Emerging Models of Indian-European Higher Education Collaborations

With more than 100,000 Indian students enrolled in the United States, as compared to 43,000 in Europe1 [1], the country commands strong brand equity among Indian students (earlier article on US-India academic partnerships [2]). However, several recent initiatives show increasing interest from Indian and European institutions in forging partnerships. The European Commission decreed India as one of its strategic partners in scientific research and higher education collaboration and signed a joint declaration on education with India in 2008. One example of this European strategic approach was the launch of the India-EU Study Centres Programme [3]. The program contributed to the establishment of 15 study centers in the two regions; each center facilitates higher education capacity building through its network of partner institutions. In addition to pan-European efforts, bi-lateral agreements with India have also been announced by countries such as Germany [4], France and the United Kingdom [5].

At the institutional level, several research and academic initiatives have also been announced. However, Indian higher education is fraught with complexity and challenges along with excitement and opportunities.

This article looks at emerging models of collaboration between Indian and European higher education institutions. Indian and foreign institutions can learn from these existing models and adapt them according to their needs, priorities and availability of resources. The article is structured around a conceptual framework of collaborations between Indian and European institutions based on the intensity of resources required to forge and sustain the partnerships (see Table 1).

Table 1. Conceptual Framework of Indian-European Higher Education Collaborations
Type of Partnership Example
[6] Research collaboration Visva Barathi University & Hariot-Watt University (UK):
Research on renewable energy systems [7]
Study abroad and academic exchange Bocconi University (Italy) & Indian Institutes of Management (Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Kolkata, Lucknow, Kozhikode):
Student exchange programs [8]
Twinning program VIT University (Vellore) & Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences (Germany):
M.Sc in Sensor System Technology [9]
Dual degree program SRM University (Chennai) & University of Warwick (UK):
B.Tech./M.Sc. in Biotechnology [10]
Joint degree program Indian Institute of Science (Bangalore) & University of Regensburg (Germany):
Joint Ph.D. in Chemistry [11]
Branch campus G.D. Goenka World Institute [12] Lancaster University (UK)

Research Collaboration

Research collaboration between Indian and European institutions has often evolved from existing faculty relations (see for example the faculty research profiles at the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee [13]). Since the early 2000s, several country-level efforts were also announced to facilitate scientific research collaboration between India and Europe. In June 2011, the European Union sent a science and technology awareness-raising ‘roadshow’ to India [14], through which representatives of European research institutes visited 27 Indian research centers, exploring possibilities of scientific research collaboration.

European funds to support transnational collaborative research are distributed through the Seventh Framework Programme [15] (FP7) of the European Commission. FP7 funds individual research projects as well as networking platforms such as New INDIGO or the EU-India Window [16], which seek to match European research organizations with Indian partners. Key fields of Indian-European research collaboration include biotechnology, renewable energy and climate change, communication technology, and nanotechnology.

Some examples of research collaboration between Indian and European universities:

Study Abroad and Academic Exchange

Some European countries use scholarship programs to encourage international students to choose their universities and colleges as study-abroad destinations. Examples include the Chevening Scholarship [30] (U.K.), the Eiffel Scholarship [31] (France) or the DAAD Scholarship [32] (Germany), all of which are open to Indian students. Just recently, Germany announced [33] that it had allocated 12 million EUR (17.2 million USD) in  scholarship funds to attract more Indian students to German universities.

The European Commission promotes the recruitment of Indian students to European universities through Action 2 of the Erasmus Mundus (EM) Programme [34]. A recent study [35] reported that around 1,350 Indian students studied in Europe with the help of EM scholarships in the period 2004-2010 and approximately 30 million EUR (42.5 million USD) was allocated to India-Europe higher education cooperation projects from the EM budget for the period 2007-2013.

In addition to recruiting Indian students to European degree programs, universities also run numerous short-term, non-degree exchange programs. The Association of Commonwealth Universities [36] facilitates academic exchange between universities in the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries, including India. A consortium of 12 European universities [37] invites graduate students from India, with Indian partner institutions hosting European students in exchange. Other forms of short term academic exchange include leadership development programs [38] for higher education professionals from India and Europe, as well as summer schools jointly organized [39] by European and Indian partners. Depending on the specific elements of the program, students may or may not earn credit during academic exchange.

Indian-European study abroad and academic exchange is characteristically lopsided. For example, in the graduate exchange program mentioned here [37], 300 students and faculty from India have the opportunity to study in European institutions, while only 100 European students will go to Indian institutions in exchange. Examples of study programs aimed at attracting international students to India are scarce. One example is the ‘Study in India’ summer program of the University of Hyderabad.

Reasons for this imbalance of mobility may partly be due to student perceptions about the quality of Indian higher education institutions and India in general. Study abroad students also value the cultural and living component of the educational experience and hence are less likely to choose India as compared to Western Europe, the United States or Australia. Many Indian institutions also have trouble in providing well-developed student services that would help deliver safe and comfortable living and learning experiences to European students.

Academic Collaboration

Academic collaborations at the program level can be sub-classified into twinning programs, dual degree programs and joint degree programs.

Twinning programs are based on credit transfer agreement between collaborating institutions. These are typically 2+2 or 3+1 types of arrangement where courses taken at an Indian institution are recognized and easily transferred to collaborating foreign institutions.

Dual degree programs (also called double degree programs) involve the curriculum cooperation of two or more higher education institutions. A report [40] published by the Institute of International Education (IIE) offers the following definition: “Students study at (at least) two higher education institutions and receive upon completion of the study program a separate degree certificate from each of the participating institutions” (p. 10).

Joint degree programs, following the definition of the IIE report, are arrangements where “students study at (at least) two higher education institutions and receive upon completion of the study program a single degree certificate issued and signed by all the participating institutions jointly” (p. 10).

All three forms of collaboration exist in the India-Europe context, with twinning programs and dual degree programs being the more popular as compared to joint degree programs due to regulatory and institutional approval mechanisms.

Twinning Programs

Manipal University [41] (Manipal, India) offers a wide range of twinning programs through its International Center for Applied Sciences [42]. These programs offer bachelor degrees in various branches of engineering, with the first two years of coursework undertaken at Manipal and the third and fourth years of specialized study completed at one of the partner institutions. While most of its university partners are from the United States and Australia, Manipal has also partnered with four institutions from the United Kingdom: City University of London [43], Lancaster University [44], Sheffield Hallam University [45], and Leicester University [46].

Vidya Prasarak Mandal College [47] (Thane, India) has established a twinning program with the University of Skövde [48] (Skövde, Sweden) in the fields of Biomedicine and Cell- and Molecular Biology. According to the program description, students enrolled in the program are registered in Vidya Prasarak Mandal in their first year but course content and examinations are closely monitored by Skövde. In the second year, students undertake coursework provided by Skövde from India through distance learning. The third year of studies is undertaken in Sweden, at the end of which the University of Skövde issues a B.Sc. degree.

Additional examples of twinning programs include:

Dual and Joint Degree Programs

SRM University [51] (Chennai, India) has over 20,000 students and offers programs in Engineering, Management, Medicine and Health Sciences, and Science and Humanities. SRM also offers a number of twinning and dual degree programs [53] in collaboration with European universities.

The Indian-German Graduate School of Advanced Organic Synthesis for a Sustainable Future [60] (INDIGO) is an interesting example of a joint degree program partnership at the doctoral level. The graduate school is a joint venture of 14 higher education institutions from Germany and India. The Indian Institute of Science [21] (Bangalore, India) and the University of Regensburg [61] (Regensburg, Germany) coordinate the program. Indian and German students alike start with coursework in their home country, then spend a research semester abroad in one of the participating institutions. Industrial internships and intercultural training are also offered in the three-year program. A joint doctoral degree in Chemistry [11] is awarded by the University of Regensburg or the Technical University of Munich [62] (Germany) and one of the participating Indian Institutes of Science.

Additional examples of dual and joint degree programs include:

Business and Management Programs

Dual and joint degrees are most common in the business and management fields. According to a recent report, interest in European business and management programs has grown by 90 percent over the past five years. Most of the growth was registered from emerging markets, including India. The increasing popularity of European business schools [73] is attributable to several factors, such as the widespread use of English as the language of instruction in European business schools, in addition to the fact that most MBA programs in Europe take one year to complete, as opposed to the two-year business school model of the United States.

The increasing popularity of European business schools among Indian students has prompted several Indian institutions to seek partnerships in Europe. Examples include:

International Branch Campuses

Establishing international branch campuses is still predominantly a U.S. venture. According to Global Higher Education [85], out of 159 international branch campuses operating in 2011, 80 were owned by U.S. entities. However, some British universities have been more entrepreneurial and aggressive in starting foreign campuses in India. In fact, they did not even wait for the enactment of the foreign universities bill [2], which was passed by the Cabinet of the Indian Government in March 2010 but is not yet approved by the Parliament. The Cabinet approval generated a sense of excitement and confusion among many Indian and foreign institutions about the implications and opportunities presented by the bill, however, British universities took the entrepreneurial jump to start the campuses with the support of corporate partners.

GD Goenka World Institute [12] (Gurgaon, India) is owned by GD Goenka Group [86], a business group with interests in real estate, education and travel-tourism. The World Institute, one of the many educational ventures of the group, was established in partnership with Lancaster University Management School [87] (U.K.) in 2009. The Institute offers engineering and business programs and the degrees are awarded by Lancaster University.

Leeds MET India [88] (Bhopal, India) collaborated with Leeds Metropolitan University [89] (U.K.) to offer mostly management programs. The degree is awarded by Leeds MET. However, the institute is not approved by local regulatory authorities like AICTE [90], which regulates management programs in India and has been issued a show-cause notice [91].

Asian School of Communication [92] (Delhi, India) was established in 2011 by Marwah Studios Group [93], a creative enterprise in India. Marwah Studios established other educational ventures in Asia before partnering with the University of Central Lancashire [94] UCLAN (U.K.) to offer undergraduate and graduate programs in film production, international journalism, and screenwriting. Degrees are awarded by UCLAN.

Challenges and Future Opportunities

As previous examples and models show, there is an increasing range of activities between European and Indian institutions. More institutions are experimenting with different models and becoming open to the possibilities of collaborations. Growing economic cooperation between India and Europe is also driving more mobility of talent, which in turn is contributing to further engagement with European institutions.

However, expanding and building new partnerships between Indian and European universities is fraught with several challenges. First, Indian institutions have strong brand affinity for U.S. institutions. This requires “educating” Indian institutions that there are many world-class institutions in Europe.

Second, the scale and complexity of the Indian higher education system is not easy to navigate. In addition, the regulatory framework has not matured sufficiently to provide consistent measures of quality. Thus, European institutions often struggle to find trusted partners who are committed to quality and not using internationalization as a profit-making exercise.

Third, while the majority of European institutions have a public focus, most of the entrepreneurial and internationally open universities in India are private.  This may sometimes lead to differences in culture and differences in understanding as to what the primary purpose of the collaborations is and how that should be executed.

Fourth, funding for many programs remains a challenge. While Erasmus Mundus has sponsored numerous partnerships at the systemic level it is quite difficult to allocate funds at the institutional level.

Fifth, although English programs have increased in Europe, perception among Indian students and institutions has not evolved at the same pace. Furthermore, social immersion along with employment and immigration potential within Europe remains less appealing than North American options for many Indians.

While Europe-India higher education collaborations have their share of challenges, the future is promising and there is great potential to build strong win-win relationships. European institutions are encouraged to be cautiously optimistic in exploring and experimenting with Indian institutions. There are many opportunities to support Indian institutions in infusing excellence and building capacity. Likewise, Indian institutions should become more open to the diversity of European institutions, which range from vocational institutions to research-intensive universities.

1. [95] Of all European countries, the largest number of Indian students are enrolled in the U.K. According to UNESCO data [96], from a total of 43,333 Indian students studying in a European Union member country in 2009, 34,065 were studying in the U.K. In comparison, the second largest host country, Germany, hosted just  3,273 Indian students in the same year, followed by Cyprus (1,527) and France (1,252).