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Higher Education Institutions can learn from Indian Think Tanks: Sanjay Verma, Secretary (West), Ministry of External Affairs

Nov 17, 2022

NEW DELHI, 17 November 2022: For our higher education system to be attractive to foreigners, the easiest route is to make it relevant to the times, said Mr Sanjay Verma, Secretary (West), Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, at the FICCI Higher Education Summit's session on 'Developing India as the Global Higher Education Hub'.

Mr Varma said that Indian Higher Education institutions could take a leaf out of Indian think tanks that are capturing global attention through their academic output and adoption of newer mediums like television and podcasts. These mediums eventually help "act as advertisements, not only for foreign students but all students in the country." Addressing the question of anchoring greater academia-industry cross-pollination, Mr Varma said, "innovation, incubation, R&D, and entrepreneurship need to be seen as establishing a synergy with institutions of higher learning. Besides, "the plethora of MoUs between academic institutions and foreign universities need to be replaced by meaningful and functional agreements."

On occasion, Mr Darpan Jain, Joint Secretary, Department of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India, said that around 5 million students go abroad. Out of these, about one million are Indian students. Mr Jain noted that "around fifty thousand students come to India." In addition, "the demand for higher education is rising rapidly" in the country, he averred. These factors "are a big opportunity for our education service providers", and more institutions must address these.

Mr Jain listed the steps the Ministry of Commerce is taking to help domestic education service providers, "we are trying to get them market access," he said. The second step is "mutual recognition of qualifications," as was done with the UK recently and is under negotiation with Australia. Third, he added, "is a post-study work visa requirement" for Indian students abroad. 

Among other speakers, Mr Pawan Agarwal, Former Secretary, Government of India, noted that as many as 180 universities now have an office for international affairs. "A decade or more ago, we did not have more than 15 universities having international offices," he said. He also mentioned that campuses established in Gift City are outside the purview of the Indian regulatory space. 

Dr Prem Singh, Advisor- Education, NITI Aayog, averred that "we need to understand our comparative advantage" and "build a vibrant research and innovation ecosystem in higher education". He advocated building a narrative on the strengths of the Indian higher education system.

Dr Abhay Sinha, Director General, SEPC, said, "market access, information on global markets, FTA, will provide many ideas on promoting higher education".

Mr Manoj Kumar, Chairman & Managing Director, EdCIL and Prof (Dr) Sanjeev Chaturvedi, Advisor at India Uzbekistan Entrepreneurship Development, also spoke during the event.

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