WION Edit: Foreign financial Influence in universities - lessons for India

Delhi Feb 14, 2020, 03.48 PM(IST) Written By: WION

Education Photograph:( Zee News Network )

Story highlights

India's education sector is starved of funds - major universities are still state-run and they depend on the government for cash.

India needs funds for education, but foreign funds come with strings attached. India's education system needs urgent reform and money.

This is a young country - a demographic jackpot. But no Indian university features among the top 100 in the world. It's not because of a lack of talent, but because of lack of capital.

India's education sector is starved of funds - major universities are still state-run and they depend on the government for cash.

In this budget, the government allocated Rs 99,300 crores to education - it sounds like a big sum, but it's not enough.

It was a modest increase from the previous budget, but academics say it won't fulfil the needs of educational institutions. That's where foreign players come in.

The entry of foreign universities can improve the system and make Indian universities more competitive, promote innovation and facilitate global academic cooperation.

But, how do you regulate such a setup? How do you make sure that foreign money doesn't influence Indian education?

That is the problem America is grappling with today. Since 2012, American colleges and universities reported more than 10 billion dollars in foreign assistance. In 2017, 91 institutions reported that they received more than one billion in gifts and contracts from foreign governments and non-government sources.

The money came from 105 countries. But, China has emerged as the biggest donor, now the Trump administration is cracking down. The initial probe suggests that the relationship between universities and foreign donors has evolved over time.

And the laws have simply failed to catch up as India opens its doors to foreign players, it must take lessons from America. A tight regulatory framework is needed to keep foreign investments in check.

The government should not leave academic research completely in the hands of private players, funding research critical to national development must remain a strategic priority.

Academic experts must be mobilised to review foreign grants, contracts, collaborations and affiliations. In the end, foreign funding must promote learning, academic autonomy and student engagement at universities.

India's campuses are centres of learning, free speech and debate, foreign funding should not be allowed to turn them into agenda pushers.

(Disclaimer: WION Edit is the channel's take on the big events of the world)