after year? Can’t that amount be more usefully utilised in upgrading Indian universities many of which can do with financial assistance?
According to one western poll, not a single Indian university features in the first hundred top universities in the world. We are aware of the criteria in which this assessment was arrived at but one explanation is that Indian Universities failed to supply the information sought by the pollsters. Indian universities cannot possibly be that bad as is made out, considering that one of them, Manipal University, attracts students from as many as 52 countries. Jawaharlal Nehru University which made it to the top 100 in the QS World University ranking (subject-wise) has around 300 foreign students. Fergusson College, Pune, is not ranked globally but has around 100 foreign students from 34 countries on its list. Just as importantly, according to Open Doors 2011, the number of American students studying in India has grown by a whopping 44.4 per cent from 2,690 in 2011 to 3,884 this year. Surely they know what they want and what they cannot get in their home universities? This is not to say that Indian Universities can automatically claim world class status.
The Higher Education System in Indian includes both private and public universities with the latter supported by the Government of India and the State governments while the former are mostly supported by various bodies and societies. The University Grants Commission (UGC) lists 42 Central Universities and 285 State Universities and 130 Deemed Universities. Its June 2012 list also names 112 Private Universities. In any event as of June 22, 2012, India could boast in all of 567 universities. Understandably their standards may not always be high and that should be a cause for deep concern. What the Government of India must do is to set up a Committee of top educationists to impartially rate both foreign and Indian Universities and suggest ways and means to help the latter to achieve higher standards. Surely it is not too much to ask?
Colleges in India, meanwhile are increasing phenomenally. According to a study carried out by K Sudha Rao (Contribution to Higher and Professional Education and Research, Banasthali Vidyapith) the number of colleges increased from 695 during 1950-1951 to 13,150 in 2002 and the student population has increased from 2.5 lakh to over 83 lakh while the number of teachers increased from 12,000 to 4 lakh. It is claimed that while India has the second largest system of Higher Education, next only to the US, the total number of students hardly represent 6.5 per cent of the relevant age group (between 18 and 23 years). Obviously much remains to be done.
In practically every department of education incremental improvement both in terms of quantity and quality has become the need of the hour. One frequently hears the charges that Indian Universities generally fare poorly where such factors as the number of international faculty and students at an institute, overall student satisfaction, research output, etc are concerned. Many colleges are also charged with lack of infrastructure and campus facilities. All these need to be attended to and the responsibility lies on the Ministry of Education, which seem to be presently in deep stupor. They need to be awakened but who is there in the UPA government to take an the obvious task?