New Delhi: As foreign universities manoeuvre to enter the Indian education system, Northwestern University and its business school, the Kellogg School of Management, are not far behind. Northwestern president Henry Bienen, along with Kellogg dean Dipak Jain, visited India this week to explore the prospects of a degree programme and campus in India. In an interview, Bienen talked about his plans for the subcontinent. Edited excerpts:
What are you doing in India?
A couple of years ago Dipak wanted me to come and meet people here. We had some alumni that were here, spread around India, and I wanted to meet them. Dipak was the first Indian dean of a major business school, and so I wanted to strengthen ties between Kellogg and India, which were already good.
Eyeing India: Bienen says in terms of human capital, India needs to produce more. I think there are still bottlenecks here, and they might not be in software engineering anymore, he adds. Madu Kapparath / Mint
Kellogg was part of the team that set up the Indian School of Business. What kind of additional Northwestern presence would you like to see in India?
For the moment I would say it’s not completely defined. Kellogg has used different models, from alliance to joint degree.
What’s the ideal set-up?
To have a campus here which gives a Northwestern degree. We would start at the graduate level, probably an MA degree, and probably journalism and communication, with some Kellogg involvement, as some kind of media management centre. At the end of the day, or even at the beginning, communications and journalism have to have a strong business model.
What would it do for India?
This place produces a lot of really good people, but it’s a very big place. So in terms of human capital, it needs to produce more. I think there are still bottlenecks here, and they might not be in software engineering anymore. Given the size, and complexity of India, and the population, I don’t think anybody looking at India would say you are there yet, in terms of a deep bullpen, waiting there, of human capital.
You have your own campus in Qatar?
In many ways that was easy. Education City in Doha already had five or six American universities, the model was an elaborated one, the land was there, the foundation provided the capital for the buildings, the structure of the budget was pretty easy to do, and if you have my job, you often take the easy path. It didn’t look so easy here.
Then why come here?
Our interest in coming to India would be a brand, and further internationalization of the university. At the graduate level, communication and awareness is good. If you want to do material science, or nanotechnology, or chemistry, you know where all the good places around the world are. For undergraduates it’s somewhat less true. When I first came to Northwestern, about 1% of undergraduate students were not American; today it’s 6%.
You are stepping down as president after 14 years at Northwestern. Any unfinished business?
A great university is always an evolving institution, always a work in progress. I wanted to go win a football bowl. We had a very weak football team before I arrived, now we have a good one. I also sort of wish I had pushed farther, faster, on this India business. This is the 11th hour now, for me, but Dipak will be here, and he can continue to explore this and to push it forward. I was very keen to further internationalize the university because I felt the reputation of the university outside the US, with maybe the exception of Kellogg, should have been bigger.