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Indias latest branch campus and higher education investments in the United Arab

Emirates and Qatar: meeting both sides development needs



The University of Pune, one of Indias top-ranked state universities, has announced plans to
set up a branch campus in the United Arab Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, with programmes
starting to be offered from this month. The plan is the latest branch campus initiative among
Indian higher education institutions, with the countrys University of Petroleum and Energy
Studies also having announced plans to set up campuses in seven foreign countries,
including the United Arab Emirate of Dubai. The Indian government is also keen to develop
higher education collaboration with other countries in the Gulf region, with Qatar being the
foremost among them. What are the details of Indias latest transnational higher education
initiatives? With nearly all of Indias existing international branch campuses being located in
the United Arab Emirates (UAE), why are Indias universities targeting the country and what
are the market opportunities for other Indian institutions to establish a presence in the country
in the future? Furthermore, why are India and Qatar keen to strengthen their higher education
partnerships?

In February, Indias University of Pune (UoP) announced that it will set up a branch campus in
the free trade zone of the United Arab Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah (RAK). The Universitys
entry into the UAE is expected to help boost the higher education sector in the country, and
ultimately the economy by training competent and highly skilled individuals. The new campus
will offer Indian accredited under- and postgraduate degree programmes, and is currently
accepting student applications and registrations in time for the start of postgraduate
programmes in Information Technology and an Executive Master of Business Administration
this month, and the opening of undergraduate courses in September of this year. The campus
will initially operate from a temporary location, before eventually moving into its own buildings
in an education city that is currently being planned in the emirate. Already enrolling one of
the highest international student numbers among all higher education institutions in India, the
University of Pune hopes to attract more students from the UAE and the wider region. The
Indian campus is also expected to contribute to the human capital development of RAK,
which is keen to develop into a knowledge economy and make the emirate a hub for higher
education in the region.

The UAE government is promoting educational activities in each of the seven emirates,
thereby creating free trade zones for foreign higher education institutions to set up campuses.
RAK is reportedly the third preferred destination for foreign educational campuses in the UAE,
after the emirates of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. RAK aims to attract foreign education providers
that offer courses in areas that are necessary to the emirates emerging industries,
particularly in aviation, tourism and hospitality. As part of RAK Free Trade Zone (RAK FTZ)s
strategy to encourage higher education institutions to establish a presence there, it is offering
attractive benefits and trouble-free registration. The benefits on offer include RAK FTZ acting
as a key developer of their facilities, easy registration with readily available administrative
support when required, and fast and easy visa application procedures for staff. A fully-
serviced office in RAK FTZ is another benefit offered to institutions during their set-up period.
To develop the education sector further, RAK authorities plan to invest US$1 billion to create
an education park consisting of five million cubic metres of buildings, which will eventually
accommodate the foreign academies and colleges presently located in RAK FTZ, as well as
those that have yet to establish campuses in the emirate. (For further information on RAK
developments please see the Observatorys 19 February 2009 article.)

The Observatory on Borderless Higher Education, March 2009
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The University of Pune is not the only Indian institution to set up a campus abroad. Indias
University of Petroleum and Energy Studies is planning to establish campuses in seven
foreign countries, including the UAE of Dubai, Qatar, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Sudan and
Vietnam, in order to train highly skilled professionals needed in these countries economies
(for more details see the Observatorys 13 February 2009 article). Furthermore, Anna
University Chennai, a technical higher education institution based in Indias city of Chennai,
has reportedly been requested by authorities in the emirate of Dubai to set up a campus
there. A preliminary report exploring the feasibility of the proposal, submitted by Anna
University Chennai, is currently under consideration.

Several Indian higher education institutions are already operating campuses abroad, with
most (approximately 10 institutions) running a campus in the UAE. The countrys Mahatma
Gandhi University since 2001 has been offering Bachelors and Masters degree programmes
in business, information technology and tourism in Knowledge Village, a higher education and
business hub in Dubai. Indias Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Manipal Academy
of Higher Education, and the SP J ain Centre of Management (SPJ CM) too offer degree
programmes in Dubai (either in Dubai Knowledge Village or in Dubai International Academic
City (DIAC), the emirates newer and arguably slightly more prestigious international higher
education hub), mainly in the areas of business and/or engineering, with SPJ CM also
offering a Masters programme in business in Singapore. (For more details on DIAC please
refer to the Observatorys 22 February 2008 and 5 September 2008 articles.)

Indian universities that operate a campus in the UAE have a strategic market position in the
country as they draw their student population almost exclusively from the Indian subcontinent
and the Gulf states in contrast to many western universities in the UAE that tend to attract
students from many more different nationalities. The Indian branch campuses are also a good
fit for the many Indians that graduate from Indian secondary schools in the UAE, according
to Dr Balasubramani Ramjee, Director of Manipal University in Dubai, and most of the dozen
Indian universities in the UAE are targeting strong expansion within the coming five years.

However, while the free trade zone international higher education hubs offer attractive
opportunities for foreign universities to set up a base, it is not easy for Indian universities to
establish a new branch campus in the UAE, and particularly in Dubai. The University of Pune,
for instance, had to abandon its initial plan to open its offshore campus at Dubai International
Academic City, where it hoped to offer 14 degree programmes in areas such as management,
engineering, foreign trade, computer application, business administration and science, before
it shifted its focus to establishing a campus at RAK. This was reportedly due to opposition to
UoPs planned Dubai campus from the Knowledge and Human Development Authority
(KHDA), the licensing and regulatory body for education in Dubai, who argued that we
believe that the programmes offered by the university do not cover the diverse and ambitious
areas highlighted in the Dubai Strategic Plan 2015, which highlights the needs of the
workforce requirements in the emirate. Indias Bharati Vidyapeeth University also had to shift
its planned branch campus from DIAC to RAK after DIAC authorities stipulated that the
institutions obtained land at DIAC should be used for building a school rather than a
university.

According to Dr Ramjee, there appears to be a limit on how many new Indian campuses can
be established in the UAE. This is due not only to potentially increasing hurdles that Indian
institutions face to obtain academic licenses to set up a campus in the UAE, but also to rising
operation costs, which make running a campus with modest initial student numbers difficult.
We were an initial entrant and therefore had some advantages, but I dont see that being
extended to new institutions, Dr Ramjee says, the market place was big enough for us to
establish a firm foothold, but subsequent entrants are getting a lesser market share than they
would like. They have to make up for the increasing costs by higher fee structures [but] the
sheer strength of numbers we have gives us the stability to pass cost savings on. According
to RAK FTZ officials, the free trade zone is still accepting registrations of Indian universities,
but it is limiting numbers to select recognised universities and the ones that would bring
value to the RAK community.

The Observatory on Borderless Higher Education, March 2009
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The Observatory on Borderless Higher Education, March 2009
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Indias outreach to develop higher education collaborations with other Gulf states appears to
be gaining momentum as well, as the government realises that the region is an area of vital
importance for Indias long-term energy security and general prosperity. In the wake of the
current global financial downturn, Indias Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has pointed at the
increasing importance of the Gulf region for the country by stating that the current
international economic and financial situation provides a unique opportunity for India to
leverage the vast surplus funds in the Gulf for our development needs, and to accelerate
trade and investment flows into each others countries. Indias interest in developing higher
education partnerships in the region is also partly due to the large diaspora of Indians in the
Gulf states. The Indian government, for instance, recently signed a human resources
agreement with the government of Oman, which is home to approximately 500,000 Indians, to
improve the welfare of expatriate Indians in the country, as well as a separate collaboration
agreement between the foreign service training institutes of the two countries.

Qatar, home to 420,000 Indians and above all a valuable and reliable supplier of a large part
of Indias energy imports from the Gulf region, is also being targeted by the Indian
government as an attractive partner for higher education collaboration. Qatar in turn, actively
working to diversify its economy in a bid to reduce its dependence on oil and gas revenues
and build a knowledge economy, is eager to learn from the technical capabilities of Indian
companies and universities. Both countries have recently started to explore ways to develop a
robust framework for co-operation in the education sector and human resource development.

In comparison to its neighbours in the Middle East, Qatar has a poor record in terms of its
tertiary gross enrolment ratio: approximately 18% of Qatari nationals have obtained a
Bachelors degree or higher, compared, for instance, to 48% in Lebanon. Qatars gross
enrolment ratio has actually been falling it was as high as 25% in 1999 probably due to
the fact that university provision has not kept pace with population increases and the rising
numbers of children undertaking primary and secondary education. In 1995, the Qatar
Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development was created, a non-profit
organisation to encourage greater domestic and foreign investment into the sector. Its biggest
success to date has been the establishment of Qatars Education City, located outside of the
countrys capital of Doha. Although Education City is still comparatively small (in 2006, there
were 2,018 students enrolled in Education City, compared to 27,000 at Qatar University), it
has attracted six prestigious US branch campuses with more expected to follow (a Dutch and
two Canadian universities operate campuses at other locations in Qatar). In 2004, the Qatar
Science and Technology Park was established at Education City to link universities based
there with industrial partners. (Please see the Observatorys 9 October 2008, 5 November
2008, 13 February 2009 and 18 February 2009 articles for more information on higher
education developments in Qatar). The Qatari authorities hope that higher education
collaboration with India will contribute to further progress in the development of a knowledge
economy.

Overall, India and the Gulf states appear to be suitable higher education partners, not only
because they already have long-standing economic links, but also because both sides have
complementary strengths and because collaboration can meet both sides current and future
development needs. Within India, due to a lack of consensus, the government has recently
shelved the introduction of a Bill in Parliament that would allow foreign universities to set up
campuses in India. With national elections for a new government being scheduled for this
coming Spring, it may well take some time before such a Bill would be introduced (for a
background analysis please see the Observatorys 23 March 2007 and 18 February 2008
articles). However, the fact that India, as a developing country, but one with an emerging
economy and a few high-quality universities, is establishing more branch campuses abroad
appears to be beneficial in that these campuses can contribute to increasing knowledge
circulation instead of contributing to one-way mobility which often characterise the higher
education programmes offered by developed to developing countries.