EDU: Darden has partnerships with various Indian schools. Any specific criteria for selection?
Robert F Bruner: We have partnered with IIM, Ahmedabad, ISB, Hyderabad and XLRI, Jamshedpur. We chose schools which share our values and are in synch with the way we present ourselves to the world. Our emphasis is on excellent teaching, service and high attention to ethics. Like us, IIM-A teaches by the case method, so we share the pedagogy. ISB and XLRI also have the same case method teaching. Because we share these values, it’s easy for us to have conversations about common projects, joint programmes and things that matter to us. The students, who come to our school on exchange, fit right in. Our partner schools in India and all over the world have very high admission standards. So, when we exchange students, we are confident that they can stand the rigours of our programme.
Q: What are your thoughts on setting up an institution in India in the context of the Foreign Education Bill?
A: I think it is in India’s best interests to lower the entry barriers. Many Indian schools may feel threatened because of the possibility of new entrants in their market. I was visiting a professor at IIM, Bangalore. They have 200 thousand applicants for 400 places. That is a very big unmet demand. There are high quality schools at one end, and there are diploma mills on the other, and you need screening to make the right choices. If India is careful about the schools it lets in, I believe it will make for a vibrant academic sector. Foreign schools can help strengthen Indian schools and vice versa.
Rather than more competition, it could be more collaboration. Alternately, I think the students would be the winners from a liberalisation programme in this sector.