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Italy’s Università Bocconi is set to become the first leading international university to open an India-based business school under its brand.

The Mumbai International School of Business Bocconi will open its doors in July and offer a two-year post graduate programme - similar to an MBA - to up to 100 students. The move is the initiative of Milan-based SDA Bocconi School of Management, ranked 28 in the Financial Times global MBA 2011 ranking

“[This is] the first initiative in which, together with entrepreneurial partners, we give birth to a post-graduate education programme aimed exclusively at Indian students and managers,” says Guido Tabellini, rector of Bocconi.

“We have chosen India to set up this new project because of both the strong request for managerial education which characterises the Indian market and the deep-rooted experience which Bocconi has in this country, beginning back in 2000.”

India currently has several overseas universities that offer exchange programmes and have tie-ups with Indian universities and business schools. The prestigious Indian School of Business has a partnership with Kellogg School of Management and Wharton, two top US institutions, while Harvard Business School established the India Research Center in Mumbai in 2006. But there are no degrees that are offered by international business schools due to India’s ambiguous regulation over the presence of overseas institutions.

India’s cabinet approved a proposal to allow international higher educational institutes to establish campuses in India last year, but still needs parliamentary approval before becoming law.

Bocconi has managed to circumvent India’s thorny regulation by setting up an Indian trust, through which the school will be managed, in partnership with a group of local entrepreneurs. The Italian university will provide and select the school’s faculty and set the curriculum in accordance with local regulation.

Duke University, Yale School of Management and the London School of Economics have all expressed interest in entering the Indian education market, which is worth about $10bn in revenues, according to The Parthenon Group, a Boston-based consulting firm.

The entry of overseas university is seen as game changing for India’s higher education landscape, which is currently controlled by a huge, rigid and highly centralised bureaucracy in New Delhi.

India has more than 400 universities and 20,000 colleges, according to an Ernst & Young report on India’s higher education sector. Yet its university system faces an acute shortage of quality higher education, which has prompted a massive exodus of young Indians who go abroad seeking opportunities unavailable to them at home.

“Over the next five years if India has to grow at 7 per cent GDP growth … [it] needs to have 7m more students enrolled into higher education institutes,” says Abhinav Mital, senior principal at The Parthenon Group.

The World Bank has predicted that India will suffer a shortfall of more than half the skilled human resources needed to modernise Asia’s third-largest economy over the coming years unless it overhauls its educational system.

“India’s higher education system needs to produce more scientists, engineers and other masters and PhD graduates with skills matched to the needs of the innovation economy,” according to the World Bank.

NR Narayana Murthy, founder of Infosys Technologies, one of the country’s most successful IT companies, recently lamented the declining quality of students emerging from India’s premiere technology and engineering institutions. He said that poor English and social skills of graduates and their inability to think critically had hindered their performance in jobs.

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