As colleges and universities worldwide wait for India’s lawmakers to approve a bill granting full access to the country’s vast education market, some institutions are reaching Indian students through twinning programs. Twinning, where participants complete part of their studies in their own country and the rest abroad, is not widely known in India. But local partners of foreign institutions — usually from Britain, the United States and Canada — say Indian students and their families are starting to appreciate the benefits of this option, which includes lower costs than a full overseas degree and a readymade peer group.
At Ecube Global College in Mumbai, which has offered entry to undergraduate engineering and computer science programs at Newcastle University in Britain since 2010, the adjustment process begins with the way academic sessions are structured. During the first year in Mumbai, classes do not exceed 10 students and professors are trained by Newcastle University. The following year, students can enter their second year at Newcastle.
These efforts have paid off, according to Hitesh Juthani, whose son, Vivek, is about to enter the third year at Newcastle, having completed his first-year studies in Mumbai in June last year.
“Vivek was keen on pursuing engineering from a reputed U.K. university, but we were worried about sending him away so soon,” Mr. Juthani explained. He said that after spending his first year in the twinning program, Vivek had “settled well at the university and is doing well academically.”
Twinning programs can bring significant savings compared with the cost of obtaining a full degree abroad, especially when participants spend more time in India. A three-year bachelor’s degree at the India campus of Britain’s Leeds Metropolitan University, for example, costs just over 1.5 million rupees, or $27,000, including travel and living costs for a mandatory six months in Britain — well below half of what it would cost to study for the same degree as an overseas student in Leeds.
The campus, set up in 2009 in collaboration with the Jagran Social Welfare Society in Bhopal, draws many students who were not accepted at the top Indian business schools but whose parents are willing to pay to ensure the quality of their children’s education, said Abhishek Mohan Gupta, whose family manages the institute.
Mr. Gupta, an alumnus of Leeds Met, said the partnership with the British university gave students an edge.
“The exposure is to a global curriculum,” he said. “With more and more international companies coming in, this particular thing is very much required now.”
The course content and teaching methods in Bhopal are identical to those at Leeds Met, which also sends teachers to its Indian branch for short stints.
The University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, which joined up last year with SKIL Group, an infrastructure company, to create the Strathclyde SKIL Business School in Noida, a suburb of New Delhi, makes an effort to make the experience in the two countries as similar as possible. “There is face-to-face teaching not only with Indian faculty but also with foreign faculty from Strathclyde,” said Simrat Joshi, the chief operating officer in New Delhi. The school did not enroll enough students this year for the twinning program to function, but it plans to open it again next year.
Ms. Joshi said that most students who follow a twinning program aimed to return to India afterward, partly because of the poor job market abroad. She said the program gave them overseas exposure but also allowed them to understand the needs of employers in India by studying most of the time there.
These students are very different from the ones seen by G.M.J. Bhat, the head of twinning programs at Manipal University, one of India’s best-known private institutions, which began such programs in engineering in 1994. Undergraduates who spend their first two years at Manipal in the southern state of Karnataka target top U.S. institutions, like the California Institute of Technology and Johns Hopkins University, and typically plan to build a career abroad.
“So far, we never had a case where the student graduated and came back to India for a job,” Mr. Bhat said.