Opinion

Opportunity for global educational tie-ups

Robert B Ahdieh | Updated on September 04, 2020

Global reach via innovative pathways   -  Getty Images/iStockphoto

The NEP may incentivise foreign universities to invest in our education system and develop programmes with an Indian focus

The central role of India — the world’s largest democracy — on the international stage is beyond dispute. The state of its economy and the health and well-being of its people must necessarily be considered by any thoughtful observer. In no small part, that includes the state of higher education in India.

The new National Education Policy (NEP) represents a turning point in that regard. Abandoning the country’s traditional approach, the NEP suggests an Indian educational sector that is increasingly open to engagement with foreign educational institutions, whether as competitors against whom Indian universities can now hold their own or as collaborators alongside which those universities can take greater strides. Gone are the days when India’s universities feared they would be overshadowed by foreign institutions.

That change did not, of course, come overnight. Rather, it reflects the success of educational initiatives in India that have been underway for some time. The NEP comes at a particularly opportune moment, however, given current limitations at the international travel, heightened resistance to foreign student enrolment in many countries around the world and a growing focus on, receptivity to, and capacity for, high-quality online education.

Foreign investment

Driven by those factors, the NEP is likely to prompt substantial new investments in India by foreign universities. Faced with significant financial challenges, foreign universities are likely to see India’s fast-growing population of young people — including a growing number with both the resources necessary to pursue higher educational opportunities and the desire to distinguish themselves in a competitive marketplace — as a promising source of capable students. Such engagement, whether it is competitive or cooperative, can be expected to help increase academic opportunities, educational quality, and research standards in the country.

Foreign universities are creating an alumni base in India that will help fund yet more sophisticated programmes of research and other activities for which students might have previously emigrated to other countries. “With time,” as Provost Carol A. Fierke of Texas A&M University put it, “India will inevitably emerge as one of the most significant sources of educational partnerships for US universities — both in their research and in their educational programmes.”

In law, the NEP holds no less promise. Indian legal education has already seen a significant transformation in recent decades, starting with the establishment of the national law schools. That, in turn, has driven the creation of private schools – and investment in the calibre of education at the very best of them – to further meet the demand for high-quality legal education.

Even so, the tendency to go abroad for advanced legal studies has persisted, for two reasons: First, the desire to engage in specialised courses of studies, such as in intellectual property or trade law; and, second, to pursue opportunities to network and establish relationships that will foster more global professional opportunities.

Integrated design

The NEP offers the possibility of accomplishing those goals domestically, with significant savings in cost, time and effort associated with travelling overseas. Leading law schools in the US would thus do well to begin to develop specialised programmes of study, perhaps with a flexible mix of online and face-to-face instruction, which are designed to engage current law students in India as well as recent graduates and practicing attorneys.

At the Texas A&M University School of Law, Srividhya Ragavan, a graduate of NLSIU, Bengaluru, has taken the lead in advancing just such innovation. Our focussed efforts have translated into newly established partnerships with multiple Indian universities, industry associations, and educational providers. Texas A&M Law now offers a range of programmes in India, from executive education courses to specialised degrees and general opportunities for study. Equally important, the programmes include innovative pathways to securing degrees — in some cases with as little as a single semester of study in the US.

All of that has been possible only because the university is keenly aware of the importance of global study. As Texas A&M University’s president, Michael K. Young has emphasised: “An understanding of the world is an essential component of a comprehensive education today. Those with it will thrive; those without it will struggle.”

No one can predict the precise shape that the future will take — either generally, or when it comes to the future of higher education and assoicated partnerships in India. Whatever the details, however, we can be confident that the New Education Policy promises a future that it will be bright.

The writer is Dean and Anthony G Buzbee Endowed Dean’s Chair,

Texas A&M University School of Law

Published on September 04, 2020

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