If China today is the manufacturing center of the world, then India in 30 years can become the human resources center of the world, according to entrepreneur Ani Agnihotri, who is co-chair of the USA India Business Summit.
Mr. Agnihotri, who facilitates relationships between U.S. and Indian institutions, made his prediction on Aug. 22 during a seminar titled “Building Partnerships With Higher Education Institutions in India,” held at the Atlanta offices of the global immigration firm Fragomen Worldwide.
The seminar was the latest collaboration between the USA India Business Summit and the Georgia Tech CIBER, which holds an annual conference in Atlanta promoting business relations between the Southeast and India.
To justify his prediction, Mr. Agnihotri cited projections that India would have the largest population of any country in the world by 2037 including 25 percent of the world’s youth population.
Already, he said, India has launched 25,000 colleges in the past 25 years to meet the growing educational demand and that that demand would expand in the next 25 years to require 50,000 more colleges to meet the needs not only of Indian students but all the students pouring into the country from nearby countries.
“There is so much pressure on the government to provide quality education and it just can’t do it,” he added. “No government can do that.”
U.S. institutions should appreciate the opportunity that these developments provide to attract thousands of qualified students. “These youths will have grown up watching television and CNN and they will want what everyone in their generation will want,” he said.
He also underscored that the students have strong English and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) educational backgrounds and cited the growing geopolitical relations between the U.S. and India, which has the largest army in Southeast Asia and provides a counterbalance to China’s influence in the region.
In addition, he said that Indian students would benefit from entering U.S. institutions by being exposed to liberal arts programs, which Indian institutions are less likely to offer.
The panel also featured Sandra J. Jordan, chancellor of the University of South Carolina in Aiken, S.C., Marissa Atencio, director of international students and scholar services at Georgia Tech and John McIntyre, professor of management and international affairs at Georgia Tech, who served as the panel’s moderator.
Dr. McIntyre contrasted the divergence in attitudes in the U.S. Congress from the days of the Cold War when international programs such as the Fulbright international educational exchange program received widespread support and today’s more reserved support in a more complex multipolar global environment.
Dr. Jordan and Ms. Atencio made it clear, however, that both USC, Aiken, and Georgia Tech were acutely aware of the advantages of attracting foreign students to their campuses and active in admitting Indian students.
Five years ago when she assumed her position as chancellor, Dr. Jordan said that only 1 percent of the students on campus were from overseas and 90 percent of them had been recruited for the college’s athletic teams. Today, in sharp contrast, one-quarter of the college’s 4,000 students come from abroad.
Meawhile, Georgia Tech, according to Ms. Atencio, has 1,000 Indian students on campus and 50 research scholars. She said that India sent the second highest number of foreign students to Tech. A Georgia Tech website says more than 3,000 students from countries other than the U.S. are attending the university with more than 20 percent of Tech’s international students pursuing degrees at the undergraduate (bachelor’s degree) level.
“Last fall, 1 million students from all over the world came to the United States, and we (the U.S.) continue to be the leader in the world,” she added.
While this top ranking might change under current government policies, she said the percentage of foreign students was only 5 percent of the total. She compared the 5 percent in the U.S. to the United Kingdom where foreign university students account for 18 percent of the total, saying that in her opinion the U.S. has the capacity to admit more. But the current political and economic uncertainty could reverse this trend.
U.S. universities benefit because many foreign students have STEM educational backgrounds and “companies want people who have global expertise and who can engage globally with the work that they are doing,” she added.
Dr. Jordan also said that she had actively encouraged greater numbers of foreign students to her campus because of the international firms in the Aiken area that are looking for graduates who can operate in global environments.
Both indicated that their institutions benefit financially, but other advantages of having foreign students also helped such as extending brand awareness globally and providing opportunities for internships at other institutions and international companies as research collaborations internationally.
Mr. Agnihotri recommended institution-to-institution relationships as the best way of guaranteeing successful outcomes for the students in view of the needs to coordinate curriculums and support for the cross-cultural pressures students experience.
He also encouraged Southeast institutions interested in developing these relationships to seek out partnerships in second and third tier cities in India and warned that to develop these relationships properly requires a commitment from the heads of the institutions and a three-year preparation period.
Mr. Agnihotri may be reached by calling 404-394-6678, or send an email to Ani@usaindiabusinesummit.com