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Visa restrictions fox foreign students Sunday, August 19, 2001
BY ROBIN DAVID, TIMES NEWS NETWORK
AHMEDABAD: Praful Desai, a successful Gujarati businessman from California, is one of those who would like his teenage son Rahul to know India and his roots. He, therefore, wanted him to obtain his masters degree in computers from an Indian university, especially one in Gujarat.
However, when he approached the consulate for a student visa last year, he found out that Rahul would first have to get approval from the ministry of human resource development (MHRD), then get the nod from the ministry of external affairs (MEA) and follow it up with a second approval from MHRD.
The rule has been revoked since then, but Desai is still apprehensive. The existing cumbersome process has discouraged him from trying again.
This is a perfect example of how the right hand of the Union government has no idea of what its left is up to. The MHRD recently allowed educational institutions in the country to admit more foreign students in an effort to reverse the brain drain phenomenon. It wants to tap into the massive Indian diaspora scattered across the globe.
Its officials, however, forgot to tell the MEA to relax visa norms for students. The result is that many Indians, among them Gujaratis, are finding it increasingly difficult to take advantage of the scheme.
The All India Council for Technical Education was the first to jump on to the bandwagon and notified state governments on March 31 that all technical education institutions, including self-financed ones, could admit foreign students to 15 per cent of their seats.
Sources in the state government confirm that many Gujaratis settled in the US and UK have contacted them to enrol their wards to local institutions, but stringent visa norms are a major deterrent. This is especially true for those who are not NRIs and are technically called 'persons of Indian origin'.
Gujarat's higher and technical education secretary Gauri Kumar admits there is a bottleneck and says she will soon speak to officials in the MHRD to have the restrictions removed.
"Indians, especially in the US, would like to send their children to India as the cost of education is still quite high there," she points out. "The $5,000 annual fee we charge is obviously cheap for them."
Interest among NRIs could be gauged from the fact that the Non-Resident Gujarat Foundation in Ahmedabad had organised an open house on education for vice-chancellors in January.
Experts from New Delhi were flown in to advise them on what kind of courses would attract more foreign students. The foundation's core group on education is also working out the details on how there could be a two-way traffic - Indian students studying abroad and foreign students coming to India.
"The creation of NRI seats and the craving for cultural affinity have seen Indians abroad gravitating towards their roots," remarks NRG chairman Hari Desai.
"It is about time we revived the 'dead' foreign students departments in our universities, because the sky is the limit with the new policy," he adds. Interestingly, only MS University, Vadodara, has an active department today.
The policy, however, does not make sense to Society for Promotion of Technical Education and Research (Sopter) president Rasu Vakil.
"Education is the last bastion of the Permit Raj in the country," says Vakil. "Our institutions cannot flourish unless they are given academic and administrative freedom, as is the case in the US and UK."
Vakil points out that both government-run and granted institutions would have no reason to promote themselves if a major part of the revenue from foreign students was to go back to the government. "Also, this is the age of innovation. Our institutions need the freedom to innovate."
Experts also feel that institutes in the state will not only have to upgrade their academic standards, they will also have to provide the best facilities in the classrooms, laboratories as well as in the hostels.
Only after India can come up to the high standards already set by the foreign institutions, can it hope to become a competitive player.
News Source :
Times Of India News Service
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