Global India Policy Paper #6

Higher education cooperation in the EU’s strategy towards India: shifting rationales and unfulfilled potentials

Lourens Van Haaften
KU Leuven
Executive Summary


Over the years, higher education cooperation between India and Europe has become a prominent part of the partnership agenda. This growing interest in higher education cooperation with India is not surprising. With a young and growing population of over 1.3 billion people and with the third-largest higher education system in the world, India is becoming one of the pivotal actors in the internationalisation of education.  Yearly hundreds of thousands of India’s young and bright go abroad for graduate or post-graduate training. It is for this reason that the EU’s strategy on India, presented in 2018, put considerable emphasis on the need for higher education cooperation as a way to deepen ties with India as an emerging economic and geopolitical power.

This policy brief examines the shifting rationales behind the EU’s strategy to foster higher education cooperation with India. It observes that the need for more HEC with India is increasingly seen through the lens of a knowledge-based economy. Other geopolitical considerations for the need to strengthen cooperation, like increasing soft power or building epistemic communities, play a less prominent role. For a truly strategic account of the potential of HEC with India, these perspectives deserve further consideration. Strategic use of HEC would look beyond the economic gains and contributions to Europe’s knowledge economy and understand it also from an epistemic perspective.

Policy Paper #6 L VAN HAAFTEN HEC in the EU's strategy to India