18 Nov 2015 22:50 IST

How working for mutual benefit makes universities efficient

Indian universities find that building global networks and partnerships revitalises them

Decades after businesses localised the world, universities in India are warming to the idea of a globalised approach. Indian universities and other large educational institutions are now focusing on networking and partnerships to align themselves with their global counterparts.

Global partnerships have become the central focus of institution building. For instance, OP Jindal Global University, started in 2009, has rapidly grown to become one of the top private universities in a short span of time, owing to its international collaborations. The university has carefully placed the word ‘Global’ in its name and has 105 collaborations in 34 different countries so far, some of which include partnerships with Yale University, Harvard University, Cornell University, Brown University and Cambridge University.

Global vision

“From day one, our university’s vision has remained to create a partnership based on a global vision with a global orientation in terms of curriculum, courses, faculty and research,” says C Raj Kumar, Vice-Chancellor, OP Jindal Global university.

“We have developed 10 different forms of collaboration, including faculty exchanges, student exchanges, joint teaching arrangements, joint research arrangements, joint conferences, joint publications, degree programmes, summer schools, winter schools and study abroad programmes and joint executive education programmes.”

Raj Kumar says 25 per cent of Jindal’s faculty is from non-Indian institutes and most of them are from the US, Europe, and Australia. The rest include people who have studied and worked overseas and in India.

Networks and collaborations connecting professional bodies, academic research groups and scientific communities play a critical role in sharing of knowledge/ good practices and inter-university cooperation.

Industry connect

Partnerships are not only a cost-effective solution to better learning, it gives the students much desired industry exposure too, believes Utpal Ghosh, CEO & President, University of Petroleum & Energy.

“A lot of challenges in the education industry can be resolved by collaborating with each other,” says Ghosh. “We are keen that our students are industry-ready and the linkage with industry is vital in achieving this. We keep sending our students for projects and internships but one thing we found very strong was the ability to send our faculty to industry.”

“This summer 50 of our 415 faculty went out and spent a full summer in industry working on live projects. When they came back we could see the quality of classroom teaching had improved significantly,” he adds.

UPE has strong international institution collaborations as well, having forged over 50 active partnerships with various universities abroad.

“The model that works best for us is that, irrespective of the geographic location of an institute, we recognise each others tuition fees,” Ghosh informs. “For instance, if our student goes to university X, he doesn't have to pay a tuition fee, and the same is the case when a student from another university comes to our university; he/she doesn't have to pay an additional fee. The only thing students end up paying is the living costs for the semester.”

Leveraging knowledge

Partnerships are all about leveraging one another’s work to provide benefit to a larger number of students/people. “If someone has already done some good work, it makes enormous sense for us not to repeat it; instead, we form networks to leverage them — it could be infrastructure, academic participation, or collaborations,” says S Vaitheeswaran, MD & CEO, Manipal Global Education.

“If two universities are doing cutting edge work on different subjects, it makes much sense for those universities to collaborate instead of starting to work from scratch on each of the subjects,” he explains

According to Vaitheeswaran, networking and collaborations can reduce the span of time to reach the students through various modes. “For instance, we now have around nine Universities — six outside of India, three inside India. The first University we started in Manipal, Karnataka, to the 9th University, which is an online university we started in Kuala Lumpur — the start-up time for each of these universities has dropped exponentially,” he adds. “I am not speaking from an infrastructural point of view but networks help. You have people with whom you can collaborate, there are functions you can leverage and, so, from the supply side, you can offer much more to your students in a much shorter time and more economically.”

As networks and collaborations become part of the mainstream higher education system it may boost the quality of education as well in our conventional university mechanism, hopefully bringing more Indian universities into the top 200 world rankings.

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