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How South-South partnerships can promote internationalization

Vaseline 2 months ago



The QS World University Rankings 2024 contains data from 1,500 institutions in 104 locations around the world.

It comprises a mixed group of 45 institutions from India ranging from institutions of national importance to public, private and deemed universities. There are eleven Indian institutions in the top 500 category, of which two are in the top 200.

Quality varies greatly against some performance indicators. For example, while the Indian Institute of Science Bangalore has a perfect score of 100 for citations per faculty, there are eight institutions that have a score of less than five for the same indicator.

What is clear, however, is that, compared to other indicators, all Indian institutions in the QS Rankings have low scores when it comes to measuring internationalization, such as the number of international faculty and students and the international research network. Even though these three indexes together contribute only 15% of the total score, they still influence other indicators, especially those measuring institutional reputation.

The data in the report suggests that Indian institutions across the spectrum need to work on improving their efforts to attract more international students and faculty and be more visible on international research platforms.

But even here there is an interesting variation. Some private institutions such as Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, OP Jindal Global University and Amity University score higher on international faculty and students compared to public universities.

Anna University, a public state university, scores the highest for international research networks, even when compared to institutions of national importance such as the Indian Institutes of Technology.

International cooperation

Although internationalization is a priority for and mandated by the government, it should be noted that it takes time to build high-quality partnerships with international institutions that can have an impact on this.

Pathways/collaborative academic programs, such as twinning programs, dual-degree programs and joint degree programs, are the most popular form of internationalization pursued by Indian institutions. However, they serve a limited purpose as most agreements with institutions from advanced countries focus on outbound rather than inbound student mobility, i.e. sending Indian students to an institution in the Global North for a semester to up to two years.

Few Global North institutions are willing to negotiate sending their students to India. Indian institutions should invest time, resources and effort in identifying partners willing to honor the spirit of exchange programs, be it through joint degree programs, collaboration with industry partners or transnational education.

Expansion of the international research network

Another way to further internationalize Indian campuses is through research. Today, India is better able to contribute its scientific understanding and prowess to the world than in the past. A recent report by the US government’s National Science Foundation states that India’s position in scientific publications globally has improved from seventh position in 2010 to third position in 2020.

In a study published in July 2023, Elsevier revealed interesting growth trends in research from the South Global countries in the G20. The report states that India has overtaken the United Kingdom as the world’s third largest producer of research after China and the United States.

The author of the report further states that there is a visible shift in the research landscape from the Global North to the Global South, with India taking the lead in producing new knowledge relevant to addressing sustainability, development and innovation. The latest data from Nature Index also shows India’s remarkable rise, placing it among the top 10 countries for the first time.

Partnerships with the Global South

India has an important position when it comes to this shift in knowledge production and can emerge as a key player in initiating partnerships with the countries of the South, identifying common challenges that can be solved through cooperation in teaching and research.

These challenges include public health, food security, energy and water crises, climate change and many others. These problems are too big to be solved by a single institution, or even a single country, alone.

India can leverage these opportunities to build productive collaborations with educational institutions in countries of the Global South and help redefine the paradigms of development, innovation and international relations.

The partnerships should emphasize cooperation and not competition, as the knowledge resulting from these partnerships benefits society as a whole.

This will expand the international research network of Indian institutions and increase the mobility of students and scholars from educational institutions in the Global South.

Towards a more equal mobility strategy

The narrative surrounding international student mobility has mainly focused on the exodus of students from the Global South to the Global North. India has been the leading country along with China in sending students to the top five study abroad destinations i.e. USA, Australia, UK, Canada and Germany. India’s 2023 G20 Presidency has highlighted the country’s ability to deliver good quality education at a reasonable cost and the country is therefore uniquely positioned to become a destination country for receiving international students.

The African continent, which makes up a large part of the countries in the South, has a young population that wants to pursue higher education abroad. Indian institutions should therefore consider articulation agreements with institutions from countries in the Global South as this will provide a steady pipeline of international students studying at
Indian campuses.

These agreements should also include facilities and support for Indian students to study at partner institutions from the Global South. This will enhance India’s institutional profile in the international arena and help build strategic partnerships with institutions from countries in the Global South.

Strengthening South-South cooperation

Research and Information Systems for Developing Countries (RIS), an autonomous policy research institute based in Delhi, works to promote cooperation with countries from the Global South.

The organization is conducting a program on Learning South-South Cooperation under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Program of the Ministry of External Affairs.

In January 2023, RIS organized a capacity building programme, “Global South and perspectives on development partnerships”, for 28 participants from 22 countries in the Global South. The two-week deliberations recognized the importance of education and science as key factors that can accelerate development and growth in Global South countries. Such initiatives should be encouraged.

The Indian government can strengthen South-South cooperation in the education sector by promoting institutional linkages between educational institutions in India and Global South member states. This will lead to a two-way increase in student and teacher exchanges to and from India and increase the visibility of India’s internationalization efforts.

Dr. Diya Dutt is a consultant at the Association of Indian Universities, New Delhi, India. Sudarshan Saha is the founder of the Center for Study Abroad, Guwahati, India.