A controversial Indian university wants to expand its education empire to the US

Working hard.
Working hard.
Image: Reuters/Adnan Abidi
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After opening campuses in cities such as London, Singapore and Dubai, an Indian educational institution with a rather controversial history has set its sights on New York.

Amity University, part of the Amity Education Group, is said to have paid around $22 million (Rs146 crore) in September to buy a campus in Long Island from St. John’s University for its first American branch, according to the Associated Press (AP). The company—which says it operates five universities, 17 schools and pre-schools, and over 150 other institutions in India—plans to begin its US operations after it officially takes over the campus in June 2017. It’s also in talks to buy two other campuses in the US, including one near Boston, according to the AP report.

However, all this has got education officials in the state of Massachusetts concerned.

“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,” Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey told the AP. Healey is trying to get the state’s board of higher education to prevent the sale from going through.

The Amity group did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This isn’t the first time that the group, run by the non-profit Ritnand Balved Education Foundation, or the people associated with it have been under the scanner. The New Delhi-based foundation was established in 1986 by Ashok Chauhan, a businessman and industrialist who had spent several decades working in Germany. In 2000, Chauhan was charged with fraud in Germany but was never extradited from India.

In India, Amity battled the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), a regulatory body for private colleges, over its postgraduate business course. In 2005, AICTE cancelled Amity’s licence for the course, sparking a protracted spat.

Now run by Chauhan’s sons Aseem and Atul, Amity University is currently recognised as a private institution (pdf) by India’s University Grants Commission, a statutory body that is responsible for maintaining the standards of higher education in the country. And despite all the controversies, Amity has over 125,000 students across its 10 campuses in India who study everything from fashion to nanotechnology.