Tharoor for liberalising student visa
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Last Updated: Saturday, December 12, 2009, 19:44
  
New Delhi: Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor on Saturday favoured liberalisation of the visa system to attract more foreign students, but said security issues contributed to making the regime restrictive.

Speaking on the issue of marketing India's higher education worldwide, Tharoor said his ministry would be in favour of liberalising the visa regime for students.

"I have also tried to raise my voice on this... My ministry will be much more in favour of liberalising student visas, our difficulty alas is with our friends in the Home Ministry who run the FRRO offices.

"And you can't entirely blame them because every time somebody like a David Headley or a Tahawwur Rana gets a visa... this creates problem," he said.

The Minister said the immediate reflex is tightening of visa procedures for "every American of Pakistani-origin or others" that inevitably increases likelihood of a large number of innocent people being affected, which is "unfortunate".

He said this while responding to the issue of unfriendly visa procedures and "harassment" of foreign students by Foreign Regional Registration Offices (FRRO), raised by Narendra Yadav, Member (Education) Planning Commission.

The total number of foreign students pursuing higher studies in India is 3,471, with Afghanistan being a major contributor, sending 1,654 students.

Tharoor said there is urgent need to create additional capacity to attract more students.

"Our institutions will attract foreign students and also retain sizeable number of Indian students who go abroad to study, sometimes in dubious institutions," Tharoor said, pointing out that India provided cost-effective education and also had depth of knowledge pool, courtesy Jawaharlal Nehru's vision of creating institutions of learning and research.

He also said it was important to facilitate exposure to students to information about education facilities in India, and establish such services in consulates, while lauding HRD Minister Kapil Sibal's educational reforms, particularly liberalising of the higher education system.

Acknowledging there was very slow progress on foreign students coming to India, Tharoor said: "We need to augment capabilities, implement strong and practical strategy for effective marketing, make the environment friendly for foreign students and introduce courses to attract them".

"At any time we have at least 10,000 students from Africa and another 7,000 to 8,000 Iranians... I am happy to note that Presidents of Afghanistan and Malawi, have degrees from India," he said at an education summit organised by Institute of Marketing and Management and IGNOU.

Increasing interaction between Indian and foreign universities and exchange of faculties to give Indian teachers international exposure will help Indian institutions augment their capacity, he said.

"We also need to ensure degrees and diplomas issued by our universities are recognised world over" and vice versa, he said, adding the Ministry of Human Resource Development can take a cue from the 'Incredible India' campaign to launch a similar campaign in education sector.

PTI


First Published: Saturday, December 12, 2009, 19:44


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