Will entry of foreign institutions lead to brain drain for better pay package and work culture?

There is much hype around the entry
of foreign higher education institutions in India. The opinion on the
development is divided while one section of academic fraternity believe it to
be a positive move the other segment touts it as a negative development for
Indian higher education space.

Time and again at various platforms
the problems being faced by the higher education system has been raised by
people from the sector. Some of the major issues include shortage of quality
teachers, lack of funds, obsolete curriculum and wrong government policies.
Even the private institutions have not been able to live up to the expectations
barring few and are not able to provide quality education at affordable price
neither they are able to provide an environment for the teaching community to

Few months back the then President
of Association of Indian Universities Prof. PT Chande raising his concern on
the issue said, “Foreign university bill is a serious challenge for India’s
higher education sector. We are indirectly inviting foreigners to invade our
county intellectually. Before allowing them to open their shops here we must
improve the quality of our institutes so that we can compete with them.” On the
other hand there is a section of people who believe that this (entry of foreign
higher education institutions) will certainly fill the lacuna in the higher
education system. India Education Review has earlier done feature on this issue
and here we discuss the impact of entry of
foreign higher education institutions in India on the teaching community. We
discussed with various people from the different organisations to understand
whether this would lead to brain drain from Indian institutions to foreign
institutions in search of better pay packages and better working environment?
Will it improve the work culture in the education institutions?

Fat pay packages

It is beyond doubt that the working
environment in globally reputed institutions is the most important factor that
has helped them reach the positions. In terms of funding and infrastructure
Indian institutions are nowhere close to them in therefore such institutions offer
better pay packages.

Prof. AP Mittal, Head, I&CE
Division and EDC at Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology (NSIT) said, “The
entry of foreign higher education institutions in India will provide better
competitive environment with respect to quality of education as well as

Prof. Sudarsan Neogi, Department of
Chemical Engineering, IIT Kharagpur said “First we need to identify who are
those Institutions like to enter in India. If they are renowned schools like
the Ivy League (Duke, Princeton, etc) certainly they will be attracting
brightest students and faculties in our country and given a free hand it will
be very difficult to compete with them. The next most important question is
that education in those top grade schools is very expensive. Most of these
institutions run not on substantial grant from the Government, but from the
earnings of the Institutes by collaborative research with Industries and huge
alumni grants/foundations etc.”

“The socio-economic conditions of
the countries where these institutions operate are substantially different than
those in India. My guess is that many of these institutions are facing quite
tight financial situation in their respective countries in EU and USA.
Therefore like the Industrial houses they are trying to explore the
possibilities manly for financial gain in the East, mostly in India, China,
Singapore, Thailand etc,” he added.

Parikshit Ghosh Associate Professor,
DSE, University of Delhi is of the opinion, “I think there will be some brain
drain – the magnitude is hard to predict. It depends on how much investment the
big brands (Harvard, Stanford, MIT, etc.) are willing to make in the Indian
market. From what I gather talking to the academic community, there is a lot of
interest in setting up professional schools (like engineering, medicine, MBA) –
obviously, these areas offer great revenue potential. So expect IITs, IIMs to
face some stiff competition for faculty and students. I am less sure about
liberal arts education (BA, BSc degrees, or research degrees like PhD), at
least in the near future.”

Brain Drain in search of a
competitive working environment

There is also a concern that if
foreign universities are coming to India, many of the professors teaching at
even best government institutions like IITs and IIMs would might move to these
institutions as they might find the environment at these institutions more
competitive and would offer them more time and space for innovation and

There are people who also think that
the foreign institutions might not enter directly in India and open their full
fledged campus and run independently instead they would prefer to partner with
the best institutions which will be a kind of win-win situation for both and
there will be no brain drain in such case.

As Prof. Neogi says, “ In the
foreseeable future,  I feel the possibility is to tie up with some Indian
Universities/ IIT’s /IISc by these prospective institutions to work in a
collaborative fashion so that they can use the brain/skill for the R&D activities
carried out much more inexpensive than abroad. But, In a very unlikely event if
the government decide to give them freehand to run these institutions as they
do in their respective land without any restrictions of revenue generation and
their usage, many of them can come to capture the huge market in our country.
In such case it will be a very formidable competition with them and even our
best ones will find difficulty to match their capability to attract resources.”

Prof. Parikshit Ghosh is of the
opinion that, “Work culture in existing institutions could go either way. If
the cream (best faculty and best students) is taken away, obviously these
institutions will be left with second rate people. On the other hand, the
prospect of getting much better paid jobs in foreign affiliated institutions
could incentivize faculty to improve their research and teaching profiles. My
guess is that the immediate effect of foreign competition will be that our best
public institutions will take a serious hit, but over time, they may bounce
back and even improve. The reason I say so is that I feel mid or late career
academics cannot really change their stripes no matter what competitive
pressures they face, but the norms, aspirations and skills of younger faculty
will probably be shaped by the academic environment (of the country, not just
their departments) in which they start their careers. You may see positive
effects after a decade or two. I am less worried about salary dispersion (which
is a good thing, in my opinion) than I am about tuition fees. If the best
teachers flock to the foreign universities where tuition is also sky high,
where are the brilliant students from poor families going to go?”

Jayasimha KR Faculty at IIM
Indore said, “It would largely depend on the type of the universities that will
set up shop in India. A tier 3 or tier 4 university from abroad is unlikely to
have any impact. It will join the ‘me too’ list along with large number of
existing private institutes.  To a certain extent yes, it would lead to
brain drain and we might see some migration from the top tier institutes like
the IIM’s and IIT’s will happen.”

Siddhartha K. Rastogi, another
faculty at IIM Indore said, “Higher education sector is a victim of
over-regulation and yet, no accountability on quality. As I understand, the
entry of foreign institutions will affect it at two levels. At the
undergraduate level, which is worthless in all but few institutions, it will
create some pressure and quality consciousnesses. That, in turn, would
enhance the employment potential of undergraduates and reduce the burden
on higher studies’ resources. At the postgraduate level, this will create a
higher benchmark for institutions – including IITs and IIMs. In the short-run,
we may encounter some small shift of great professors from IIMs towards these
international institutions but I believe that it is going to be a small and
temporary shift only.”

“Within three to five years, these
new institutions will also start contributing towards the talent pool. In the
process, I am sure that the Indian education standards will improve. However,
at the same time, my only fear is that government might start controlling them
(quotas, curriculum, fees, and unnecessary interventions) instead of simply
regulating them. The small difference, which I wish for, is to control for
quality and delivery on promises but no intervention of government, which has
effectively destroyed even the excellent universities”, added Prof. Rastogi.

Presently ‘The Foreign Educational
Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations) Bill 2010,’ Bill is lying
pending in Parliament as some political parties are against it and the
University Grants Commission has also deferred it within the existing legal
framework but has given ‘in principle approval’ to regulations on collaborative
and joint courses.  

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