Let a dozen NRI-PIO universities bloom(Commentary)

May 29th, 2008 - 11:42 am ICT by admin  

By Kul Bhushan
Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) and Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) can cheer the good news that a special university for education of their children will open its doors next year in Bangalore. The bad news is that only half the seats will be given to NRIs and PIOs. Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vyalar Ravi announced the news that the Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE), under the supervision of the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA), has been selected to set up the first of its kind university to provide affordable and international quality higher education. He added that the Indian government would not invest any money in the project.

Giving details about the selection of promoters of the project, he said that 16 applications had been received for the global tender to establish and manage the university. From these, four were short-listed and MAHE was selected.

Now, as MAHE is funding the entire project, why can’t more such universities be established? NRIs have a great demand for education in India, as all of them cannot afford the high cost of higher education in the West. Moreover, they want their children to imbibe Indian culture with information technology and other courses.

About six weeks ago, a number of NRIs responded quickly to my article on this topic. Paul Dhanjal wrote from Canada, “This (article) struck a personal chord in my heart as I have been looking into various options for my children (not yet ready for university) who are 13 and 10. I looked into the Canadian International School in Bangalore - as my kids had an opportunity to visit the school while in India last year. My rationale is exactly what you have captured in your article - providing education in humanities subjects like Indian languages and fine arts like classical music and dancing, Indian universities impart more authentic learning in the right cultural ambience than similar courses in the West.”

Suman Basin from Arlington, Virginia, US, wrote, “I just read your article about an NRI university in India. By when do you think this would actually become a reality and start enrolling students? I hope you do a follow-up on your article as I, along with other NRIs, would be interested in pursuing this option at the appropriate time.”

Others also expressed the same views and it seems they cannot wait for the university to start enrolling NRI students. It is clear that there is high demand from about 25 million NRIs in over 125 countries as evidenced from their constant requests at the annual NRI conventions in India and other meetings with Indian leaders. Since the government of India is not investing in these universities, why not establish at least a dozen NRI-PIO universities?

The ministry has successfully gone through the selection process and created a system to select suitable organisations willing to invest in these educational projects. So the same procedure can be followed to select more institutions from India and abroad. Now that private organisations are allowed to set up such universities, more Indian and NRI educational organisations can be invited to tender for more NRI-PIO universities.

A number of NRI educational organisations in the US, Britain, East Africa and Asia have the funds and the experience to establish such institutions. And India needs at least 1,133 more universities, according to NRI Sam Pitroda, who heads India’s National Knowledge Commission. The existing 367 Indian universities cater for a meagre seven percent of the 18-24 year age group instead of at least 15 percent that is half the average for Asia. So both Indian and overseas Indians can benefit from more such institutes of higher learning.

The states with a large number of emigrants such as Kerala, Punjab, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, among others, can each have one or more NRI-PIO universities and reap educational and economic benefits for their people and their emigrants. Many of these states have expressed their keen desire to establish and, in fact, lobbied for such universities. Kerala has been urged to take the lead in setting up such a university as the state has the largest number of NRIs. Gujarat has offered to establish an NRI university claiming that it has the infrastructure for such a project. Hyderabad promotes such a university in its Knowledge City. Punjab with its extensive overseas people can easily finance such a project as well as some other states. So let a dozen NRI-PIO universities bloom!

(Kul Bhushan previously worked abroad as a newspaper editor and has travelled to over 55 countries. He lives in New Delhi and can be contacted at: kulbhushan2040@gmail.com)

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