The US – India ‘knowledge’ relationship: the sleeping giant stirs!

gore Editor’s Note: This entry has been kindly prepared by Tim Gore, now Director of The Centre for Indian Business, University of Greenwich, London, UK.  Prior to this, Tim was Director of Education at the British Council in India, where he was responsible for growing the knowledge partnership between India and the UK. Tim also led the establishment of the UK-India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI) that is profiled in an earlier blog entry.


How will President Obama’s ambitious plans for a new diplomacy translate into practical international relations and how will this impact on the education sector? An early example of this may prove to be relations with India and some clues may be in the newly released Asia Society Task Force report: Delivering on the Promise: Advancing US Relations with India.  goreasiasociety2goreasiasociety1

The high level rhetoric for the US-India relationship may not have changed that much after all President Bush declared ‘the world needs India’ on his 2006 visit to the Indian School of Business (ISB) – Hyderabad –  a school touted by the new report as an example of what can be done with good US-India cooperation. The School works in partnership with Wharton and Kellogg and prompted a Bush accolade ‘You’ve got a great thing going’!

However, the tone of the report is a substantial departure from the Bush years. Democratic colors are now firmly fixed to the mast and references to ‘reciprocity’ and ‘understanding India’ abound, while the ‘world needs India’ has changed to ‘the USA needs India as an ally in its foreign policy issues’.

The education agenda is a little buried in this report. It has been classified under the second track ‘Joint Public-Private Partnerships for Complex Global Challenges’. Is this code meaning that there will be little Government funding available (seed-corn funding is mentioned briefly)? After all, educational relations between the two countries have flourished over the years, despite a relative absence of visible policy and public sector involvement. There are over 80,000 Indians studying in higher education in the US every year and the US dominates the ‘market’ for doctoral studies. Also, many commentators (see, for example,  Anna-Lee Saxenian’s book The New Argonauts: Regional Advantage in a Global Economy) have pointed out the seminal role of talented Indian entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and elsewhere and research links with the US are strong and growing.

There are also quite a number of US tertiary collaborations with India (although surprisingly bearing in mind the respective sizes of their tertiary sectors, not more than the number of UK collaborations). However, the use of ISB as a beacon of attainment highlights the key issue with US-India educational relations and the nuances of policy that the US will need to get right.

goreisb ISB is an exceptional institution, undoubtedly in the top tier of such institutions globally, in terms of how hard they work their students if nothing else! However ISB, with its powerful private sector Governing Board and influential international links (US presidents don’t drop into every management college with a foreign badge on the gate), is not accredited in India by the relevant regulatory body the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE).

Similarly, the campus of the US Western International University run by the influential Modi family has no official status in India. If pressed, officials will say that it is ‘not legal’.

Australia, New Zealand and UK have a multilateral forum with India on quality assurance, regulation of cross border education and other issues of mutual interest, The US approach thus far has been to lobby for liberalisation of the sector. Alienating the Human Resources Ministry may not matter in trade relations, but it will matter in education and knowledge partnerships.

The report shows little understanding of the education sector. It claims that direct investment in education is not allowed in India. This is not really the case as a recent MoU to establish a campus of Georgia Institute of Technology in Andhra Pradesh (near the ISB) demonstrates. Regulation of foreign provision in India is unclear with the relevant legislation frozen in parliament but accreditation can be achieved. The UK’s Huddersfield University has both invested in, and achieved, official recognition of its joint venture in ‘Hospitality Management’ with the Taj Hotel Group in India.

Similarly, the report claims that the higher education sector is overwhelmingly public which is again not the case. Over 50% of higher education provision in India is private and the vast majority of audiences the US would like to address at secondary level will attend private schools which dominate the urban areas. This brings me to a second point.

The ISB example, while interesting, also misses the point raised, as the main way the US can build an educational relationship with India is claimed to be partnership in meeting the training requirements for India’s large population. ISB and similar Tier 1 institutions will never address this demand with their tiny elite intakes. More relevant are the 1800 engineering colleges with Tier 2 aspirations that are currently achieving less than 30% employability according to the IT industry body Nasscom. Here the community colleges and Tier 2 US institutions could play a bigger role (briefly touched upon in the report). And here, also, the private sector becomes very relevant with the enormous number of Tier 2 private institutions springing up all over India.

Finally, the potential of the partnership is less than fully explored here. The US already has a substantial knowledge partnership with India which transcends the main objective in the report; of helping India to produce its next generation workforce. The complex research and innovation links with US through entrepreneurs and highly qualified graduate technicians and scientists are of immense value to both countries but largely ignored in this report. The overall impression is of a hastily prepared report to encourage the new administration to focus on India.

Many of us have wondered what would happen if the sleeping giant awakes and the US take a more pro-active and coherent approach to its knowledge and education partnership with India.This report may be the alarm clock going off..!!

Tim Gore

A new breed of Indian university: private institutions with student support structures

Editor’s note: today’s guest entry has been generously provided by Raj Chakrabarti and Augustine Bartning.

Dr. Chakrabarti (AB Harvard; MA, PhD Princeton) is a chemical physicist at the Department of Chemistry, Princeton University, and founding member of the Chakrabarti Foundation, a nonprofit that supports education in developing countries. He works with several leaders in the arena of international higher education to develop strategies for higher education reform in India. He also moderates an international forum on science education in developing countries in collaboration with the Infinity Foundation, Princeton, NJ.

Mr. Bartning (BS, Georgetown University) is Director of Institutional and International Strategies at Keeling and Associates, a higher education consulting firm located in New York City that specializes in student support infrastructures and institutional assessment strategies. He is currently involved in managing the International Center for Student Success and Institutional Accountability (ICSSIA), which aims to set international standards for quality assessment, with a particular focus on institutions of higher learning in developing nations. The issues they discuss below are examined more comprehensively in their article, ‘Developing Globally Compatible Institutional Infrastructures for Indian Higher Education’, submitted, Journal of Studies in International Education (Sage).


Much has been written in recent months on the challenges facing India in her efforts to develop an expansive university system that is capable of educating a larger subsection of the growing population. We consider here a different, oft-overlooked challenge confronting institutions of higher learning in developing countries like India – namely, the cultivation of an academic environment that is focused on the holistic development of globally conversant students (Keeling, 2004). In North America and Europe, numerous studies have suggested that a dominant factor that contributes to the success of the most highly ranked universities is the attention afforded directly to the student and complementary support structures that exist for the primary goal of maximizing the productivity of the student experience (Schulz, Lee, Cantwell, McClellan, & Woodard, 2007). Most of these schools demonstrate a strong commitment to addressing student needs and issues that affect student learning and engagement.

As a general rule, Indian universities – especially publicly funded institutions – have not been held to any systemic level of accountability when it comes to student support structures. Attention to the individualized learning needs of students has historically been lacking in India, as well as in most other developing countries. However, within the past several years, a small group of Indian institutions have begun to prove themselves the exception to this norm. These institutions appreciate the benefits resulting from delivering comprehensive student services. They understand how these services can be integrated throughout every level of the institutional infrastructure. Moreover, they acknowledge that offering student services can provide them with competitive advantages they need for success in a rapidly evolving, increasingly global educational landscape.

Strikingly, these changes have not typically been made by traditional public universities, but rather among privately funded schools, which are trying to fulfil a national demand and distinguish themselves among the elite world institutions. Through their introduction of student affairs programs and services, these newly created, non-traditional institutions are fostering the development of a generation of socially, developmentally, and globally competent Indian graduates.

Here, we profile one such innovative private institution – Heritage Institute of Technology (Heritage) in Kolkata – to illustrate what is rapidly becoming a new trend in the Indian higher education landscape. Heritage is a premier privately funded educational institution, created and financed by the Kalyan Bharti Trust, which was established by a consortium of successful North Indian entrepreneurs and professionals. Heritage has only been in existence for seven years, but in that short time, it has become a model for the new generation of private Indian institutions of higher education, even pulling faculty away from prestigious government funded universities (Probir Roy, Vice Chancellor, Heritage & Pradip Agarwal, CEO, Kalyan Bharti Trust, personal communication, October 28, 2007). Heritage has focused on enhancing the overall student experience and creating structures and metrics that will accurately gauge student success. Some examples include the formation of a functional Alumni Association, creation of a Student’s Council consisting of committees like Cultural, Academic, Magazine, Games, and Sports, and approval of student chapters of the Computer Society of India (CSI), the Instrumentation, Systems, & Automation Society (ISA), the Indian Institute of Chemical Engineers (IIChE) and the Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers—which frequently organize seminars and workshops.

Heritage is also in pursuit of very progressive student support systems, which are modeled closely after the most popular student support models currently employed in the US and Canada—inclusive among these models are the best practices for primary health care and mental health services. The school provides medical insurance for all students (virtually nonexistent among Indian public universities), disseminates free textbooks and laptops, and operates a sophisticated information technology and communication infrastructure that is supported by private industry. Heritage maintains a strong relationship with students in advancing their academic standing in a global setting: students have received prestigious awards such as the World Wide Topper distinction, and won international engineering contests. Due increasingly to administrative efforts that promote civic engagement, Heritage students are encouraged to reach beyond the walls of the institution to partake in integrative and service learning programs, such as teaching computer software skills to underprivileged children in India.

Perhaps most importantly for the globalization of Indian higher education, progressive institutions like Heritage have a substantial advantage over public institutions in developing partnerships with Western schools, primarily because of their flexibility and willingness to adopt student support infrastructures aligned with Western models. Many foreign universities have begun to contact private Indian universities in search of collaborative student exchange programs. For example, the London School of Economics (LSE) and New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) entered into negotiations with Heritage in 2007, and this year, Heritage is sending a consortium of students to take courses for a semester at NJIT. In turn, Heritage seeks to offer international students an academic experience on its own campus similar to that of Western institutions.

The accelerated development of such private Indian institutions – and their ability to outpace public institutions even in their relative youth – was recently underscored by the remarkable ascent of the Indian School of Business (ISB), located in Hyderabad. Like Heritage, ISB was founded by a consortium of Indian professionals. In February 2008, ISB was listed as one of the top 20 global business schools by the Financial Times (FT) annual MBA 2008 rankings—even above Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Business. Although it has only been in existence for 6 years, the ISB is the first Indian institution (public or private) to rank within the top 300 schools in its category at an international level. The FT ranking criteria include international mobility and career progression of alumni. In this regard, ISB has developed a career advancement service that supports students in career choices and works with employers to help make job placements.

While Indian institutions such as Presidency College, the University of Mumbai, and the University of Delhi are the analogues of top-tier western universities, they lack serious channels of horizontal communication across schools and departments (Keeling, 2007), and vertical communication between students and faculty. For example, students interviewed at Presidency College cited depression and career questions as commonly overlooked issues, and expressed frustration at the dearth of places to turn for advice or counselling. A small number of Indian public institutions – including the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) – have taken preliminary efforts to establish such communication channels. As of the time of this writing, these services are proving inadequate to deal with the rising stress at Indian universities. For example, between 2005 and 2008, five students at IIT Kanpur (often regarded as the nation’s top engineering school) committed suicide. Such incidents have focused international attention directly on the quality of the student experience at Indian public institutions.

As competition in the Indian higher education market grows, it will become increasingly difficult for top Indian institutions to globalize without student support services and internationally recognized methods for gauging student learning outcomes. Although in the West the value of a degree from a top traditional university holds a value with which for-profit institutions are unable to compete, institutions of higher education in India operate on an increasingly level playing field where integrative programs can make even the newest university an attractive candidate for international partnerships, exchange programs, and domestic demand. With minimal international standards for assessment and student support services*, such progressive institutions could witness a growth far exceeding that of similar institutions in the West, where the target audience is much smaller and more limited in scope.

* International consortiums, such as the recently founded International Center for Student Success and Institutional Accountability (ICSSIA), may play an important role in the development of such compatible infrastructures


Keeling, R.P., Underhile, R., and Wall, A.F. (2007). Horizontal and vertical structures: The dynamics of organization in higher education. Liberal Education. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Keeling, R.P., ed. (2004). Learning Reconsidered: A Campus-Wide Focus on the Student Experience. Washington, DC: National Association of Student Personnel Administrators and American College Personnel Association.

Schulz, S.A., Lee, J.J., Cantwell, B.J., McClellan, G. & Woodard, D. (2007). Moving Toward a Global Community: An Analysis of the Internationalization of Student Affairs Graduate Preparation Programs. NASPA Journal.

Raj Chakrabarti ( and Augustine Bartning (

Developments in the world of private for-profit global higher ed

The private for-profit global higher ed world generated three news items of note this morning.



Baltimore, Maryland, July 8, 2008 – Laureate Education, Inc. today announced it has acquired the Universidad Tecnológica de México (UNITEC), one of the largest private universities in Mexico, and the Universidad Latina and Universidad Americana (UAM) in Costa Rica.

UNITEC has eight campuses throughout Mexico, including six in Mexico City, one in Guadalajara and one in Monterrey. The university has a 40-year tradition of providing higher education throughout the country, and today serves more than 36,000 students….

Universidad Latina, the largest private university in Costa Rica, was founded in 1989 and has more than 16,000 students. The university is widely recognized for its health sciences programs, including medicine and dentistry. UAM, founded in 1997, has more than 4,000 students, and specializes in business education. Combined, the schools have 13 campuses throughout Costa Rica.

Continue reading here



PHOENIX–(BUSINESS WIRE)–July 7, 2008–Apollo Group, Inc. (Nasdaq:APOL) (“Apollo Group,” “Apollo” or “the Company”) today announced the appointment of Charles “Chas” B. Edelstein as Chief Executive Officer and Director, effective August 26, 2008. Apollo’s founder, Dr. John G. Sperling, continues to act as Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors….

Mr. Edelstein, 48, has more than 20 years of experience as a strategic and financial advisor. He joins Apollo Group from Credit Suisse, where he served as a Managing Director and headed the Global Services Group within the Investment Banking Division, as well as the Chicago investment banking office. Mr. Edelstein founded and oversaw Credit Suisse’s leading advisory practice in the education industry, where he served as advisor to many of the largest education companies, including Apollo Group.

Continue reading here

Finally, the Wall Street Journal noted, today, that Marcus Brauchli, the former managing editor of the Wall Street Journal (now owned by Rupert Murdoch) will become the Washington Post’s new executive editor. The formal press release is here.

Why profile this topic? Recall that the Washington Post, despite its iconic status, is effectively being bankrolled by private for-profit global higher ed (aka Kaplan), as we noted in an entry titled ‘Pulitzer Prizes and the global higher ed industry‘. This point is reinforced in the Wall Street Journal:

But the Post has been struggling with the same forces that have devastated the newspaper industry in recent years — defections of readers and advertisers to the Web. Over the past 24 months, the paper’s weekday circulation has dropped 7.1% to 673,180, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Print-ad revenue fell 13% in 2007, according to the Post. While Washington Post Co. has been somewhat insulated from the impact of these changes by its profitable Kaplan education business, the paper has lately taken steps to cut costs. It eliminated more than 100 newsroom positions, bringing the total newsroom count to about 700 from its peak of more than 900 in 2003. Some staffers worry that further cuts are coming.

These three news items are lenses onto three related development patterns:

  • Diversification, dependency, and cross-subsidy via for-profit private higher ed (in the case of Kaplan).
  • The extension of private higher ed networks into new ’emerging market’ geographies via the acquisition of private universities (in the case of Laureate).
  • Financialization, with institutions of for-profit private higher ed reaching into the calculative networks that enable global higher ed value chains to be designed and brought to life (in the case of Apollo).

Given the scale of education services on offer via Laureate, Apollo, and Kaplan – over 2 million students being served right now – these news items and development patterns are worth taking note of.

Kris Olds

‘Frontier markets’, the International Finance Corporation, and development

The University World News is carrying a report this week on a conference to be held (14-16th May, 2008) in Washington DC, hosted by a less well known outfit in the World Bank Group – the International Finance Corporation (IFC). Better known to most is the IFC’s cousin, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, generally referred to as the World Bank.

The conference, titled ‘Investing in the Future: Innovation in Private Education’ will invite participants to discuss what the IFC regards as the significant benefits for developing countries of engaging the (for-profit) private sector in delivering tertiary education.

The IFC is currently the largest multilateral agency funding private education in the world. One way of understanding the difference between the World Bank and the IFC is that while the World Bank finances projects with sovereign guarantees, the IFC finances projects without sovereign guarantees.

In other words, the IFC is primarily active in private sector projects, and in this respect it is a profit-oriented financial institution. Like a bank, IFC lends or invests its own funds and borrowed funds to its customers, and expects to make a sufficient risk-adjusted return on its global portfolio of projects.

Over the past decade, the IFC has taken a keen interest in the education sector. In 2001 the IFC published its Education Sector Strategy (with advice from the Education Sector of the World Bank). According to the IFC, the role of the private sector lies in both the provision and financing of education. This role is expected to grow, with increased pressure for more education as a result of the Education for All initiatives, and as human capital formation is advanced as a result of knowledge economy policies.

From 2000 to 2007, IFC provided $237 million in financing to 37 private education projects in 20 developing countries. The projects had a total value of $839 million.

However, rating agency Standard and Poor’s 2007 Annual Report on the IFC has suggested the most profitable and secure investments are likely to be in the higher education as opposed to the schooling sector.

Its current medium term investment strategy is to open up ‘frontier markets’ in Africa and the Middle East (Standard and Poor’s, 2007).

In an interview with the University World News, IFC Executive Vice-president Lars Thunell is quoted as saying:

Global spending on education has risen substantially over the past decade. There is a demand for more and better services, and governments are embracing private sector participation as a way to increase quality and efficiency. Nowhere is this felt more keenly than in the emerging markets, where demand is presenting significant opportunities.

Claims that for-profit private firms necessarily provide more efficient and better quality services, including in sectors like education is vague, and the evidence provided to date is thin.

However, the more important issue is that, like the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) (see our recent report on the GATS), the IFC sees education as a ‘frontier market’ in the emerging economies, and is willing to lend funds to investors in order to advance this project. It is also ready to ‘up’ its levels of investment in order to help this project along.

We will likely see more of the IFC as efforts to advance the privatization of education move ahead and developing countries are seen to be ripe for the picking. What is crucial, then, is that we become better informed about actors, like the IFC, and their role in the global governance of higher education. This will enable us to see the very complex way in which this sector is not only developing but is being strategically progressed by actors that are often off the analytical radar of many people and institutions.

Susan Robertson

15 May update: see Inside Higher Ed‘s story ‘The private sector role in global higher education‘ for a report from Day 1 of the conference. See also this report on the conference by World University News.