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Why don’t alumni love Indian universities?

A recent news report talks about how top industrialists in India are funding alumni base of Harvard University. Out here, Indian universities are suffering from lack of contemporary IT infrastructure, absence of best practices and low student gross enrollment ratios (GER). In such a scenario, why are top industrialists investing westward and not directing their monies on Indian universities?

According to news survey among 1,800 schools annually and reports of two-year alumni giving rate, Princeton University came out top, making it the most loved university for donations. Unlike Indian universities, which are largely funded by tuition fees, western universities are mostly funded by donation. For instance, only about 20% of Harvard expenditures are met by tuition fee collections while nearly 50% comes from donation. A signification amount of this donation comes from its alumni base.

A number of studies have been conducted to study alumni donation patterns. Some relevant questions, such as age of the donor, what affiliation the donor has and what is the motivation of the giver, are being asked. Some studies seem to suggest that some alumni donate with the hope that their children get an easy passage into the same Ivy League institutions.

When Anand Mahindra joined the ranks by giving the highest donation to any humanities discipline at Harvard, questions were raised whether the donation was timed with his two sons seeking college admissions at the same time.

When businessman Siddharth Yog gifted $11 million to his alma mater Harvard Business School, it make front page news since he made it to the rare category of single largest personal gifts made by any Indian to Harvard. Indians prior to him with donations to Harvard include Anand Mahindra who donated $10 million, Ratan Tata $50 million to fund a campus building and Narayana Murthy with his $5.2 million to publish ‘The Murthy Classical Library of India’.

This debate has been going on for some time, and every time an Indian donates to a university abroad, the question gains momentum again. When Ratan Tata became “the largest international donation in the Ivy League university’s 102-year history”, the obvious question asked was how Indian universities can complete globally, if Indian companies continue to fund western universities.

Not that donation to Indian universities is completely non-existent, but it is quite bleak compared to the amounts donated to foreign universities. Nandan Nilekani’s donation of $2.6 million to IIT, his alma mater, to build a new hostel wing is often spoken about.

Building a corpus, raising funds for building infrastructure, apart from day to day operations is a constant and continuous need of Indian universities as well as universities abroad. Many reports throw up facts that Indian universities do not rank in any of the International quality surveys.

There are further statistics that stress on the immediate need to build hundreds of new universities and to increase gross enrollment ratios at Indian colleges. Is the Indian philanthropist listening? (DNA)


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