A group of colleges is establishing a permanent team in New Delhi as part of an Association of Colleges (AoC) initiative to help the British FE Sector expand into the Indian market.
AoC In India, which launches this week, will act as a best practice hub for colleges looking to offer their expertise to meet the growing demand for vocational skills training in India.
John Mountford, the AoC’s international director, said: “India is a market full of potential. They’ve got an ambitious skill strategy, they’ve got big gaps in their own training capacity and they’re certainly looking to work internationally. The opportunities are there, but it is a challenging and competitive market.
“We feel to properly access it you need to have a permanent substantial base in India and by working in partnership the colleges can create the sort of setup that would best enable them to get those opportunities and overcome the challenges,” he added.
FE Minister Matthew Hancock and 50 delegates from the colleges will attend the launch at the British High Commissioner’s Residence in New Delhi on Tuesday 22 January, and FE Week will be joining them.
Readers will be able to keep up-to-date with our reporters through videos, pictures and updates on the new On Location section of our website, and read all about it in our dedicated supplement with next week’s edition.
The team will be based with Indian market entry specialist Sannam S4 Consulting Pvt Ltd., and the project will be chaired by Asha Khemka OBE, principal of West Nottinghamshire College (right).
The colleges involved in the initiative will seek to provide a range of services, from delivering training programmes in India and consultancy to selling online learning software.
Several of the colleges have previous experience of working in India, and have been confronted with a number of issues, and it is here AoC In India believes it can make a difference.
“An important point with India is scale. They talk in the hundreds of thousands and the millions when they talk about national strategies, so for an institution to access major training programmes in India is quite tricky, whereas if you go there as a consortium you can present a larger scale solution to the opportunities available,” said Mr Mountford.
Membership to the AoC In India group was open to all government-supported UK FE colleges, with the 30 colleges who responded contributing £10,000 to the initiative. Funds from the initiative will be ring-fenced, to prevent any financial losses affecting non-participating AoC members.
Although membership to the consortium is in theory closed, Mr Mountford said if further colleges expressed an interest in joining in the future, their applications might be considered by the AoC In India’s senior management group.
Some colleges will use the Delhi base to recruit students to study in the UK, and according to Mr Mountford, the project could prove beneficial for the sector at home.
“We hope partnerships in India will raise the FE brand, and from that people might become more interested in choosing the UK as a study destination. I think the more you have a positive presence in the market there’s all sorts of benefits that fall out from that presence,” he said.
Mr Hancock said: “The partnership between the UK and India is already a strong one, culturally and economically. But we have the opportunity, potential, and the intent to go even further.”
John Mountford described the sector’s response to the project as “really positive” and said: “This is an exciting initiative by the sector, something other education sectors haven’t done yet. It’s a real credit to colleges that they’re taking such an ambitious perspective on India.”
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Some colleges have already entered the Indian market
West Nottinghamshire College sells software
West Nottinghamshire College has been working in the Indian FE sector for almost 12 months, and its principal Asha Khemka is chair of Association of Colleges (AoC) In India.
The college has sold its own educational software, online learning and assessment platform BKSB, around the world but has encountered “barriers” in India.
The college’s deputy principal, Andrew Martin, said: “We’ve had challenges with BKSB, because when you bring a new product into a new country and tell them it’s well used in the UK, that might well be the case, but if it has no local reputation the local market has no way of knowing what it does.
“With a permanent team in India, developing and making sure the local market is aware of what FE colleges do and can actually provide, that’ll make it easier to build credibility.”
In Australia and South Africa, where BKSB has thrived, the company partnered with local colleges who acted as agents and distributors, but fears over the high risk to intellectual property rights in South Asia meant the company was forced to approach the market differently.
The company chose to represent itself in India, but this strategy posed its own set of problems.
There have been lots of barriers we’ve had to overcome”
“There have been lots of barriers we’ve had to overcome, even with simple things like getting paid. It’s very difficult for a publically funded Indian college to make a payment outside of India, so you’ve got payments going back and forth through the British and Indian clearing system for months on end without actually seeing any revenue,” said Mr Martin.
“So we’re now also in the process of establishing a company in India, called BKSB Private Ltd., allowing us to have a local presence for the legal aspects, but also to set up a local bank account.”
“This should be in place in another couple of weeks, and then our business should accelerate at a much quicker rate.”
Mr Martin was optimistic about the potential boost AoC In India could give to participating colleges.
“At the moment we have to send our team out there every three or four months — and a lot can happen in three or four months.
“Having someone there is going to be a big advantage for us and we will use those services when we’re not physically there.
“For many colleges it will be a great service the AoC can actually provide that will hopefully make their entry into the market, and sustaining their initial effort over a longer period of time, much easier than it otherwise would have been.”
Once the new company is set up, and the AoC’s team in Delhi is established, West Nottinghamshire College hopes to expand its services in the Indian market.
“Our intentions are that once everything is moving quicker than it is now, we’ll want to move in with the other college services such as more training provision, and it should be slightly easier and more facilitated when we’ve got the AoC there to help us.” added
New College Nottingham to open academy
One college with experience in servicing India’s growing demand for vocational training is New College Nottingham (NCN), which has been operating on the sub-continent for three years.
Now, along with their Indian collaborators, The Batra Group, they are poised to open New College Nottingham International Lifestyles Academy (NILA), in Gurgaon, New Delhi, offering courses in hospitality management, interactive media, retail management and fashion management.
The academy’s official launch on Tuesday January 22 will be attended by UK FE Minister, Matthew Hancock.
“We’re pioneering, I suppose,” said Nick Whitehouse, NCN’s director of HE and international development.
“Vocational education in India is an area which is expanding pretty rapidly, and our expertise coupled with our partner’s business acumen has meant we are able to offer something different to the Indian market, something that nobody else has offered before.”
The courses offered by NILA have been developed to meet the training priorities set out by the Indian government through the Indian National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC).
“We’ve been in discussion with the NDSC and have agreed to help them. The four areas we are offering are part of their priority areas. There’s a need in India, it’s a published need and we are targeting areas of need,” said Mr Whitehouse.
He added that the college hoped the NILA campus will be just the first in a string of academies.
“Our agreement with our partners is to develop up to ten academies over the next ten years. Some of them will be duplicates of our Delhi campus, and some will focus on other curriculum areas which are prioritised by the Indian government or the NSDC,” he said.
The NILA campus may also offer the potential for NCN students to study for part of their qualification in Delhi, while Indian Higher National Diploma students may be able to go to Nottingham to ‘top-up’ their qualification to degree level.
There had been some initial difficulties for the college’s entry into the Indian market, Mr Whitehouse acknowledged, but he attributed the success of the venture to the strong collaboration between NCN and The Batra Group.
“Obviously when you’re dealing with a partner who’s a long way away, there are always communication challenges, but we’ve been working away at this for three years and we have a series of tested processes to ensure the staff get the help they need,” he said.
“It’s fascinating working with our Indian partners and we see this as, if you like, the best of British combined with Indian excellence.”
“It’s very much a partnership where we are shoulder to shoulder with our Indian partners. We are not the dominant partner, neither are they- it’s a partnership of equals.”
In accordance with The Batra Group’s wishes, the campus building was blessed in a traditional Pooja ceremony, to ensure the prosperity of the endeavour.
In the light of such successful collaboration, Mr Whitehouse welcomed the news of AoC’s arrival in the Indian market.
“We’re very proud to have done what we’re doing, and we’re delighted AoC In India is setting up a team in Delhi. As a member of the AoC we will do everything we can to assist AoC In India,” he added