Saturday, September 12, 2009

Want a Harvard degree cheap? Go to India!

Well maybe in a couple of years, if all goes well in the Indian parliament.

You see, the newly elected UPA (United Progressive Alliance party) government, which has its roots in Mahatma Gandhi's Indian National Congress party, has taken it upon itself to make higher education more international and more competitive. In a recent article on the Times of India (URL below)

Excerpt: "University presidential delegations from Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Carnegie Mellon and Purdue have come to India in the past few years to learn more about and from the country. Last week, a team from Imperial College met Sibal and also visited Maharashtra. Several foreign universities keen on coming to India have already moved beyond the spadework—Georgia Tech has bought land in Hyderabad and the Schulich School of Business at York University is “committed’’ to setting up a campus in Mumbai. To mark its presence in the financial capital, this Canada-based management school is offering MBA programmes by partnering with the S P Jain Institute of Management and Research. If all goes as planned, the world will be in the classroom called India by 2010. "

Why would these ivy league colleges look to India to expand their campuses even if it means discounting their normal $50,000 a year in education expenses? Here are my educated guesses:

1. Economics: Most of these universities are research institutions, which charge a fee to do research on various subjects. Most of the research is done by what we grad students used to call "slave labor". Fully qualified graduates who could be earning a living with their bachelor's degrees, but choose to do research in a university at near minimum wage, because it is part of their degree requirement. Well, these bachelor's graduates are plentiful in India, and the minimum wage is about a dollar an hour. This year alone, India graduated over 400,000 engineers, and 300,000 are still looking for work. What better way to get them to do research on the cheap than to entice them with a Masters degree from Harvard?

2. Demographics: India is young, and its baby boomers are still in their teens. Which means more and more qualified people will be graduating from high schools and colleges looking for better opportunities. The US is aging, and the declining incomes of families is unlikely to keep students from attending expensive private schools.

3. Survival: Let's face it. The 21st century will be shaped by growing economies in Asia. Universities like Harvard and Imperial College need to maintain a global footprint, or they will be considered perochial and irrelevant. It would not be out of the realm of possibility for these institutions to have their largest campuses outside their countries of origin in a couple of decades. It has already happened to high tech companies like Hewlett Packard.

It is not like India does not have Internationally recognized private universities. There is the Birla Institute of Science and Technology in Pilani, and the Manipal University in Manipal, which have international reputations already. And hundreds of other private colleges have sprung up to educate the workforce for a booming software industry. But there is a cachet to the presence of institutions that one reads about only in newspapers, and whose alumni are often in international limelight. The new twist is having these universities charge competitive tuitions with local private universities, sort of like selling Cadillacs for the price of a Tata Nano. But, if all goes according to plan, sure as sunrise in the morning, it will happen.

So maybe the next Harvard graduate you meet will proabably sport a Malayali or Gujarati accent. It will be interesting to see how they will compete with the already "world class" graduates from the Indian Institutes of Technology or the Indian Institutes of Management.


syron said...

You don't know what you are writing.

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