Tag Archives: India

Awhile ago, I mentioned India’s plan to create 27,000 new colleges and universities over the next decade.  Well, guess what?  I was wrong.  The number is now 35,600. Here’s what I said a year ago about Education Minister Sibal’s plan to expand India’s capacity in higher education:

What does this have to do with American colleges and universities? Just as low-cost, high value service industries have migrated to India, the higher education market in the US will also start to buy more educational services there as well.

So I was immediately drawn to yesterday’s Business Week article about California’s intention to make a quick lunch of its seed corn by cutting university spending $1.4B and the likely effect that snack will have on job growth and tax revenue.

Particularly striking to me was VC Robert Ackerman’s reaction to the massive and rapid expansion of higher education in Asia:

Right now, if I were the Chinese university system, I’d be running ads showing up on UC websites, recruiting students to universities in Beijing and Shanghai.

Now I am not a big fan of the proposition that value in higher education can be measured in dollars spent–if American institutions made better use of their budgets, then the resulting efficiencies would actually increase capacity–but there is little doubt that wholesale dismantling of universities across the country is a very bad idea.

We are shrinking university capacity at a time when India, China, Singapore and many other countries are  increasing theirs. India  alone will create 600 new research universities. China is increasing its capacity in research universities while the  U.S. has created one new research university this century: UC Merced.  Since Merced is part of the California system, its prospects are dimmer by the moment. Only a handful of new universities of any kind have been created in the U.S. since 1960, a period in which college enrollments have quadrupled.

Why is falling capacity so important? Because the worldwide market is growing, and we are systematically reducing our share of that market when economic competitors are  moving in the opposite direction. I leave it as  a homework exercise to determine what happens when an enterprise loses market share in a growing market.

Buon appetito!

A few days ago, thanks to OpenStudy founder and colleague Ashwin Ram (follow @ashwinram on Twitter), I learned that abundance of choice in higher education is more than an abstract concept:

New Delhi, Nov 7 (IANS) More than 27,000 additional institutions of higher learning would be required to meet the targeted Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) of 30 percent for 2020, Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Kapil Sibal said here Saturday.

“This figure includes 14,000 colleges of general higher education, 12,775 additional technical and professional institutions and 269 additional universities,” Sibal said in a presentation during the meeting of the consultative committee for the HRD ministry here Saturday. [1]

27,000 is a very large number of new institutions, but it’s hard to say how much of the market will be served once they are operational.  Twelve percent of  Indian secondary school students go on to university studies compared with the thirty percent  goal of the new Indian government and the seventy percent ratio in many developed nations. That’s about 350 millions students.

The challenge for India is to create a system of higher education that breaks the bureaucratic licensing stranglehold that has led to widespread dissatisfaction with storefront operations.  It is clear that the new Indian system will combine the two features that I mentioned last week: value and cost.  Students will have the ability to choose both their institution and their course of study.  And because many graduates are today unemployable, the value of degrees from the new universities will have to be proved in the marketplace.  That’s good news for innovators who want to move India to a position of global leadership, and bad news for the old system that is in any event being dismantled.

The costs are staggering, so new business models are welcome.  The IT company Wipro has already started to co-brand degrees with top ranked technological universities like Birla Institute of Technology in Pilani and the Sipal has been very open about needing other creative forms of private investment to offset costs.

What does this have to do with American colleges and universities? Just as low-cost, high value service industries have migrated to India, the higher education market in the US will also start to buy more educational services there as well. India is already a destination of choice for some graduate students, and not only because of lowered costs, as Cambridge medical student James Gill reports in the Cambridge University Graduate Student Blog:

Doing a medical elective in India would in theory help me to better understand and relate to Indian patients as well as colleagues that I might work with in the future.[2]

“Well sure,” I hear you saying, “but that’s a medical student in the UK.   It’s not, say, a Nobel-prize-producing chemistry lab in the US.  That’s where the real value is.  Berkeley will never be vulnerable to a lower-priced operation.”  The University of California at Berkeley is the top ranked public university in the country, and so it was something of a jolt to read in today’s New York Times that a 32% increase in fees has over the past decade helped to triple the price tag for a degree from Cal and that

Among students and faculty alike there is a pervasive sense that the increases and the deep budget cuts are pushing the university into decline.[3]

The accompanying color picture is a chemistry lab at Berkeley.  Small wonder that the students who have protested the fee hike are questioning the University of California value proposition,  and especially whether their education can be obtained quicker and cheaper someplace else.  There will shortly be alternatives for some of them. 27,000 alternatives if everything goes according to plan for Mr. Sipal.




[3] The New York Times, Friday November 20, 2009, page 1

Kalinga Raipur

I have in recent years — and for many different reasons — become a fan of Daniel Pink’s book A Whole New Mind.[1] Pink has a compelling framework for thinking about value.  First, can what I am trying to do be done better (or cheaper or faster) by a computer?  Second, is what I am offering in demand in an age of abundance? Finally, can what I am trying to do be done more efficiently elsewhere?

As readers know by now, I am working on a WWC book about higher education, and  I have found that that the question of value is central to understanding where American higher education is going. Simply put, when there are abundant choices for university education, will traditional universities offer enough value to be able to withstand the coming pressure of a global marketplace?

Here’s why I am concerned.  In any market with growing demand and abundant choices, there are only three ways to win: have an unassailable brand, offer the lowest prices, or offer the most compelling value.  Even better is to be able to win with both price and value. There is really only a handful — 70 at most — of global brands in higher education, so for most of the 3,000 or so accredited colleges — let’s call this the Middle —  it’s a matter of finding the right balance between cost and value.  Universities are profligate consumers of resources, so it came as no surprise to read in last week’s Chronicle of Higher Education that 58 private colleges have now joined the $50,000 club.  Public universities are not far behind.  If I am right about winners and losers in global marketplaces, the institutions in the Middle who are at most risk had better get the value equation right.  The problem is that most of them don’t have a very clear idea of their value.

That’s significant because  half of the world’s population has joined the free market economies in the last fifteen years. For the most part, these are countries with rich educational heritage, that also understand the value of a well-educated labor force.  The market for higher education is bubbling as new and established players alike  scramble to figure out how to reach hundreds of millions of students:

But the demand for higher education is continuing to increase with more and more students wanting a higher education today than ever before. How can we bridge the gap between increasing demand and decreasing government funding for higher education? The only option is to tap the private sector to participate in the funding and provision of higher education. The process of increasing private participation in higher education has already begun with a few states like Chhattisgarh and Uttaranchal having passed legislation to permit the setting up of private universities in their states. Indeed the private sector has been funding higher education in India for a long time, albeit on a very limited scale. The Birla Institute of Technology and Science at Pilani in Rajasthan, which is funded and run by the Birla Group Trust, became an officially recognised university as far back as 1964. Other institutions like the Manipal Group in Manipal in Karnataka have been running private colleges since 1953 and the Manipal Academy of Higher Education became a deemed university in 1993. Many other self-financing colleges were set up in the early 1990s and a few of them have now become deemed universities.[2]

The problem for American universities is that, since  few of them understand their value to traditional students, the chances are slim that they will figure out what the millions of new students want. I can tell you that it’s not football. Nor is it finding ways to “dumb down” an American degree.


In fact the emerging markets are moving aggressively to close down storefront diploma mills.


To the extent that most universities in the Middle concentrate on classroom instruction, the business model of higher education is under tremendous pressure.  Although university level training and an aging population will continue to drive demand for classroom instruction, the experience of students in large, multi-section introductory courses is much worse than well-conceived and executed performances by world-class experts who have a passion for communicating their love of subject.

So if few instructors are equipped to compete with the zip of a star from ItunesU™ (see my Dancing with the Stars post) then how does the 21st Century university make itself valuable?  Universities must reinvent themselves as creative entities– and they must do it in a way that is smart public policy and is also economically sustainable.

That brings me back to Daniel Pink and what he sees as the elements of creativity:

  1. Design – Moving beyond function to engage the sense.
  2. Story – Narrative added to products and services – not just argument.
  3. Symphony – Adding invention and big picture thinking (not just detail focus).
  4. Empathy – Going beyond logic and engaging emotion and intuition.
  5. Play – Bringing humor and light-heartedness to business and products.
  6. Meaning – Immaterial feelings and values of products.

This is not a bad start for universities that want to redefine their value.   This was true in when the Medieval monk Peter Abelard  provoked his students to question orthodox thought, and it was true when Thomas Jefferson realized that a university education might result in peer groups that were specialized to the sciences.   Charles Vest realized that the value of an MIT education did not lie in the lectures and textbooks but in energy and intellect of the MIT community.   It is true that the most immediate way to experience a community is to live within it, but it is not the only way.   The technology of social networks and on line communities extends the reach of physical community beyond geographic boundaries.

To deliver on a vision like that American colleges and universities are going to need new leadership, because there doesn’t seem to be much  appetite for doing much more than nibbling around the edges.

[1] Daniel Pink, A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age, Riverhead Books, 2005


[2] Private Universities in India — Why? How? Education in India,