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Universities told to book passage to India

United Kingdom universities must take a more active approach to exporting education if they are to tap the rich potential of India, according to an internal report by the British Council, writes Simon Targett.

The report, by Charles Bryce of Napier University, says that India has nearly 250 universities, ten so-called institutes of national importance, and about 8,000 colleges. There are five million students and 270,000 lecturers. Many of the courses are "traditional", and Professor Bryce found an urgent need for help from UK universities in updating the curriculum, improving methods of delivery, and introducing general transferable skill modules.

There is also potential for attracting Indian students. Professor Bryce said that many well-qualified students could benefit from access to UK universities and FE colleges. On some courses, there is widespread demand, and the policy of reserved places for certain sections of the community - notably women, whose literacy rate is just 39 per cent, compared with the male rate of 64 per cent - means good students are not finding places. Another area of development could be the promotion of Indian-based short-course provision at full cost for executives, doctors and other professionals.

The report observed that there are now more opportunities for attracting postgraduates than undergraduates, but that "this could easily change through a more proactive marketing strategy". It also recommended a review of university fees for countries like India which have different costs of living. It suggested the introduction of targeted studentships, possibly with the help of local chambers of commerce and alumni associations.

Professor Bryce advised the British Council to increase its profile, and recommended the development of "a British Council standard entrance examination" - which could take the form of an aptitude test - and the establishment of a fully-fledged education counselling service in India.

If UK universities do not act, they could lose out to competitors, Professor Bryce warned. The United States is the major competitor, but Australia is waging an aggressive marketing campaign and Russia had been effective in recruiting medical students.

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