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Foreign Educational Institutions Bill: The Rhetoric and the Real

The Foreign Educational Institutions Bill 2010 is only a legislative extension of economic liberalisation to the educational sector. The ostensible reasons for the bill, viz, to address the low gross enrolment rate, and the poor quality and shortage of educational institutions in the country constitute the justificatory rhetoric that hides the agenda of opening the national higher education sector to world trade.


Foreign Educational Institutions Bill: The Rhetoric and the Real

Rajan Gurukkal

collaboration, partnership or in a twinning arrangement with any educational institution situated in India.1

The second chapter comprises stipulations about the imperative of notification of the foreign institution by the central government, form and manner of application, procedures, financial qualification, physical and academic infrastructure re-

The Foreign Educational Institutions Bill 2010 is only a legislative extension of economic liberalisation to the educational sector. The ostensible reasons for the bill, viz, to address the low gross enrolment rate, and the poor quality and shortage of educational institutions in the country constitute the justificatory rhetoric that hides the agenda of opening the national higher education sector to world trade.

Rajan Gurukkal ( is with the Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, Kerala.

his article seeks to critically examine the content, context and justificatory claims of the Foreign Educational Institutions Bill (FEIB) 2010 and appraise in the light of extant social scienc e wisdom, the possible consequences of its enactment. The avowed purpose of the bill is

to regulate entry and operation of foreign educational institutions imparting or intending to impart higher education (including technical education and award of degree, diploma and equivalent qualifications by such institutions).

Apart from the regulatory need, it is further justified as a solution for various problems in the higher education sector such as shortage of educational institutions, low gross enrolment rate (GER), poor quality and lack of equity. The bill is meant for “getting in more quality educational institutions” as “a good movement ahead”, and thereby removing hurdles that impede the march of higher education towards quality, equity and excellence.

Content and Context

The bill formally titled as Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations) Act 2010 consists of four chapters of which the first is as usual preliminaries about the meaning and definition of expressions. The meaning of “foreign educational institution” is significant enough to be reproduced here as it is:

  • (i) an institution established or incorporated outside India which has been offering educational services for at least twenty years in the country in which it has been established or incorporated; and
  • (ii) which offers educational services in India or proposes to offer courses leading to award of degree or diploma or certificate or any other award through conventional method including classroom teaching method not including distant mode in India independently or in
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    quirement, conditions of withdrawal of notification, etc. The next chapter very briefly stipulates penalties and specifies their contexts. The last chapter is an assortmen t of different provisions related to the directive, adjudicative, and regulatory powers of the central government with respect to the control of foreign educational institutions.

    Besides the formally numbered chapters, the act has a separate section named as “statement of objects and reasons”, which says:

    A number of Foreign Educational Institutions have been operating in the count to allure and attract students. There is no comprehensive and effective policy for regulation on the operations of all the foreign educational institutions in the Country. Due to lack of policy or regulatory regime it has been very difficult to make meaningful assessment of the operations of the foreign educational institutions and absence of such meaningful assessment has given rise to chances of adoption of various unfair practices besides commercialisation.2

    How come that foreign education providers (FEPs) could enter the country and do their business if the nation had no relevant “policy or regulatory regime” licensing them? It is obvious that FEPs had the silent sanction accorded by the central government for their entry and enterprises. The immediate context of the bill – as stated in the section – is that of a series of problems which cropped up in the wake of the presence of over 160 FEPs in India, for about a decade since 2000. These institutions have been twinning, collaborating and franchising with several universities in the country and in the process encountering a variety of issues impeding their operation either due to the absence of rules in favour of or due to the prevalence of rules against. Students of several FEPs, who have studied at academic programmes at franchised centres or at Indian university


    departments under FEPs’ twinning are number of higher educational institutions
    facing problems of recognition of their and their intake capacity can expose
    d egree/diploma for purposes of higher the justificatory objectives, reasons and
    studies as well as employment. claims a mere rhetoric of the agenda for
    neo-liberal reforms.3
    Justificatory Rhetoric
    Various provisions provided for in the bill The GER and ERE Factors
    indicate, FEIB 2010 is an effort towards It is a fact that the GER of the youth in
    seeking legislative solution for problems the country’s higher education sector is
    of FEPs, which relate to their operational abysmally poor as the data given in
    conflicts with the existing acts, statutes, Table 1 vouch for.
    ordinances and regulations of host univer- Table 1 shows the total GER national av
    sities. The FEIB 2010 is only a legislative erage as 14.19% which is at a slightly high
    extension of the policy of economic liber er side, compared to what the MHRD has
    alisation to the educational sector. assessed. Needless to state that at any rate
    The ostensible reasons for the bill, viz, it should be still higher today, at least by
    low GER, poor quality and shortage of edu 2% if extrapolated in the light of the
    cational institutions in the country consti number of new institutions started in the
    tute the justificatory rhetoric that hides country, intake capacity hike and the
    the agenda of leaving national higher edu e nrolment against it. The national aver
    cation sector open to world traders. The age of GER estimated as 12.4% and the
    ministry of human resources development highest as 15% in Kerala accepted by the
    (MHRD) with great concern notes that the United Nations Educational, Scientific
    present GER in higher education is around and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and
    12.4%, which the ministry wants to en endorsed by MHRD are evidently outdated
    hance to 15% by 2011-12 and to 21% by 2017. estimations, for the national average
    The bill states that the legislation “is nec should be at least 16% in the light of
    essary to maintain the standards of higher the institutional expansion and intake
    education within the country as well to capacity growth in the country during
    protect the interest of the students and in the current plan period. Table 1 shows
    public interest”. The stated expectation is 25.17% as the GER of Kerala, which by
    that the total student enrolments in uni extrapolation in the light of institutional
    versities and colleges during the turn of expansion and intake growth would be at
    the next plan period will be 2.10 crore, least 4% higher.4
    thanks to the private, unaided institutions The widely and repeatedly aired and
    with an intake capacity equal to those of what the MHRD has approved as the main
    the public aided institutions. The contri cause of poor GER is the insufficiency
    bution of foreign institutions to the task of of the number of higher educational
    GER enhancement is estimated to be sub institutions of standard and quality. This
    stantial, which accounts for the efforts commonsensical presumption that the
    to enact the FEIB 2010. That the various country owes its low GER to shortage in
    higher educational legislative reforms the number of higher educational institu
    u nder way in general and the FEIB 2010 in tions is wrong. Academic backwardness is
    particular are professedly destined to ad generally assigned to low standard and
    dress the issues of low GER and poor poor quality of education, ignoring the im
    standard in the higher education sector, is plicit issue of the convergence of economic
    only rhetoric and not does not reflect backwardness and academic low quality.
    reality. The ministry’s decision to open up Most of the eligible but not enrolled, are
    as many new colleges and universities as both economically and academically back
    possible in direct response to the alleged ward. The crucial task is to try and explain
    shortage in the number of quality higher the socio-economics of the low GER as well
    educational institutions is also rhetoric as the poor quality in the light of the na
    meant to justify the rationale of the FEIB tional political economy. The central cause
    2010. A closer look at the stratified GER of low GER and poor quality of higher edu
    and enrolment rate of eligible students cation is socio-economic. Therefore, the
    (ERE) data as juxtaposed to the total legislative cure administered by the MHRD
    42 july 9, 2011

    in the form of a few reform bills cannot be effective, for none of them addresses itself the socio-economic issues. Opening of more colleges and universities, indigenous or foreign cannot as such help enhance the GER, for it hardly addresses the socio-economic barriers that account for access disparity leading to national deficit of youth with academic capabilities.

    Table 1: GER in the Age Group 18-22 Years in Major Indian States

    State Male Female Total
    AP 20-36 12.53 16.38
    Assam 11.70 8.74 10.34
    Bihar 12.74 3.40 8.28
    Gujarat 14.43 13.30 13.92
    Haryana 18.10 18.69 18.36
    Himachal Pradesh 19.85 24.40 22.08
    J & K 17.02 15.57 16.40
    Karnataka 14.66 10-25 12.52
    Kerala 21.59 28-71 25.17
    Madhya Pradesh 12.25 6.46 9.56
    Orissa 10-81 5.34 7.90
    Punjab 13.65 22.05 17.47
    Rajasthan 13.66 7.26 10.69
    Tamil Nadu 20-87 16.71 18.82
    Uttar Pradesh 15.26 10.28 12.94
    West Bengal 15.49 10.14 12.82
    Jharkhand 13.65 9.11 11.39
    Chhattisgarh 16.29 10-02 13.47
    Uttarakhand 19.03 22.43 20.61
    Delhi 25.35 40-38 30.76
    Total 16.18 11.98 14.19

    Source: Ravi Srivastava, (JNU & NCUE). Computed on the basis of NSS Unit Level Data 2004-05 and adjusted for Census Population.

    It is crucial to examine the GER situation of the socio-economically backward categories for us to try and understand aspects of this least highlighted truth (Table 2, p 43). There is acute paucity of stratified data and the available are in the form of s amples too small to be representing the universe that is extremely differentiated. They can only provide for a tenuous understanding of the situation, which at any rate is sufficient to expose the futility of generalisations arrived ignoring differences. Tabl e 3 (p 43) indicates the GER data of stratified socio-economic c ategories such as the scheduled tribes, scheduled castes, Other Backward Classes, and the rich others.

    It is also crucial to look at the ERE situation to appraise the scenario realistically. An important feature about ERE is that in the higher education sector of the country the ST category has the highest enrolment rate of its eligible students (64.23%) with

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    the female on the top (65.82%), pushing the rich category to the next position with 60.17% (Table 3). The ERE, in the case of students belonging to the other socio-economically backward groups, has been assessed as 54.41% and that of the SCs’ as 54.99% (Table 3). This is a clear indication of the remarkable advantage of the practice of reservation and financial support.

    Table 2: GER among the Economically Backward Students of 18-22 Years

    Social Category Higher Secondary Graduation Total Male Female Male Female

    Scheduled tribe 5.70 7.10 5.74 5.36 5.98

    Scheduled caste 16.54 14.36 12.61 11.66 13.79

    Backward classes 41.11 38.54 33.62 29.11 35.6

    All others 36.65 40 48.03 53.87 44.63

    Total 100 100 100 100 100

    Source: Culled out from Ravi Srivastava, (JNU & NCUE). Computed on the basis of NSS Unit Level Data 2004-05 and adjusted for census population.

    Table 3: ERE Students of 18-22 Years in Higher Education

    Socio-Economic Category Male Female Total

    Scheduled tribe 65.38 65.04 65.25
    Scheduled caste 56.58 52.50 54.99
    Backward classes 57.90 47.56 53.84
    X’ian Sch tribe 58.57 66.61 63.21
    Rich others 61.38 58.32 60.17
    Total 59.96 58 59.49

    Source: Culled out from Ravi Srivastava (JNU & NCUE). Computed on the basis of NSS Unit Level Data 2004-05 and adjusted for census population.

    Intake Capacity Profile

    The GER of youth in the Indian higher education sector has been growing steadily since 1960s with an added momentum

    country, obviously catering to the needs of colleges amounts to 65,000, whereas that
    the eligible middle class youth. With the of the engineering institutions all over
    result many of the economically backward USA is only 45,000. Today, India’s higher
    aspirants were denied access to higher education sector is one of the largest in
    e ducation due to the shortage of afforda the world and its performance, despite
    ble institutions . However, a review of the u nderdevelopment and socio-economic
    extent of demand against the available in backwardness, as a contender in knowl
    take capacity shows that the institutional edge economy, is not bad. Its role as an ex
    shortage cannot be far too big against the porter of human expertise, promoter of
    actual intake demand. technology transfer, and facilitator of
    There are widely different estimations s cientific collaboration is commendable.
    of the youth eligible for higher education International contacts of India in the do
    and the institutional capacity of absorp main of world higher education have been
    tion. A liberal journalistic estimation shows quite impressive and benefits remarkable
    the total strength of students enrolled to till recently, thanks to the careful mainte
    higher education institutions as 1.13 crore nance of national interests. This situation
    during 2005-06. A conservative assess is fast changing under neo-liberal reforms
    ment shows that during 2009 it was only that have started opening the field of
    88.7 lakhs. There has been a tremendous e ducation for international trade. The
    increase in the number of unaided profes e nactment of FEIB 2010 seeking interna
    sional as well as general colleges and pri tional commercialisation of higher educa
    vate universities in the country during the tion will further upset national interests
    last one decade, enhancing the intake in knowledge economy and delink devel
    c apacity three times what had been in the opment entirely from equity.
    turn of 2000. The total number of students
    eligible to be enrolled has been estimated Socio-economic Inequality
    between 5.2 and 1.75 crores. The total Despite being one of the prominent econo
    i ntake capacity today has been variously mies of the world, India suffers from terri
    e stimated, the most liberal as 1 crore and ble socio-economic unevenness with 46%
    the conservative as 58,30,500 (Table 4). If of the population living in abject poverty
    we go by the liberal estimate of ERE of 2009 and 42% still mired in illiteracy, a plight
    the t otal number of the youth eligible for similar to or worse than that of sub-Saharan
    Table 4: Higher Education Infrastructure as of 2009

    Total Population in Crore 18-22 Age Group in Crore Eligible for Higher Education in Crore Institutions Intake Capacity

    during the last decade augmenting the

    117 35.1 5.2 (15% of the total). IITs 9,500

    i ntake capacity three times, thanks to the On an average its 12% Engg Colleges 8,20,000

    establishment of a commendable number (63 lakhs) get enrolled Arts & Science Colleges 43,80,000

    of government as well as public-funded private institutions in all the states. Nevertheless, the rise of public-funded higher educational institutions has not been in correspondence with the rise in demand. In the 1990s the demand glaringly surpassed the available institutional capacity of absorption. The government, both at the centre and in the state abstained from opening new institutions in the public s ector, ostensibly for reasons of liquidity shortage. But the real reason was the inescapable influence of the new world order of liberalisation and privatisation. During the last one decade there has been a substantial increase about the institutional intake capacity in the higher education sector as a result of the rise of new unaided private institutions all over the

    out of which 53% Med Colleges 16,400
    graduate (33 lakhs). Dental Colleges 14,600
    Polytechnics 5,80,000
    Others 10,000
    Total 58,30,500

    Computed on the basis of data drawn from various sources such as UGC Annual Reports, Plan Working Group Reports etc.

    higher education could be 5.2 crore and at the average GER of 12 the total comes to around 63 lakhs. Keeping in view the national average of pass percentage among all undergraduates (53%), the total strength of students capable of graduation can be tentatively assessed as 33 lakhs.

    The growth of intake capacity of professional institutions has exceeded the available number of the competent aspirants. About 6 lakhs of students enrol in engineering colleges every year. In Karnataka alone the intake capacity of engineering Africa. Social statistics reveals that 67% of the population is deprived of opportunities for socio-economic mobility. The s ituation is all the more appalling in the d emographic context that indicates the phenomenon of youth becoming dominant in number by the next decade. As of now 66% of the total population belong to the age group of 10-20 out of which the strength of girls comes to 53%. If poverty, inequality and illiteracy are not addressed appropriately, the nation’s future is dreadfully bleak. The neo-liberals claim that

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    liberalisation and structural adjustments have led to reduction of poverty and illiteracy in the country. But analyses of the national socio-economic situation by critical political economists have exposed the hollowness of the claim (Sen and Himanshu 2005, Pal and Ghosh 2007, Deaton and Dreze 2002). Comparative estimates based on the 50th (1993-94) and 55th (19992000) rounds of National Sample Survey data show that socio-economic inequalities have increased during the decade of post-liberalisation, both in the rural as well as urban areas in India. It has been clearly shown in their studies that income disparities between the rural and urban sectors became greater during the period of liberalisation that witnessed an extensive disinvestment in the public sector and a marked decline of state involvement in health and education.

    Socio-economic backwardness impedes the growth of youth with capabilities for accessing higher education and making achievements out of it. Let us not hide the fact that it is a predicament of acute shortage of the youth imbued with the potential to enrol them in higher education. That it is a situation of millions of aspirants getting frustrated for want of enough higher education institutions in the country is part of the rhetoric distracting people’s a ttention from the exasperating socioeconomic reality. The issue of socioeconomic inequality has to be addressed with top priority if the country is to enhance the GER.

    It is a matter of tacit recognition that in the market-driven and interdependent world economy, the country has to improve competitiveness and efficiency in every sector through intensive and judicious use of science and technology for better productivity ensuring expansion of employment opportunities. How to enhance competitiveness in the present day set up of higher education characterised by dearth of good teaching professionals, difficulties in attracting and retaining them, poor technology, inadequate infrastructure, insufficient libraries and obsolete laboratories, irrelevant and outdated academic programmes, poor accountabil ity, excessive subsidies, high dropout rates, overcentralisation, lack of academic a utonomy and commercialisation of medio crity is the question to be answered.5 The autonomy and authority of most universities are confined to student admissions, curricular designs, academic programmes and financial management. Functioning of most universities is structured by the dominance of administrative bureaucracy. The academic community is not decisive in administrative decision-making or institutional policy design. Universities, research institutes, and colleges have resource constraints. Some of them, particularly a few of the central universities, have excess resources which are invariably underutilised, mismanaged and wasted in the absence of instituted practices of inter-institutional sharing. The plight of the state universities that are sparsely funded is hopelessly bad in India. In spite of all these impediments, the country is able to produce a good stock of scientists and technologists.6 Nevertheless, this is easier said than done in a country like India where the total budgetary allocation for education is always below 4% of its GDP. The government has to increase public investment in higher education sector substantially for adequately funding all state universities to the tune of absolute parity with central universities and for improving the material conditions of existing colleges. Assurance of facilities in existing institutions is far more important than opening new ones bereft of even basic needs, for the latter can only perpetuate poor quality causing high level unemployability of the educated, skill shortage in industries and low productivity, and thereby the problem of socio-economic backwardness.

    The Hope

    The MHRD seems to have several goals for permitting foreign universities to enter the Indian market. The foremost among them is to provide the much wanted quality, efficacy, and capacity ensured by u pdated curriculum, latest teaching methods, and fundamental research. Foreign higher education providers are hoped to bring good investment to the country, since the bill demands from each one of them an investment of at least a minimum of $11 million by way of entry charge. It is hoped that top-class foreign universities will come and make heavy investments in

    july 9, 2011

    the higher education sector, the principal focus of which is production of useful graduates in various arts, sciences and technology, and foster faculty to specialisation through postgraduate studies and research in all areas of knowledge, as an integral part of national development strategy.

    These hopes are unfounded and least borne out by experiences of the countries that tried this. None of the prestigious foreign universities went out to opening their off-campus centres abroad. Several ordinary and low-end universities seeking market access and revenue did so in the Persian Gulf, Vietnam, and Malaysia, in a very small scale and confined themselves to inexpensive fields of demand such as business management, information technology, tourism studies, etc. But only to be least successful in maintaining their home-standards in the off-campus branches, obviously due to constraints of dilution under the pressure of the poor clientele. Such foreign transplants in India can hardly help enhancement of GER for explicit reasons such as unaffordable cost and poor ERE, both intimately connected to the nation’s socio-economic backwardness.

    It is needless to state that hopes of quality assurance in higher education, and the accentuation of national development are out of place, for it can only divest higher education of its national development orientation. How can national development agenda secure any place in the higher education designed and controlled by foreign education provider? The nation’s historical unevenness, cultural plurality, ideas, peoples, social processes, relations, institutions, struggles, challenges, needs, etc, ought to be important for Indian higher education, and may largely be neglected. Higher education, already made costly by unaided private institutions, will become costlier. Expensively acquired knowledge, however essential it is for social welfare, will inevitably get commoditised.

    Global experience would have us believe that some universities may come forward to establish collaborative ties with peer universities or research centres in India , which in fact, have already been there over several decades under national programmes of international academic and cultural exchange. Establishment of foreign institutions is not going to make

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    any further qualitative change in the ongoing practices.

    Social Preparation

    The predicament of the higher education sector has to be addressed with the help of a comprehensive package of social preparation strategies for enhancing the number of eligible youth with potentials to enter institutions of higher education. Economic backwardness being the main barrier, the prime strategy should be to provide financial support. Institution of merit-cum means scholarships shall be very effective as proved by the Rajiv Gandhi National Fellowships or INSPIRE or the variety of scholarships instituted by the Government of Kerala at the state level.7 Various support schemes have to be designed and instituted for addressing the socio-economically contingent and natural unevenness in the learning capabilities of the youth. Special schemes for nurturing academic interests in children at an early age, pro motion of subject specific aptitudes through flexible choices, studies under the tutelage of mentors, field-based direct learning, development of academic selfconfidence through interaction with eminent scholars, motivation of the lagging, remedial care of the weak and those suffering from learning difficulties, etc, should be adopted. Already there are a few national schemes addressing some of these issues, but they should be supplemented by new ones and made extensive.

    Improvement of infrastructural facilities in educational institutions, revamping of the curricula, assurance of learning materials, introduction of effective faculty improvement measures, web-based content enrichment, advanced instructional schemes based on electronic sophistication, etc, have to be made universal to the domain of national higher education. The National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology (NMEICT) initiatives are of great significance and should reach out even to institutions of interior areas far away from the town. All these help quality assurance and growth of ERE.

    Kerala has set a model by itself in designing and implementing a variety of schemes of social preparation and academic qual- ity assurance. The most significant and f undamental of them all are the different scholarships of merit and means covering the entire duration and realms of higher education in arts, humanities, sciences and technology. Several schemes introduced by the state vouch for the distinct realisation of the fact that social preparation through equitable distribution of economic resources alone is not enough to sustain an ever increasing GER, for it depends on acquisition of cultural resources too.8 Erudite scholar-in-residence programmes inviting Nobel laureates and other academics of comparable eminence to universities for academic benefits of i nteraction for students and teachers, which might sometimes provide occasions for them to build up relations and contacts of academic fortunes, is an example of schemes helping accumulation of noneconomic resources. Seeing, talking to and shaking hands with Nobel laureates are part of symbolic capital adding on to cultural capital and strengthening social capital that helps rise of the beneficiary’s academic self-confidence and inspiration. In short, social preparation launched by the Government of Kerala through its Higher Education Council is a package of multidimensional exercises for economic and cultural empowerment of the youth. It is political too in the deeper sense. The strategies therein go long way not only fighting access disparities of the socioeconomically backward aspirants of higher education but also democratising higher knowledge along with its technology of production and transmission.9

    Political Precondition

    Such multi-pronged social preparation measures of insights in critical social theory are feasible in the normal course only in a society that is struggling for d emocratisation at the grass roots. That is, in fact, the political precondition for them. On the whole democratisation in the Indian provinces has been working as a state induced administrative reform from above, with Kerala as an exception in certain ways. There is no indication of institutional development at the grass roots ensuring better access of the weaker to local resources and power. The existing level, extent and basis of participation r elate to the ongoing national democratic system and its pro-middle class incentives as determined by the power relations of the local society, that are rooted in the historically contingent dominant class-castecommunity-religion nexus. This precludes institutional development with enough potential to liberate the locality from exploitative macro structures of bureaucracy and capitalist market. Like a few pro vinces with left wing politics exerting considerable influence in policy decisions, K erala has been struggling to take democratisation beyond the constitutionalist perspective of liberal interventionism. This atmos phere of critical thought resisting neo-liberal reforms to a certain extent helps the state carry forward the social preparation agenda meaningfully, which accounts for the state’s high GER and its faster growth (from 15.3% to 18.1% in five years).

    The general state of democratisation in India is quite unsuitable for social empowerment. Empowerment of the local poor through better access to power and resources is at low ebb in the country. As Esman and Uphoff (1984) have argued, democratisation as such brings about no social change in the structural sense, so long as it leads to no institutional development in local administration capable of upsetting the existing local power structure. They rightly emphasise the structural reformist role of democratisation realised through the development of new civil o rganisations and institutions at the grass roots. As Guy Gran (1983) argues, democratisation should lead to the development of local institutions and organisations limiting and controlling the state actions and private forces.

    The localities owe their poor state of institutional development to the widespread social inequality in economic as well as non-economic resources, i e, capital and its cultural, symbolic and social variants (Bourdieu 1986, Boisjoly, Duncan and Hofferth 1995). Brisk exchange of economic capital for cultural and symbolic forms of capital is a significant feature of the contemporary society in any locality, for their possession helps accumulation of social capital. In a society of glaring economic and social inequalities, social capital formation is associated with class relations. It determines the structure of status and ranking among the actors. People need social capital to be political and

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    u nited for leading struggles against

    o ppressive structures. Like various other expressions of radical nature, “social capital” also lost its context of social emancipation through the writings of a few in the US academia.10 Accordingly social capital got equated to the qualities such as unity, relations of trust, reciprocity, common rules, norms and sanctions, networks, partnership, collaboration, etc, in the context of democratic good governance.

    It is maintained that theoretically speaking the state machinery cannot succeed beyond a point in empowering the weak, because it means the government joining the class war in favour of the poor, which is unlikely as the government is an upper class instrument, ultimately. But there is a political outlet to the theoretical stalemate, which involves designing of praxis strategies for politicisation and empowerment of the poor through the opening up of new sources of symbolic capital for e nhancing social capital strength and whereby ensuring alternative institutional development leading to structural changes in the local society. This is the ideal situation for achieving and maintaining highest GER.

    Summing Up

    The proliferation of unaided private institutions in general and the spread of foreign education providers in particular cannot remedy problems of higher education sector such as low GER and poor quality. Opening of foreign universities will i ncrease choices and competition, but among whom? The upper middle class youth capable of affording high fees might join such institutions. The socioeconomic situation of the country is such that the intake capacity of these new generation institutions shall remain largely underutilised. The central argument is that we owe low GER of higher education sector primarily to socio-economic backwardness that accounts for the overall poor nature of education, and not to insufficiency of the number of institutions and their small intake capacity as often made out. Therefore, the most crucial feature about the country’s higher education reforms should be their inevitable prioritisation of strategies directly addressing the glaring socioeconomic unevenness and abject poverty. The argument is that rapid and rigorous social preparation alone can achieve and sustain high GER. Therefore, the MHRD’s investment priority should be towards the task of evolving a comprehensive package of strategies appropriate for s ocial preparation. The basic factor is extensive economic support of the poor. But that alone will not do, for a wide variety of non-economic inequalities in the country are rampant too. Hence social preparation should involve strategies appropriate to address them as well, the effectiveness of which depends on the level of political preparation of the nation through democratisation.

    A set of entailing arguments in the p aper relate to consequences of the rise of high cost foreign institutions. They are: underutilisation of the intake capacity of publicfunded higher education institutions and















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    their impoverishment, further decline in quality, worsening of social backwardness, persistence of poor GER, neglect of national development interests, and depletion of the most excellent stratum of the faculty resource of public-funded n ational higher education institutions through migration of the best to the better paid institutions. The starting of new world class universities, no matter foreign or indigenous, would entail a heavy cost which would go as waste, impoverishing existing institutions and delaying measures of social preparation. There is nothing like the strengthening of the existing state and central universities and research institutions to be world class or at least upgrading state universities to be on par with those owned and controlled by the central government.


    1 See definitions in the text of the Bill, (Bill No 57 of 2010 as presented in the Lok Sabha) Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations) Act 2010 that has been put as a public document by MHRD.

    2 See the section on “statement of objects and reasons”, Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations) Act 2010.

    3 For a relevant overview of the global political economy context of neo-liberalism and neoconservatism in critical perspective see, Apple (2000: 57-78).

    4 Different sources provide different GERs, which vary from one another depending up on the age group of the targeted clientele and the period of the data. The GER based on the SES of early 2000 with the clientele, 18-23 age group was 8%. The NSS and PC arrived at about 10% and 14% respectively. For 2003-04 the GER of the same age group has been assessed differently, viz, 9%, 13.22% and 14.48% based on SES, NSS and Census respectively. Draft Report of Working Group on Higher Education for 11th Five-year Plan gives: 15.6% for 2006-07, 16.4% for 2007-08, 17.3% for 2008-09, 18.3 for 2009-10, 19.4% for 2010-11. For a different assessment see Singh (2004). Suggeta Upadhyay (2007)’s assessment of GER of agegroup 18-24 for 2002 shows 9.28% in the case of boys and 6.71% in the case of girls. Also see Varshney (2007).

    5 It is quite interesting to note that still our planning has always been dreaming from the ivory tower. See Planning Commission. 2001, “India as a Knowledge Superpower: Strategy for Transformation”, Task Force Report, Government of India.

    6 See discussions in Mitra (2006), Sahlberg (2006). For a compilation of the relevant data and a general review of the status and prospects of Indian higher education in terms of three key cross-cutting themes: access and expansion, equity and inclusion, and quality and excellence see, Agarwal (2009).

    7 Rajiv Gandhi National Fellowship Scheme for SC/ ST students, Government of India. INSPIRE is an innovative fellowship programme sponsored and managed by the Department of Science Technology, Government of India. Government of Kerala have instituted a series of merit cum means long-term and short-term scholarships both general and faculty specific such as ACQUIRE for Social Sciences, THANMA for talent in literature, ASPIRE fellowship as short-term project assistance, etc. For details see, the official website, Ministry of Education and Culture, Government of Kerala: higher

    8 The ideas are borrowed from Pierre Bourdieu’s interpretations of society, social processes involving concepts like habitus, forms of capital, etc, in general and higher education in particular that have analysed the recent changes in the higher education sector. For details of relevant concepts see, P Bourdieu (1977), Boudieu and Wacquant (1992) and for relevant interpretations in the specific context of higher education, see Reproduction in Education, Society and Culture (Theory, Culture and Society Series), Sage, London, 1990, with Jean-Claude Passeron.

    9 For certain relevant ideas see L A Gandin and M Apple (2002).

    10 See Coleman (1988) and Coleman (1994). For a contrast see, Putnam (1993), Putnam (1995), which has appeared (2000) as a book with the same title.


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    Bourdieu, P and L J D Wacquant (1992): “An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology”, The University of Chicago Press.

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    Coleman, J (1994), “Social Capital, Human Capital, and Investment in Youth” in Anne C Peterson and Jeylan T Mortimer (ed.), Youth Unemployment


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    and Society (New York: Cambridge University Press).

    Deaton, Angus and Dreze, Jean (2002): “Poverty and Inequality in India: A Re-Examination”, Economic Political Weekly , 7 September, pp 3729-48.

    Esman, M J and N R Uphoff (1984): Local Organisations: Intermediaries in Rural Development, Cornell University Press, pp 33-36.

    Gandin, L A and M Apple (2002): “Challenging Neoliberalism, Building Democracy: Creating the Citizen School in Porto Alegre, Brazil”, Journal of Education Policy, 17(2), 259-79.

    Gran, G (1983): Development by People: Citizen Construction of a Just world, Praeger, pp 61-64.

    Mitra, Raja (2006): “India’s Potential as a Global RD Power” in Magnus Karlsson (ed.), The Internationalisation of Corporate RD: Leveraging the Changing Geography of Innovation (Stockholm: Institute for Growth Policy Studies).

    Pal, Parthapratim and Ghosh, Jayati (2007): “Inequality in India: A Survey of Recent Trends”, DESA Working Paper No 45, July.

    Putnam, Robert (1993): “The Prosperous Community

    – Social Capital and Public Life”, The American Prospect, Spring: 27-40.

    Putnam, Robert (1995): “Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital”, Journal of Democracy,

    6: 6578. Sahlberg, P (2006): “Education Reform for Raising Economic Competitiveness”, Journal of Educational Change, 7 (4): pp 259-87. Sen, Abhijit and Himanshu (2005): “Poverty and Inequality in India: Getting Closer to the Truth”, available at Reprinted in Angus Deaton and Valerie Kozel (ed.), Data and Dogma: The Great Indian Poverty Debate (New Delhi: Macmillan) 306-70. Singh, Amrik (2004): “Challenges of Higher Education”, Economic Political Weekly, 22 May pp 2155-58. Upadhyay, Sugeeta (2007): “Wastage in Indian Higher Education”, Economic Political Weekly, XLII (2), 13 January, pp 161-68. Varshney, Ashutosh (2007): “India’s Democratic

    Challenge”, Foreign Affairs, 86 (2), March-April, pp 93-106.


    Economic Political Weekly

    july 9, 2011 vol xlvi no 28

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