Amid scrutiny, chain of Indian colleges plans its US debut

Tuesday, Oct 11, 2016,13:05 IST By metrovaartha A A A

US | One of India’s largest colleges is expanding into the US with the purchase of one campus in New York and a proposal to buy two more, drawing opposition from state officials in Massachusetts about the quality of the education it will offer.

Dozens of US colleges have opened overseas campuses, but few foreign schools have sought to establish branches in the US, in part because of the cost and tighter regulation. Amity University, a system of private colleges based in New Delhi, has long sought to create a global network of schools, however.

Since it was founded in 2003, the chain has opened campuses in India, England, China, South Africa and five other countries.Add the US to that list.

Amity paid USD 22 million last month to buy a Long Island branch of St John’s University in New York City, which was selling the campus and shifting to a smaller site on Long Island. Amity plans to open its first US branch at the 170-acre, century-old campus after it gains ownership in June 2017.

The chain also has made a deal to buy the New England Institute of Art, a for-profit college near Boston, and one of its sister schools, the Art Institute of New York City, according to paperwork filed in Massachusetts. The deal would require approval from state education officials.

“We are very, very skeptical about this,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who is asking the state’s Board of Higher Education to block the sale. “It’s hard to imagine that this outfit from overseas, which has never done any education work here in this country, is well-suited to provide any kind of education to these students.”

Amity hopes a US campus will attract students from abroad who want to gain the prestige that comes with studying in the US. It also hopes to forge research partnerships with other colleges, and to connect foreign scholars with their counterparts here.

“We have a global vision for education, a model of education which allows for student mobility, faculty collaboration and research collaboration,” said Aseem Chauhan, Amity’s chancellor. “We believe that the leaders of tomorrow will be those who have perspectives from different parts of the world.”

Owned by a nonprofit company, the chain offers bachelor’s and graduate degrees in a range of fields, from art to engineering. It enrolls 125,000 students at more than a dozen campuses, and has grown rapidly amid rising demand for higher education in India.

Its founder president, Ashok Chauhan, was charged with fraud in the 1990s by authorities in Germany, where he ran a network of companies. He returned to India and was never extradited. A plastics company in the US also sued Chauhan in 1995 for failing to pay USD 20 million in debts, which led to an ongoing court battle in India. The university is now in the hands of his sons, Aseem Chauhan and Atul Chauhan.