NEXT YEAR, AROUND 100 Indian students will start their postgraduate diplomas in cybersecurity and business analytics at Deakin University's new international campus at Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT City) in Gandhinagar. Deakin, which climbed 33 places to 233 on QS World University rankings this year, was the first institution that agreed to open a teaching campus in India after University Grants Commission released draft regulations for entry and operation of world's top 500 universities in India.

"Cybersecurity and business analytics are areas where there is a huge demand in India for high quality professionals. As economy becomes more data and digital driven, there is a shortage of people in that space," Iain Martin, vice chancellor of Australia-based Deakin University, tells Fortune India. The courses at Deakin's India campus will be the same as those offered at its Australian locations. The faculty will be 80% local and 20% from Australia. "We're bringing the Australian model of education, which is a little bit different. It's employment and industry-facing and uses a different pedagogy. Pretty much everything we do is designed to empower students as learners. There's not much didactic, lecture-driven teaching. A lot of it is teamwork," he says.

Besides Deakin, in June 2024, another Australian university, University of Wollongong, will start offering a graduate certificate in computing and masters in computing (data analytics); these will be followed by other undergraduate programmes. Patricia M. Davidson, vice chancellor and president, University of Wollongong, says opportunity to study at multiple international campuses and lower fee than the Australian campus are incentives for Indian students. "The tuition (fee) is set at half the price of the Australian tuition (fee). But more importantly, individuals can stay at home, and we know that the cost of living in India is significantly lower," says Patricia M. Davidson, vice chancellor and president, University of Wollongong. She says the university is looking at migration pathways to spend a year in Australia, Dubai, Hong Kong or other international campuses.

According to ministry of foreign affairs, 1.32 million Indians were studying in 78 countries in 2022. Indian educators say having foreign campuses in India gives students an opportunity to enrol into top global schools without moving out of the country, which is expensive for most students in a country whose per capita GDP was only $2,389 in 2022 (according to World Bank).

But it could also mean a tough competition between Indian and foreign universities for attracting the best students. "We can expect healthy competition as well as collaborations that will enrich education in the country. This will also add to the growth of our economy by reducing the brain drain we have been facing for years. Our skilled manpower will become more robust," says Bharat Bhasker, director, Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad. According to ministry of education, the number of registered universities and university-like institutions rose by 70 to 1,113 in FY21. India had 43,796 colleges and 11,296 standalone educational institutions in 2020-21.

Of course, multiple institutions and organisations in India already have partnerships with international universities, usually for specialisations not available in India. IIM-A, for example, has dual degree agreements with seven universities. Abhiman Das, professor of economics and chairperson (PGP), IIM-A, says these associations facilitate deeper engagement with partners and open avenues for personal and professional growth of students. "They get the opportunity to engage with renowned faculty members, learn new study practices, understand global markets and explore placement opportunities. Furthermore, they get connected to alumni network of the partner institute, which can contribute significantly to their professional journey," says Das.

Renuka Kamath, professor, marketing and associate dean, full-time programmes, SPJIMR, says even though they will compete with local schools, international institutions will bring a different pedagogy to India that will add a fresh approach to education. "Western universities have a lot to offer… Unlike our undergrad and school education, which is largely by rote, there’s a lot of self-learning (in western educational institutions)," she says.

Some of these institutions have had long-standing ties with India which they are deepening with new campuses. University of Wollongong, for example, has tie-ups with about 30 Indian universities. "We have been looking at 4D printing, bionic ear software development and mining technology. We have a range of collaborations with multiple (Indian) institutions, both individually and collaboratively, particularly in engineering, finance and digital space," says Davidson.

Earlier this year, University of Melbourne announced a bachelor of science dual degree programme with multiple Indian universities, including Savitribai Phule Pune University, University of Madras, GITAM University and Shoolini University. It will allow students to complete their bachelor's degree and a corresponding master's degree with first two years at their home institution and subsequent two years on Melbourne campus.

Meanwhile, Indian Institute of Management, Sambalpur, recently tied up with French universities — Sorbonne Business School and Bordeaux University School of Management. It has also set up a centre in New Delhi for working professionals, entrepreneurs and executives who would like to pursue a degree in management while working. IIM-Sambalpur director Mahadeo Jaiswal says the institute is offering a dual IIM-Sambalpur and Sorbonne Business School degree; the programme, focussed on fintech and finance, will be open for students from both countries. The dual degree with University of Bordeaux is a doctoral programme where students from India, South America and other regions will complete their coursework on multiple campuses. Indian universities such as SPJIMR also offer international exposure through collaborations with top foreign institutions such as Cornell University, Babson College, Carnegie Mellon University, ESADE and University Of Texas. Students can engage in multi-week programmes at these universities or do a semester abroad in partner schools in Italy, Japan, France, Germany, Spain, Indonesia and Vietnam. SPJIMR's Kamath says students can go to foreign universities and spend three-four weeks there to pursue some credits and fieldwork. The institute also offers a global management programme wherein students are chosen by an interview panel comprising members from SPJIMR and the foreign partner university. These students are allowed to spend six months at SPJIMR and the remaining six months in partner schools. "They learn in a different environment. They interact with university students (at partner schools). Culturally, that's a very big learning because many of these students have not stepped out of the country. They get to experience the culture, learn how differently you need to respond (to situations), and how cultures are welcoming or not so (welcoming) in some cases. It improves their worldview phenomenally," says Kamath.

Educators believe students who may choose to enrol in a foreign university campus in India compared to outside the country may miss out on the experience of observing a different culture. However, it is likely that foreign universities opening campuses in India will allow students to spend time across international campuses.

The entry of foreign players promises to be a win-win for all.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube & Instagram to never miss an update from Fortune India. To buy a copy, visit Amazon.