Webster India Campus
If Indian parliament passes education law, Webster will look at India for new campus.
Webster University is closely watching the progress of a bill awaiting parliamentary action in India. If the Foreign Educational Institution (Regulation of Entry and Operation) Bill passes, there might very well be a Webster study abroad program-or even a campus-in India in the future.
“We are interested in opportunities with India however they may take shape,” said Grant Chapman, director for international programs and associate vice president for academic affairs. He said that while Webster is interested in expanding to India, no decisions have been made yet.
“Right now it’s very, very preliminary work,” Chapman said. “Yes, there are interests, but nothing very definite yet.”
India’s Union Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, approved the Foreign Education Bill on March 15. It had been unsuccessfully proposed several times before, and certain modifications enabled it to finally be accepted. If the bill goes on to be approved by the Indian parliament, it would allow non-Indian universities to set up educational institutions in India.
Chapman said that whether Webster would be able to expand to India depends on the final requirements that would be laid out by the bill.
“We don’t know what will be in the final version of the bill,” Chapman said. “Will it be too restrictive for any foreign provider to come in? We don’t know.”
In the meantime, Chapman said that Webster is definitely looking to branch out to different areas.
“India is one of many regions we’re looking at as far as enhancing or expanding Webster,” Chapman said. “We’re interested in the subcontinent of India and where that would take Webster. Would we have an exchange, or would we set up a campus? There’s been no definite answer on any of those initiatives.”
Kalika Sood, a senior international business major, is from New Dehli, India, and has been studying at Webster since 2007. She said that it would be great for Webster to expand to India.
“I think it would be wonderful for Webster to start a study abroad program there,” Sood said. “I have found so many people here who have told me that they would love to go there and explore the country and I think study abroad is the perfect way for a lot of students to do that. A campus would also be awesome.”
Chapman believes that besides for looking into India, Webster also needs to see where else it is not being represented.
“We are currently not meeting the need for diversity, geographically,” Chapman said. “I would say besides for the Indian subcontinent, we should look at the African continent and the Middle East, where we are not, and also Central America.”
As for what criteria determine where Webster looks to expand to, Chapman stressed the university’s global focus and its emphasis on diversity.
“Generally we’d want any campus we open to be an added value to our network of campuses,” Chapman said. “To bring in diverse values, add something that is not being met, (and) attract different nationalities that we currently do not have.”
It is too early to say where in India a Webster program would be located, Chapman said.
“There are lots of questions to ask, such as how accepting would people in India be of such a program,” Chapman said. “A lot of people think that higher education reflects the culture of a given country, so I can understand the hesitancy of opening it up.”
Sood said that she thinks India, and especially its students, would benefit from letting in foreign education providers.
“Definitely. A lot of students would like to get access to a western education but can’t,” Sood said. “Even if they are given tuition scholarships they often cannot afford travel and living expenses, so this would be a great opportunity for them to learn.”
Sood also said that India has a lot to offer foreign university students, not least of which is a different outlook on doing things, both inside and outside of the classroom.
“Being a business student, I think it offers students the opportunity to understand exactly how economic reforms contribute to development and the challenges that a growing economy faces,” Sood said. “But it also has a lot to offer to other students as well in terms of history and culture.”
Sood pointed out that the language barrier would be considerably less in India than it is in some of the other countries offered for study abroad.
Not everyone, however, believes that Webster is ready for a new campus anytime soon. Kim McGrath, assistant director for the office of study abroad, said that many students who come to speak to her are not well informed about the programs that Webster currently offers.
“Quite often they don’t know about (our) programs in China or Mexico (because) our European campus and the Thailand campus get a little more publicity,” McGrath said. “Just based on how many students don’t know about the programs we have, I would ask if it’s the best time to be opening a new campuses.”
McGrath said that having a study abroad program in India would be a good opportunity for students. She said, however, that she did not know how many students would be interested in such a program.
“I think that it would be a wonderful opportunity for Webster students to study in India, and can envision many unique possibilities for such a program,” McGrath said. “I do know that some of our programs have been cancelled due to lack of enrollment, unfortunately, so I would hope that if a program were to be started in India it would be strongly based on student interest or academic need.”
Chapman said that although the final decision to open a new campus would be made by Webster’s senior administrators and the board of trustees, the opinion of the university’s constituency would also be heard. There would probably be a survey to gauge student interest.
Once a final decision would be reached, the first steps toward a new campus would be a business plan, an analysis of needs of region, and a close look at the regulatory process.
Despite the fact that nothing concrete has yet been decided regarding India, Chapman is optimistic about Webster’s future and its ever-developing global network.
“There’s always opportunities out there to open campuses,” Chapman said.