Jehuda and Atul Punj take a few minutes away from the dinner at Punj’s home to meet with Kapil Sibal, the Minister of Human Resources and Development – in effect India’s education minister. Sibal came into office in 2008 with an ambitious agenda to shake up the Indian educational establishment, raise standards and improve accessibility in the primary grades, and to open India up to more offerings and involvement of universities from overseas. He has pushed new legislation that would tear down some of the barriers to foreign universities operating in India, but there is still a long way to go. Well-intentioned laws – such as requirements that universities set aside a certain percentage of seats for disadvantaged classes and castes – reduce the flexibility needed to operate successfully.
But Sibal is widely respected for his energy, his ideas, and his determination, and Jehuda has a chance to share with him some of his ideas for Brandeis engagement. Brandeis, Jehuda tells him, is not interested in a “branch campus” model. We’re not about build physical structures that require massive amounts of capital and administrative and faculty time. Instead, Brandeis is explore alternative models, perhaps through partnering with new or existing Indian institutions, perhaps creating some academic offerings via on-line networks. In an era where students around the world have so many choices, it’s important to develop new models that maintain the highest educational standards while meeting student demand for flexibility. Sibal was intrigued, and Brandeis is now “in the mix” as he considers new policies and initiatives involving U.S. institutions.