New Delhi: Phil Clements’ job is to ensure that the launch class of 100 students who enrolled in September at Leeds Met India in Bhopal receive the same quality of education that they would get at Leeds Metropolitan University in Yorkshire, the UK.

The UK university is responsible for the teaching while the Indian partner, Jagran Social Welfare Society (JSWS), has made the Rs45 crore investment to set up the campus. Clements is a full-time academic director stationed on the campus.

Listen to Vijaya Khandavilli, former country coordinator for educational advising services at the US Educational Foundation in India, talk about the prospect of foreign universities entering India

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Although Leeds Met has offshoots in Hong Kong and Africa, Clements says that a dedicated campus, a range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses, with 30% of the course taught by the UK faculty and class assignments flown to the UK for checking, make the partnership unique.

Leeds Met, which will collect 9% of the Rs9.5 lakh fee charged per student, is trying to tap lucrative demand in India for international education.

Expanding reach: The Leeds Met India campus in Bhopal. UK’s Leeds Metropolitan University, which will collect 9% of the Rs9.5 lakh fee charged per student, is responsible for the teaching while the Indian partner, Jagran Social Welfare Society, has made the Rs45 crore investment for setting up the campus.

Overseas education providers will be allowed to establish and run their own campuses in the country after legislation proposed by human resource development (HRD) minister Kapil Sibal, as part of his drive to reform education, is approved by Parliament.

Some critics complain that Sibal’s reform drive is focused too heavily on higher learning to the detriment of school education—whether it be faculty salaries of Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) or bringing foreign institutions and investment to India.

A government programme to put every child in school, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, has managed to raise school enrolment numbers, but has not been able to arrest dropout rates. Experts and not-for-profit organizations have said one in every two children enrolled drops out of school.

A Bill, which was made law immediately after Sibal became minister, making education a fundamental right does not promise much by way of raising the quality of learning.

“The RTE (Right to Education) does not talk about quality of education. Its implementation will amount to doing more of the same," says Madhav Chavan, whose non-governmental organization Pratham brings out an annual report on what children are learning in rural India based on surveys conducted at their homes.

There’s no stopping Sibal, who is going ahead with his attempt to bring foreign universities to India. He said at the India Economic Summit in New Delhi on Monday that the Foreign Education Providers Bill would be sent to the cabinet soon.

The minister recently visited the US with representatives from 17 private Indian universities to explore the possibility of collaborations with institutions, including Harvard University, Yale University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

India’s restrictive rules have seen state-run management and technology institutes run a virtual monopoly on the quality of professional education. Due to bureaucratic red tape, these institutes find it difficult to quickly adapt to changed circumstances and demand.

In government-run institutions, there is regulation and bureaucracy that comes from ownership, says Ashank Desai, a graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT-B) and the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A), who also sits on the board of the Ahmedabad business school.

“When that happens, you compete with your hands tied," he says.

On the other hand, privately run organizations could adapt to foreign competition faster because they have substantially greater freedom to act the way they want to with respect to salaries, fees and recruitments, Desai points out.

Private business schools, which have proliferated due to the combined effect of the limited number of seats offered by government-run institutes and the fast growth of India’s economy, say they welcome the Foreign Education Providers Bill.

“All of the top universities will come in," says Atul Chauhan, chancellor of Amity University. “There are so many who keep talking to us."

The interest in India’s higher education is reflected in nearly 150 foreign institutes offering courses in collaboration with Indian varsities, both government and private. Part of these courses are run in India and the remaining abroad, in a so-called twinning arrangement allowed by the education department.

An HRD ministry official says 50 foreign universities, including US-based Duke University and several others from the US, the UK and Australia, have expressed interest in the past three months to set up campuses in India. The bureaucrat declined to be named.

Institutions such as the IIMs see the entry of foreign players as a way to benchmark excellence in education, but want their numbers to be limited to select institutions.

A government panel, chaired by physicist Yash Pal, has recommended that only the top 200 foreign universities be allowed to enter the country to avoid fly-by-night operators. It also called for a strict regulatory framework for foreign universities, calling for something that has, ironically, been missing for many Indian colleges.

The IIMs’ complaint that they do not have a level playing field to compete in can be explained by rules that force them to set aside seats for caste-based reservations and follow norms on faculty recruitment and pay. But some say the entry of foreign universities will force everyone, including the IITs and the IIMs, to pull up their socks.

“IIMs have been in existence for the last 60-70 years and operated in a certain kind of environment," says M.L. Shrikant, chief executive of SP Jain Institute of Management and Research, a Mumbai business school that also has campuses in Dubai and Singapore.

He says the IIMs are just like any other “sheltered economy organization", and also blamed business schools collectively for academic standards that cannot right now compete on a global scale.

“Management institutes have not done as much as we should have to improve our standards of teaching," Shrikant says.

This has not prevented Indian business schools from venturing abroad, where most of their classrooms fill up with non-resident Indian (NRI) students. XLRI Jamshedpur, for instance, has 100 students at its Dubai campus.

“Like most of the other institutes in Dubai, we also get nominations from the NRI community and limited nominations from other nationalities," says T.A.S. Vijayaraghavan, associate dean of international programmes at XLRI. “Efforts are on to penetrate to other nationalities and make it global."