Sunday, December 04, 2005

Brain imports

The New York Times, in an editorial urges the State and Homeland Security Departments to sort out the issue of "cumbersome and off-putting" visa procedures for students.

Here is an excellent reality-check paragraph:

The fact is that the competition for foreign students has become far more intense. While American campuses are still by far the favorite destination, they have been steadily losing market share for years, especially to Canada, Australia and Europe. Now the European Union is considering offering citizenship to foreign students who complete their doctorates at European universities. That's a powerful incentive, even if it does smack of actively encouraging a brain drain from developing countries. But then, Rajiv Gandhi's famed formulation still holds: "Better brain drain than brain in the drain."

BTW, does anyone know when Rajiv Gandhi said this interesting quote?

In an op-ed from exactly a year ago, Ashis Nandy says:

"... Technically, no university could invite a foreign scholar to give a lecture even while he was visiting India as a tourist. It too required prior clearance, and of course, as everybody knows, foreign participants of all seminars had to be cleared. ... "

He was talking about the Indira Gandhi era of the late sixties and early seventies!

I only wish some Indian newspaper would write such a well reasoned and passionate editorial asking the Indian government to ease its visa procedures for foreign students and scholars. Right now, the procedures are absolutely horrible!

Take, for example, foreign scholars visiting the country for a conference. The conference organizer must inform the Indian government about the foreign scholars, and seek its clearance and permission. Then, this information should go to the Indian embassy/consulate where the visitor applies for a visa. There are default waiting periods (and delays) in every step. These procedures smack of a collective insecurity, impose immense costs in terms of time and energy for everyone, and deserve immediate change.