African Students in India ‘Internationalization at Home’

By Dr Chetan Singai*


African Students in India

The Context At the time when the nation is revisiting its National Education Policy-2019 (DNEP-2019), it is critical to take stock of the past, present and future of internationalization in/of higher education in India.

In particular, the DNEP-2019 highlights the importance of ‘Study in India’ and/or ‘Internationalization at Home’ program. Such an approach indicates a need for a shift from a rather passive internationalization of higher education to a vibrant and proactive policy approach. In other words, the critical aspects of such a policy shift are on ensuring appropriate and conducive ecosystem for internationalization in India and its higher education system.

India and Africa in Higher Education: Shared History, Shared Vision Over the centuries, India has had a shared cultural, historical, social, economic, and political relationships with Africa. Further, geographical proximity is some of the main reasons for India to emerge as a hub for African students to pursue their aspirations in higher education.

Currently, according to the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), approximately 25,000 African students are at present studying in 500 public and private universities in India. However, there is a potential to enhance enrolment of students from Africa in the country. India remains among the top five destinations for African students. The Indian government has recognized the need for making HEIs accessible to African students by making it affordable, it has launched the ‘Study in India’ initiative. The scheme will waive the fees for merit students, a new initiative the government of India is undertaking which would help the African students to take advantage. Further, some of the other factors encouraging students from Africa visiting India, are the existence of more reputable, older and more developed higher education sector.

The quest for a more innovative and enriching academic, cultural and personal development and personal growth has seen many African students seeking education abroad, and India provides such opportunities. A good number of institutions in India have the necessary equipment that supports a more practical-oriented education and help them prepare for future employment and entrepreneurial needs.

The cost of education in India compared to the majority of the institutions in the neighbourhood is cheaper and better. For instance, the average cost for a bachelor’s degree or Masters program in the private university/college will cost approximately five to six lakh INR, and in Public HEIs it would be 1 to 2 lakh INR. The quality of education varies by the type of institution. However, there exists enough choice for students to enable their preferences.

In order to support international students, the government has various scholarship programs, under the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR). These programs have in particular, benefitted, the African students to pursue courses in science and technology, engineering, management, humanities and creative arts etc., in the last few decades across undergraduate, postgraduate to doctoral and postdoctoral level. Further, under the flagship program of the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme, some 1,200 Nigerian students enrolled in universities in India in 2011 alone. The higher education ecosystem in India is sensitive to international students and their needs. However, the social-cultural milieu in some parts of the country could be more cosmopolitan, that it is currently. The later is a matter of concern, which is gradually evolving in alignment with the systemic changes. There is a need to make the best of the innovative ecosystem, in most of the higher education institutions in the country.

Way Forward: The Prospect India-Africa Cooperation in the field of education has been streamlined and strengthened since the 2008 conference, with India setting up institutes, supporting programs and thousands of African students enrolling at Indian universities – a situation last seen in the 1980s, when African countries still had comparably, limited, public institutions and few or no private universities.

Currently, most of the India-Africa relation in higher education is bilateral. There is a need to move towards multilateral and institution-specific relationship to strengthen the mobility of students from Africa in India and Indian students in Africa. Demographic dividend in India and Africa, are to be tapped to its fullest potential, and higher education is the sector which is critical to do so. Today, the relationship is more input-centric, there is need to engage on output/outcome.

To this end, there is a need for a domain-specific partnership and mobility between India and Africa. Further, there is an urgent need to discuss potential areas of research, that are common and relevant for both India and Africa. A strategic plan of action in this regard is the need of the hour. The issues discussed in summits between India and Africa need elaboration on a strategic implementation action plan. For instance, the India-EU relations in higher education could be a good case in point.

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