The National Education Policy released in 2020 opened doors for India’s public funded higher educational institutions to open campuses abroad. IIT Delhi was the first public funded institution in the country to approach the government in 2020 for permission to open a campus abroad. Now, IIT Delhi and IIT Madras have been granted permission to start their international campuses in Abu Dhabi and Tanzania, respectively. Other IITs may follow suit. This is indeed a historical moment for India with our public funded institutions venturing into foreign shores. Let’s examine the benefits IITs can gain from these international campuses, and what needs to be done to leverage this opportunity?
1. Increased diversity: Operating campuses in different countries helps attract a diverse pool of students from various cultural and educational backgrounds. This enriches the learning experience, fosters cross-cultural understanding, and prepares students for a globalised world. It’s important, therefore, to not rely on just the Indian diaspora to study in these campuses but rather to attract students of diverse nationalities.
2. International rankings: In this year’s QS World University Rankings, our older five IITs received an average of 1.3 points out of 100 for international students and 2.9 points out of 100 for international faculty. This pulls down their international rankings considerably. Given the challenges with infrastructure, admission policies and cultural differences, it’s difficult to expect international students to come and study in IITs in India. By having international campuses and offering Bachelor of Science (BS) programs (so as not to dilute the brand value of BTech degrees offered in Indian campuses), there is an opportunity to expand the IIT brand globally and attract more foreign students to its Indian campuses as well. This cross-pollination of talent and ideas can elevate the institution’s status and rankings. Another way to improve cultural diversity is to have students in these international campuses spend time on the main campus in India for a minimum period of one semester to a year as part of their curriculum requirements. The enhanced fee charged from these students can help support the infrastructure requirements to host these students. This will also significantly enhance our international rankings.
3. Global reputation enhancement: One of the reasons for the poor showing in international rankings is also because of low perception scores. In the last QS global university rankings, the five older IITs scored an average of 21.9 points out of 100 in the total weighted reputation score. Having an international footprint will help improve perception of our institutions which, in turn, can help our standing in international rankings.
4. Revenue generation: International campuses can add an additional revenue source for IITs. They can charge higher fees, and if properly managed and with rules permitting, surplus funds can be reinvested in the main campus back in India, improving infrastructure and academic facilities here.
5. Collaboration opportunities: They can also serve as hubs for collaboration with foreign universities, research institutions, and industries. This facilitates knowledge exchange, joint research projects, and technology transfer, leading to innovations and advancements in various fields.
6. International faculty recruitments: Freed of rigid salary slabs that exist on Indian campuses, these foreign campuses may be able to attract more international scholars as faculty. Main campuses need to utilise this global talent pool. For example, it’s well-known that research papers co-authored with international scholars receive twice the number of citations as compared to purely national collaborations.
7. Alumni engagement: Having overseas campuses can strengthen ties with IIT alumni spread across the world. This support can be crucial for funding research, scholarships, and infrastructure development.
8. Addressing brain drain: By offering quality education and research opportunities abroad, Indian institutions can potentially retain some of the top Indian talent that might otherwise have gone elsewhere.
9. Policy influence: Global presence of our institutions can also provide India with greater leverage in shaping policies, both in India and the host countries of their international campuses. This soft power can help improve India’s prestige abroad.
However, establishing and maintaining international campuses also comes with challenges such as meeting regulatory requirements, availability of resources, ensuring quality control, and maintaining the institution’s core values and standards across all campuses. It’s also important not to overdo this. We need to see how the two extension campuses perform before expanding on this model further with other IITs. With careful planning and execution, the benefits can outweigh the challenges, contributing to the overall growth, reputation and global rankings of our institutions.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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