Academic institutions meet ends, over 500 MoUs inked in two days

State Education Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama announced at the pre-Vibrant Gujarat International Conference for Academic Institutions (ICAI) Thursday that 519 MoUs had been signed during the two-day event, with a majority 244 between educational institutes within Gujarat.

Chudasama said 143 MoUs were inked between universities in Gujarat and those from abroad, 86 were with industries and 46 between international institutes and universities.

On the concluding day, education experts such as planning commission member and former Pune University vice-chancellor Narendra Jadhav and University of Houston's Indian-born president Renu Khator, stole the show as they outlined pragmatic steps through which universities could "internationalise" their campuses, including setting up special units to take care of foreign students.

Jadhav, who has been instrumental in framing new higher education laws for the present central government, pointed out that the largest number of foreign students coming to India were from Africa, followed by West Asia, South-East Asia, including SAARC countries, Europe and the United States. The list reads the opposite way when it comes to where Indian students are going, he said.

The former V-C of the country's most populated university also said that SAARC students usually pay about four times the fees paid by Indian students, while non-SAARC students pay seven times or more, emphasising this was a point institute heads must keep in mind to raise revenue and channel some of it to support less-privileged students and better their institutes.

Having administered a university where an estimated 45% of India's foreign students attend, Jadhav said campuses in India would do well to set up international education centres to cater to the needs of foreign students, and that these units must liaison with the police, the Home Ministry and the External Affairs Ministry.

"In the US, a foreign student pursuing a university course will be granted a five-year visa at one go, whereas in India, a foreign student pursuing even PhD will be granted just a one-year visa. Due to such issues, these units at university level are extremely important although the central government is going to set up a professionally-run India International Education Centre at the macro-level," he added.

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