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Alliance works to expand Indian higher education

A new partnership between the University and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in India aims to help more people in India gain access to higher education.

The India Center for Sustainable Growth and Talent seeks to increase the availability of higher education in India to 20 percent of its population by 2020, said David Finegold, senior vice president for Lifelong Learning and Strategic Growth — the University counterpart of the joint initiative.

“India does have a shortage of teachers at all levels, but the one we’re pointing to is the shortage of faculty [at the graduate level],” he said.

More than half of the Indian population is under the age of 25, and because of the influx of student population and the 2020 deadline, India needs an additional 1 million instructors, said Alison Price-Rom, director of Global Advancement and International Affairs.

“India has a rapidly growing population — a young, youthful country, a huge workforce and a large number of students need to be educated,” she said.

The joint initiative will aim to work to increase the faculty numbers at Indian universities through teacher training and technology exchanges with the business community in the country, Price-Rom said.

The collaboration’s first project was polling 1,000 current or former graduate students, asking whether they wanted to work in India or the United States after obtaining their degrees, Finegold said.

Results showed that the majority of foreign Indian graduate students wished to work in India while only 8 percent said they would definitely work in the United States, he said.

To see if this was unique to Indian graduate students, the joint initiative will also poll Chinese students who come to study at U.S. universities, Finegold said.

Vinayak Mahadevan, a first-year graduate student from India, said his mentality was similar to the majority of those polled.

“Everyone has got a certain level of motivation. Some people are motivated by their homeland and some people are motivated by money,” he said. “I am motivated by homeland. I want to make money but I also want to serve my country.”

Finegold said Indian graduate students going back to their homeland did not mean the efforts of U.S. institutions were undermined.

“I don’t accept the thesis that it is bad for the United States, because when they go back, we strengthen our global ties and can be productive for decades to come,” he said.

Price-Rom said although students go back to India, it does not mean the United States does not benefit.

“Many foreign students come to study in the United States at both the undergraduate and graduate level and although we are educating students for another countries workforce, they bring many benefits to our campus while they are here,” she said.

Price-Rom said bringing foreign students is a goal in itself as it gives the University a representation of different cultures.

“In the long term, due to the increasing globalized world, it benefits us eventually,” she said.

Foreign graduate students do not come to abuse the system in place, Mahadevan said.

“It’s not like I want to come to the United States and exploit the education level over here and go back to India,” he said. “I want to make sure that I actually do something good for whichever organization I am working for over here, make money and then go back.”

The University attracts foreign students not only because of its large research capabilities, but also because of the varying ethnic communities in the surrounding areas, Finegold said.

“One of the great strengths of New Jersey is how diverse we are and how global we are. Other places are more homogenous,” he said.

Mahadevan said while he does not necessarily want to teach, he does plan to take his experiences here and increase advancements in India.

“I want to be an entrepreneur back in my country where I still feel there is a scope of improvement in every field and I want to learn better things from the United States and implement them back home,” he said.

Price-Rom said the teaching aspect could come to fruition in a variety of ways after students return.

“They may go become practitioners for a while in the business world, but then they might go back and teach,” he said. “The teaching doesn’t have to be behind a podium, [it can be] dynamic with maybe projects within the community.”

Mahadevan said while most foreign Indian graduate students feel the same way, more would stay if there were prospects for a good job, which is difficult in this economy.

“Everyone is a talent and the United States wants to retain the talent, but you can’t retain it unless you’ve got the jobs,” he said. “I don’t know how [the United States is] going to handle it but if there are good opportunities for us I would love to work over here.”

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