Hard Work or Harvard?

I wish you had a great Republic day celebration.
The English word ‘republic’ is derived from Latin – ‘res publica’, the public thing. This translates in the political domain into decision-making in the open, in full view of all. It follows that informed, vigilant, and articulate citizens are the foundations of an ideal republic. Universities, through good quality education, are expected to nurture such citizens.
In this edition, let us touch upon one of the forthcoming policy changes in higher education, which has been widely discussed in the past weeks.
Earlier this month, University Grants Commission (UGC), apex body regulating the universities in India, released the draft guidelines to allow foreign universities in India. Thus, we would have the likes of Harvard & Cambridge University to open their campuses in India.
First, it is important to acknowledge the sad reality that Indian universities, whether public or private, do not feature in the top global rankings. Second, we often create a false equivalence between the premium standalone technology or management institutes (IITs/IIMs) and the top ranking universities from abroad. Harvard university is much more than the Harvard business school. A world class university has high ranking departments, schools across disciplines.
This leads us to a set of fundamental questions –
1. What goes into making a world class university? 
2. Why would the best known universities of the world open their campuses in India? 
3. Why has India been unable to create public or private universities, which could become the default low-cost destinations for higher education in the world?
First, a world class university marries teaching with research. Unit economics for a full-fledged Ivy League university campus are not likely to work in India. Funding research is a long drawn process with no immediate return on investment. Most of the foreign universities receive state subsidies and grants as fees alone cannot support the research.
Moreover, in its guidelines UGC has allowed repatriation of profits made in India. Hence there exist no structural reason for long term investment in research. Most likely, a ‘center’ offering a couple of professional courses (such as MBA) might be replicable but not a campus offering research across various disciplines.
Second, there seems to be no economic or lifestyle incentive for top-notch exceptional faculties from abroad to shift their base to India unless their existing salaries are matched or exceeded.
Third, only a small segment of the Indian consumers can afford foreign education. Incentive to go abroad is partly cultural as well, to experience life and network beyond India. Would the price differential in Indian campuses be significant enough to forgo non-financial incentives? To flip the question – If IIM A opens a campus in another Indian city, e.g. IIM A Bhopal. Would people who can afford IIMA originally switch to IIMA Bhopal? The cultural vibe and ethics of the original university are hard to replicate elsewhere.
Fourth, it would be quite paradoxical of UGC which is pushing for standardization in entrance, assessments, and syllabi across public universities to create exceptions for campuses of foreign universities which thrive on their autonomy and diversity.
Data seems to suggest full-fledged foreign campuses of best known universities are hard to find, except for a couple of exceptions.In this C-BERT database of foreign campuses, we do not see names of the biggest brands – such as Stanford, Oxford, Princeton etc. You may find one off ‘centre’ or ‘school’ but not full campuses.
The third question – why are there no world-class Indian universities? – is more significant than foreign universities opening campuses in India. It would be in the national interest that the startup and investor community reflects on it. It appears we do have the intent and a community of financially capable entrepreneurs who can establish low-cost world class universities.
The most likely reason lies in the complex and bureaucratic regulatory system of higher education in India. On one hand it has deteriorated public universities beyond repair and not incentivised quality private universities to flourish on the other. 
It remains to be seen which universities finally arrive in India but let us strive to do ‘hard-work’ to create world class Indian Universities which would nurture our republic and become the next “Harvard’ for the world to look upto. 
Jai Hind!
Startup Funding Summary
Log9, Bengaluru-based nano-materials manufacturer and RnD startup, has raised $40 Mn in Series B funding from Amara Raja Batteries, PETRONAS Ventures, Incred Financial Services, Unity Small Finance Bank, Oxyzo Financial Services and Western Capital Advisors – Read More
Ecozen, Pune-based deep tech startup, has raised $25 Mn in Series C funding from Nuveen, Dare Ventures, India EXIM Bank, Caspian and Hivos-Triodos Fonds Read More
FuelBuddy, New Delhi-based mobile energy distribution platform, has raised $20 Mn in a funding round from Jindal Power Limited, RJ Corp, and Nilesh Ved – Read More
Rigi, Bengaluru-based community management platform, has raised $12 Mn in Series A funding from Elevation Capital, Accel, Stellaris, Sequoia, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Kunal Shah, Amit Agarwal, Chakradhar Gade, Sharan Hegde and other HNIs – Read More
Landeed, Bengaluru-based proptech startup, has raised $8 Mn in Seed funding from Draper Associates, Y Combinator and Bayhouse Capital – Read More
M&A Snippets
Bengaluru-based IT services firm Happiest Minds has acquired Madurai-based IT services company Sri Mookambika Infosolutions for $14 Mn – Read More
Pune-based gaming and entertainment firm JetSynthesys has acquired US-based media and entertainment company Fanory for an undisclosed amount – Read More
New Delhi-based online travel company Easy Trip Planners has acquired Hyderabad-based hotel booking platform cheQin for an undisclosed sum – Read More
Noida-based fintech company Pine Labs has acquired Bengaluru-based enterprise platform Saluto Wellness for an undisclosed sum – Read More

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